The most important thing about outsourcing fulfilment is to ensure that customers get their goods in such a manner that they will come back to you again and again. That means it must be delivered promptly and well packed (which are fairly obvious) but the order should also include reference to your brand and company to help reinforce awareness.
Price then, while important, is never more important than a happy customer, as good fulfilment will never cost more than the potential value of returning custom. While bigger almost certainly means cheaper, it may also mean less flexibility, a more generic customer experience and ultimately poorer service.
As an example, lets take Fulfilment By Amazon (FBA), who boast some very cheap prices on postage and moderately competitive on the handling. A deeper look past the glossy surface reveals that actually the service level isn’t that great: There’s no account manager for you; very little gets done when things go wrong; a bewilderingly complex and strict goods in policy; and yes, everything goes out in an Amazon.com box. Guess where your customers will be going for their next order? And as if that’s not enough they’ll be getting an email shortly advertising your competitors products!
So when you’re looking to outsource to a 3PL make sure that customer service is a top priority – saving a few pennies won’t pay off in the long run.