Customer order processing is incredibly time-consuming. When you’re dealing with hundreds of orders at a time, it’s easy to feel like there’s no end in sight.
That said, there are quite a few ways for you to speed up operations. For instance, you can:
1. Standardize Your Order Forms
If you take online orders, your customers can hand-select everything they want. But, if they phone in an order, they’re depending on your team to get everything right.
Your online order form may be different than your mail order form, or the internal form you use when you talk with a customer on the phone. If crucial information is left out, that can hold up the process.
Take the time to standardize your order forms, and you’ll find that customer order processing becomes easier – no matter how that order is collected.
2. Automatically Capture All Customer Orders
You can’t start processing your customer orders until they’re officially in your system. So what’s your process for getting them there?
You may have streamlined EDI processes for your larger clients (perhaps around 20 percent of your base), but you can’t forget about the other 80 percent of customers whose orders are still being manually processed. In most cases, those orders that are faxed or emailed to your organization represent an even larger portion of your company’s revenue.
Automating the capture process for orders as they come into your organization can eliminate lost orders, duplicate orders, and printing cost entirely. By capturing orders directly at the source, you can also reduce your lead time.
3. Automate the Process From Start to Finish
If you’re doing everything you can to get orders into your system quickly and accurately, but still aren’t meeting your desired metrics, you can always consider sales order automation. Technology can speed up order processing quite a bit, handling time-consuming administrative duties so your employees can focus on more important tasks.
With automation, you can have your email and fax systems automatically monitored for inbound orders. Then, those purchase orders can be imported into your order management system to create a sales order for each customer.
Even with automation, customer order processing still requires employee input. Advanced solutions can compare information with your ERP, allowing them to automatically cross reference part numbers, confirm prices, and read quantities. But, when something doesn’t match or is incorrect, the program asks a customer service representative for confirmation. This allows CSR’s to focus on resolving critical errors (instead of monotonous tasks like order entry).
There’s also the benefit of machine learning. Once a CSR corrects an error, the software can remember that correction for next time. Teaching your system what you need translates to faster and more accurate order processing.
4. Make Multi-Department Collaboration Easier
It’s always nice to deal with stock items and returning customers. But, it’s not always that simple.
When you deal in made-to-order products, certain orders may need to be reviewed by engineering, quality control, or several other departments before you can confirm pricing or verify lead time.
Getting these multi-step orders from department to department is often easier said than done. If all the necessary departments are in the same location, you can print the orders out and take them where they need to go. But, there’s always the chance that the paperwork gets misplaced, forgotten, or buried in a pile of other requests. If you want to go the email route, you can save a bit of time, but you end up with cluttered inboxes and requests that often get missed.
Automation can save you time here as well. It’s possible to set up electronic workflows for customer order processing, giving each team access to the documents they need, when they need them. When one person is done with their task, the most up-to-date version of the document goes directly to the next step – and so on until that order is complete.
This takes the “tribal knowledge” out of customer order processing. (For instance, certain employees may know exactly what the process is for a specific order type, even if it isn’t part of your company’s documentation.) And, because you’re standardizing the process, you’re able to capture data for reports and analytics that show you how you’re doing in real-time.
5. Keep Streamlined Records for Better Customer Service
Your job doesn’t end when an order is shipped. Your team still deals with customer inquiries and collections, putting even more on their busy to-do list.
To help keep customers and auditors happy, you’ll want to keep your records as organized as possible. Ideally, you’ll have a complete archive of every purchase each customer has made as well as the history of every event in the order process. (Even better if that archive is electronic and fully searchable.)
This lets you tell customers what stage of the order process they’re in at any point in time. It also helps you proactively communicate issues, like out-of-stock items, to keep your customers informed. (As an added bonus, your collections team will also have access to the entire history of a transaction, including invoices, to help reduce your DSOs.)
Get Expert Advice for Faster Customer Order Processing
Ready to manage your orders more effectively? IntelliChief can help. We offer automated order processing solutions that can streamline your entire order-to-cash process.
Contact us today to find out if automation is right for you. Or, to see how other customers have improved their order processing workflows with IntelliChief, visit our Resource Library for a peer-to-peer case study.