Technology has succeeded in transforming the distribution segment of organizations and businesses in last decade. Today’s concurrent market dynamics backed with technological advancements and cut throat competition to accrue humongous customer base, are compelling companies to either change the way they operate or risk falling behind. This has made businesses enter a rat race of being innovative & cost-effective to be one of the leading distributors in the market. Up to some extent there is nothing wrong in this transformation.
With Amazon and eBay, the eCommerce giants, revolutionizing the B2C space, the same kind of expectation setting has emerged in the B2B arena as well with rapid order fulfillment, flexibility and competitive pricing on their wish list. Distributors & manufacturers are running like headless chickens to identify operational bottlenecks & optimizing processes to enhance operational efficiency,ultimately delivering greater value to their customers.
In order to take care of repetitive back office functions including inventory management and accounting tasks, increasing number of companies are sharing the credentials of their ERP – enterprise resource planning systems, to their outsourced partners. But this is not something that they should feel satisfied with.
Order processing is one of those, which need immediate attention. You being from the industry, it should not come to you all as a shock that more than 80% of manufacturers and distributors spend most of their manpower and time in processing their customer purchase orders manually. This manual sales order processing is a combination of compiling of all the orders received, manual processing of in numerous lines of data, before the same information is entered in the ERP system as a confirmed sales order. The mere explanation of how is it done, itself is so very time consuming; just imagine how much time would it consume in actually doing it. And apart from being time-consuming, it is also known for being expensive and kind of open invitation to errors. This not only damages your ability to deliver competitive pricing but also leaves a dent on customer retention.
A few years back, data processing companies were approached for basic data entry tasks instead of sales order automation, invoice processing and various other activities. Though it had visible and obvious benefits, the kinds of time and cost that were involved and of course the software flaws and incapability of outsourcing partners, made it unfeasible for most of the manufacturers and distributors. However, with advanced technology and innovative outsourcing partners managing automated workflows of such repetitive tasks, to facilitate your sales order processing is like a cake walk.
Enlisted are some factors that should be considered for outsourcing sales order automation:
1. Obscuring marks can smudge your reputation as a manufacturer/distributor
There are two ways to capture critical data from sales orders. Either use Optical Character Recognition – OCR or the non-OCR method of treating emailed and printed orders like standard electronic documents. But with OCR method, a mere obscuring mark can lead to unacceptable 98% data accuracy, which can smudge your reputation as a manufacturer/distributor. Smaller companies may go with this conventional method of data capture from sales orders, as they have that kind of manpower capacity and time to verify each order upon finalization.
However, gigantic manufacturers and distributors in your capacity, with that epitome to grow as leader in the B2B market, know for sure that replacing one form of human intervention with another is no way beneficial in addressing the challenges of inefficiencies and costliness. Instead, they outsource this activity to data capture experts, working on non-OCR technology, to capture data with 100% accuracy and least human intervention. Outsourced data experts will move the extracted data directly into the manufacturer’s or distributor’s ERP to be routed automatically to involved stakeholders with comprehensive visibility. This not only processes orders up to 95% faster and with complete exactitude, but also reduces their order-to-cash cycle time and frees up in-house teams to focus on delivering groundbreaking customer service to strengthen customer loyalty.
2. Comparison shopping is injurious to your company’s health
Customer centric approach being the element, ensuring that customers are not burdened for your convenience is of prime importance. Even automated solutions such as EDI – Electronic Data Interchange needs considerable amount of collaboration with customers for its successful implementation. For it, customer purchase orders are required to come in one standard format from them, which then would be automatically translated into sales order in the ERP system of the manufacturer or distributor.
But the dilemma is that most of the customers to manufacturers or distributors have their own setup of internal processes to adhere to while placing the orders. A lot of them print and fax the orders, while some would opt to email and the worst comes when some loyal ones prefer to call their orders in. Now with the kind of setup that they are operating out of, it is quite obvious that they would be reluctant to put in extra efforts – which they feel are unnecessary.
Why would they create a purchase order in their own systems and populate the same information, item by item, the second time on the eCommerce website of a distributor or manufacturer? How justifiable is it to expect your customer to place their orders through your B2B website? Disrupting the way they operate will be completely unacceptable to them and more will be the chances that they would opt to place their order with one of your waiting competitors.
Also, there is one more angel to this aspect which you would certainly have not thought about. Do you even realize that sending your customers online to place their orders is like indirectly provoking them to get reached and lured by your competitors? The advent of technology brings in convenience, but someone’s profit is someone’s loss. Your customer’s search results saved in as cookies and breadcrumbs will help search engines to target your customer to advertise similar products from your competitors, tempting them to opt for comparison shop.
3. Other implications
Apart from the ones mentioned above, there are few more implications to the entire approach. EDI technology, upon implementation, needs dedicated resources for that aimed high-level collaboration with your customers. This is then followed with the requirement of strong technical expertise, costs, time and manpower to implement this so-called transformation which most probably would increase complications. Also, there are chances that the said option does not gel well with your conventional existing technology setup leading to unprecedented challenges.
4. Manages customer retentions and relations
What we fail to understand miserably is, while you are busy banging your head with all these issues – who is managing your core business? Who is trying to manage, maintain and develop customer relations and retentions?
Opting for best-outsourced business process management experts will ensure accuracy, managing requirement of additional resource in cost effective manner, compatibility with your conventional setup – ultimately empowering you to embrace your customer’s business practices with open arms, but for your own benefit. Outsourced order processing will give you time to innovate and adapt to ever evolving economic dynamics. Accommodating your customer’s expectations while securing your company’s growth – will ensure you stay ahead of your competitors.