Retailers have been very responsive in adopting online ordering systems. It may be down to a culture where customers are used to paying immediately and retailer’s transactions are less personalised. For B2B Businesses the relationships are more personal and payments are dealt on an account basis. It is this perception that I believe has caused a delay for many B2B Businesses in systemising their order management processes online.
In this article I am going to talk about how B2B Businesses can use technology to streamline the ordering process from a very simple email ordering system to more detailed product catalogues that allow customers to browse products and place orders online from their laptops or mobile devices.
At the simplest level a form on your website could perform this task. Clients go to your website ordering page where they are presented with a form by which they can place an order just like they would if they sent an email.
The difference is that if a customer just sends an email, it requires a staff member to reply acknowledging the receipt of the order otherwise the customer is often left wondering if the order has been received. This process is manual and therefore unpredictable.
When this is done from an order form on your website, the process becomes automated. An email is sent to the staff member who processes orders while a copy is also sent to the client acknowledging the receipt of the order along with other details such as timeframe. It fulfils the customer’s needs for assurance and is guaranteed.
The next step up is a guided form on the website. Here the user selects from a dropdown list of products and quantities. This email can now be printed by staff and used as a job ticket or picking list and can be integrated into your internal systems without having to re-enter data. Alternatively it can be manually entered into your system at a later stage without delaying the order fulfilment.
Over time clients learn that their orders can be accurate and if they require more customised information they can call and talk to a customer service representative. It is not that you are forcing customers to go online, it is that you are freeing up the time of your staff to deal with more complex orders where personal contact is necessary. Routine orders that clients place regularly can be sent online, saving them time and inconvenience of waiting on the phone when they already know what they want.
Clients work at their pace and don’t feel rushed as when someone is on the other side of the phone. It eliminates errors by controlling the quality of information received. No additional phone call is needed. It allows clients to have 24/7/365 access to your business.
The aim is to promote all the benefits of the process while making it optional. Whatever you do don’t force your customers to use the system. Instead constantly promote it as a benefit and in time they will adopt it and never look back.