A few months back a client asked if we could review their order entry process. They didn’t really think there was much room for order entry improvement, but had a mandate to improve the customer experience and decrease operating costs.
The conversation started like this:
Me: Can you tell me about your orders? Have you taken any steps toward automation?
Client: Oh, we’ve already got that. We have clients set up to order online and we also have EDI. It’s only a small amount of orders that are still coming in via email.
Me: Sounds like you’ve really made some strides in getting order automation in place. Can you tell me about your online ordering?
Client: Yes, the orders are entered by customers online. Those orders come into our ERP system and that puts them into an order management queue. From there, the CSR team pulls them up and clears any errors. Then they process them on for fulfillment.
Me: And, how about your EDI orders?
Client: EDI orders come in and route automatically to that same order management queue. They follow a similar process.
From the outside (and the inside) it may seem like the company has automated these functions. What we discovered was the process that the team must go through to work the order management queue is particularly tedious. It has been the cause of numerous order errors and becomes an even larger challenge when the team has any turnover.
This is the reality of the company’s process at the order management queue level:
- No visibility to the actual fields that the customer had filled in during order entry
- Difficulty reading the original EDI file that was received
- CSR’s were spending just as much time working these orders as they were entering orders that were being submitted via emails
Given that, we started talking about the orders that were still coming in via email.
The emailed orders arrive and come into a generic customer service mailbox. The team manages orders to be processed through a series of shared email inboxes where they are distributed. The CSRs know their accounts well and can process these orders based upon their refined processes they have developed throughout the year.
Of the 12,000 orders they receive each month, only 28% arrive via email and fax. In addition, the client had a big problem when having to go back to their key customers for their annual partner performance reviews. One of the contract requirements was that orders need to be processed within 6 hours of reception. The reality was, they had no way to report on this. From the time the order arrives until the order is created in the ERP is a blind spot for the organization
After working through these various scenarios we discussed the company initiatives around:
- Improving the customer experience
- Mandate to decrease customer service operating costs in 2017
The new business case gives them a centralized order management dashboard for orders from web, EDI, and email. It provides immediate visibility to each of the order paths and statuses from a single point.
Web orders arrive electronically and can be tracked and processed with full record of all of the original field entries. They have the advantage of tracking any changes that the team makes during the final order creation process.
EDI orders arrive automatically and can be tracked throughout the entire order entry process. If the file fails the team can access a human readable file that shows all of the data that was submitted. Any field that was not validated for processing is highlighted for rapid correction to minimize the delay in getting the EDI order to the supply chain team for fulfillment.
Email and fax orders route to the order entry queue if they pass all of the validations, the team has the option to set that customer to auto processing. The orders are worked based upon their priority and the teams can have automated reporting for any orders that are sitting waiting to be processed for longer than expected.
Now the Business Analyst that was responsible for the project is able to highlight a wide array of points in the business case that was submitted to support the project.
Points that were included:
- Expected improvement of 45-65% in time to process an order
- 100% visibility to all orders in the order queue — previously had zero visibility into this
- Full audit trail of documents from the moment that they enter the company whether it’s from EDI, web entry, fax or email
- The supply chain team can monitor the orders that are waiting to be processed, allowing for them to plan more proactively
- Giving staff time to pursue a few key projects that are expected to increase revenue. The expected value of this increased revenue is in excess of $100,000 per quarter
- Automation of monthly dashboard reports for the executive committee. Previously, there was a staff member who had to prepare these each month and it took almost 30 hours each month to complete this task.
- A defined competitive advantage that they could deliver to their customers — something they believe will help increase revenue and bring in more customers.
During our latest meeting, the client shared that they had originally thought that they were automated, but it was automation for the 2000’s. Now they are looking at 2017 and beyond to redefine what automation means across all channels.