Your Guide to Assessing 3PL Providers

As the calendar flips to a fresh chapter, it's the perfect time for a change, and maybe that includes shaking things up with your 3PL provider.
December 21, 2023

New Year, new 3PL – that's the buzz, right? 😉

As the calendar flips to a fresh chapter, it's the perfect time for a change, and maybe that includes shaking things up with your 3PL provider.

As we dive headfirst into Q1, take a moment to consider the highs and lows of your Q4 holiday season. Q1 is the perfect time to evaluate how things are sailing with your current 3PL.

We've put together a handy list of questions to ask potential 3PL suitors. Because, let's be real, finding the right match is crucial, and we're here to make sure you’re making the right choice.


Staffing is one key factor to keep in mind when assessing a potential 3PL. A low staff turnover shows a stable and experienced workforce. This stability is important for the smooth functioning of your logistics operations, as a team with a consistent crew is more likely to be familiar with your business processes, reducing the chances of delays, errors, and misunderstandings.

A few questions to consider: What is staff turnover? What is the accurate package rate? Do staff go above and beyond for customers?

Communication cadence

Making sure you have complete efficiency and transparency in your supply chain operations is essential when working with a new 3PL provider. Consider the response time and the channels through which the 3PL provider communicates, whether it's through a ticketing system, Slack, email, calls, or text messages.

The choice between having a dedicated account manager or relying on an online ticketing system is also another factor to consider. A dedicated account manager can provide personalized support, understand your specific needs and ensure a smoother flow of communication. On the other hand, an online ticketing system may offer a structured approach but might lack the personalized touch that an account manager provides.

When dealing with China-based 3PLs or shipping directly from China, communication is even more important because of the language barrier. At Portless, we recognize the importance of overcoming this hurdle, and we take pride in offering a completely American experience to our customers. This includes an English-speaking account manager who is available for communication at all hours of the day(specifically PST).

A few questions to consider: What is the response time? Will you have your own account manager or do they use an online ticketing system? How do they communicate (ticket, slack, email, call, text)?

Customization and specialized services

Every business requires specialized services that are going to support continued business expansion. With this in mind, look for 3PL providers that can help with any of your specialized or unique needs. Not all 3PLs are created equal, and some excel in catering to specific industries or handling distinct types of cargo. Opting for a 3PL with expertise in your particular industry ensures a more nuanced understanding of the challenges your brand experiences.

A few questions to consider: Do they offer customized solutions tailored to your industry and specific requirements? Do they specialize in certain industries or types of cargo?


When selecting a 3PL partner, the ability to adapt and grow with your business is proof of the provider's commitment to your success. Assess their ability to adapt to changes in your business volume and evolving requirements. A top-tier 3PL should have the capacity to scale its services easily.

It's worth noting that extreme promises of very high percentages of scalability can sometimes raise eyebrows. A typical and reasonable scalability range for a 3PL provider tends to be around 10%-15%. So, don’t be fooled by services overpromising your growth with them.

In our initial fulfillment center, we encountered capacity constraints. We quickly transitioned to a more expansive space—165,000 sqft to be exact—in a matter of weeks. We are dedicated to ensuring our clients’ scaling needs are met, so it was important for us to expand our fulfillment centre quickly and smoothly without interrupting customer order fulfillment.

A few questions to consider: What is their scalability and flexibility? Can they adapt to changes in your business volume and requirements?


In business, time is money so the speed at which you can get integrated into a potential 3PL provider system is imperative. A robust integration process is key to ensuring efficient operations and minimizing disruptions in your supply chain. So make sure to inquire about integration capabilities and the ease with which they can align with your existing systems.

We take pride in our ability to streamline the integration process. With just a 30-minute Zoom call, we can integrate with our customers' Shopify or online shops.

A few questions to consider: How easy is it to integrate into their systems? How long is the onboarding process?

Prioritizing your business

A partnership should be a collaboration where your unique needs and goals are not just met but actively prioritized. Remember, if you find yourself as a small fish in a big pond, it might pose challenges in getting bigger 3PL providers to work closely and attentively with your business.

Look for a 3PL provider that actively seeks businesses they can contribute to and help grow. A provider should not only handle your logistics but should also support your growth initiatives.

At Portless, we understand the importance of aligning with businesses that are not just clients but partners in growth. When we partnered with Caroo, we didn’t just help fulfill their customer orders. We played a pivotal role in sourcing products tailored to their specific needs.

A few questions to consider: How do they assess and prioritize the needs of different businesses that they work with? Can you share insights into your capacity planning and how you manage varying client demands?

Happy 3PL shopping!

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