Fulfilling customer orders quickly and accurately is what every sales team intends to do. With archaic manual methods for processing sales orders, the sales team would struggle to keep up with the volumes of sales orders to be processed.
The solution lies in order automation. When you automate tedious and repetitive tasks in sales order processing, not only is order processing accelerated, but the sales team is relieved from mundane admin tasks. Read on to learn more about automated order processing, the need for order processing automation, and key features of order automation software.
What is Order Processing?
Sales order processing or sales order management is the flow of steps from customer ordering to product delivery. Order processing touches upon each stage of the purchase and order fulfillment process, which includes quoting, financial transactions, order picking, and logistics. A smooth sales order process ensures customer satisfaction, fewer errors, and faster delivery times.
The basic steps in order processing are –
1. Receiving the order
When the customer places an order with the company, the sales order process is initiated. The received order provides complete details on the number of items, the list of items required, the date and time of delivery, and shipping details. The order receipt is the first step in sales order processing.
Customers can initiate the purchase order through any one of the channels – phone, online, or mobile app. Providing the shipping details is useful when the supplier has multiple warehouses or fulfillment centers, as it helps them decide which warehouses you send the order to for fulfillment.
2. Generate a sales order
Some companies receive and generate the sales order completed in a single step, while others are treated as separate steps. When the sales ordering system determines that the company has the ordered goods in stock, the relevant sales order is raised and sent to the relevant warehouse managers. Conventionally, this process is done manually, which means that the staff member receives the order, checks the stock, and then raises the sales order.
3. Picking, sorting, and packing
When an order is raised and confirmed, it is sent to the warehouse staff to complete the picking, sorting, and packing stages. The picking stage is where the warehouse staff picks the ordered items so that they can be sorted and delivered. To speed up data entry, barcodes, and scanners can be used by the warehouse staff to update the inventory management system that a particular item has been taken off the shelf. The sorting phase is where goods are separated according to the customer’s order. The packing phase is where orders are packed into appropriate containers, sealed, and labeled for shipping.
In the shipping phase, the outbound goods are finally transferred to an approved logistics partner who will deliver the goods to the customer. Based on what is cost-efficient, or the customer’s preference, the purchased goods may be sent individually or in bulk. Gathering everything into a single shipment can increase delivery time as it may take longer to pick and sort some goods over others. Multiple companies may be involved in the shipping phase, logistics partners, freight companies, or courier companies.
When the payment is not handled at the sales end of the pipeline, a sales invoice will need to be generated so that the company receives the payment. In a basic system, the invoices are paper-based and mailed out with the package itself.
Multi-channel sales order management or omni-channel sales order management is required to improve the sales order process. A multichannel strategy lets businesses sell across multiple channels. Any company looking to optimize its sales order management will need to think beyond traditional order management systems. Automated order processing helps businesses build a solid strategy for managing sales orders across multiple channels.
What is Sales Order Automation?
In simple terms, order automation is the use of technology to transform the order processing workflow. This requires a workflow automation platform that can take care of business triggers in specific apps, when an event takes place, the platform performs predefined actions across your employees, apps, and data.
Business process automation tools help you understand and orchestrate critical resources, including people, systems, and applications. Automated order management helps manage sales and purchase orders, create packages and shipments, and send delivery updates through a single order processing automation solution.
Sales order automation streamlines manual, time-consuming, yet necessary tasks in the sales process. Automation of order management enables the sales team to focus on where they can add value to the sales process, instead of spending this time on data entry and admin tasks that require little or no skill.
Automating the tasks ensures that they are completed on time, without any concern about a salesperson neglecting data entry or passing the right data along to the next process. Order management automation also enables prospects and customers to learn more about the products and services and to make purchases conveniently, with little or no human interaction.
Sales order automation is the ability to remove friction and latency from conventional sales order processing. Order automation tracks all the elements of the sales cycle, and reveals insights to demonstrate what processes and strategies have worked earlier. Sales order automation also can automate many of the salesperson’s tasks like –
- Call logging
- List building
- Finding relevant content in communications
- Lead matching and prioritization
- Phoning leads
- Voice mail
By saving hours on these mundane, time-consuming tasks, salespeople can instead spend their time helping prospects and repeat customer sales.
Sales Order Workflow at a Glance
Each company runs differently, but the order management process will largely be the same irrespective of the type of business or the company. While processes in companies may vary on the surface, the core order processing workflow is made up of the following steps.
Here is an overview of the sales order processing workflow –
Receiving the order
This is the simplest step in order processing, where the customer sees something they want and proceeds with making a purchase. The responsibility here is to make sure that you receive the order accurately and with as little friction on the customer side as possible. In this step, the payment information needs to be processed accurately, ensure that the product is still in stock, and customer information is captured accurately so that the order is delivered to the right address.
Processing the order
Once the data required to process the order is gathered, it is time to put the order management system to work. Sales order processing is all about making sure that the order information gathered in the previous step makes the order successfully go through all areas of the business that are involved in fulfilling the order. Automating the order processing step it is easy to see the stage at which the order is.
Preparing and packing the order
The preceding steps provide enough data to select the product from the inventory and pack it for shipment. It is vital to check that you have included every item that the customer has ordered and that you have packed the correct quantity of every item. When done manually, the efficiency of this process is reduced. Packing orders accurately with minimum damage is essential to ensure good customer service.
Shipping and delivering the order
When the above steps have been completed successfully, the shipping and delivery of the order will go on smoothly too. Unforeseen circumstances or exceptions may delay the shipment. The shipping information needs to be made accessible to the customer so that they are aware of the delivery date and time of the shipment.
Handling post-sales issues
Right from when the customer receives the package till they open and start using the product, the business makes its mark on the customer. Interesting packaging and memorable and shareable unboxing experiences determine the extent to which the customer remains loyal to the business. It is a good idea to give your customers access to return data in the event of a mishap or unexpected delivery issues. They should also know the return path in case they change their mind about the product. The customer support team too should be available to address any concerns.
Examples of Automated Order Processing
Automating some of the tasks in the sales order processing improves the efficacy of the order processing. Let us consider the following examples of automated order processing.
Syncing the ERP and CRM Systems – Once a sales deal is closed, moving it as quickly as possible toward order processing is the next step. Integrating the ERP system with your CRM fast-tracks the efforts of the sales team. Each time a rep marks an account as closed, the automated order processing workflow gets triggered.
An enterprise automation platform checks to see if the customer exists in the enterprise planning system. For clients that already exist in the system, the ERP system gets updated automatically. If they don’t exist, then they get added as a customer.
Sharing sales orders with appropriate employees – Once the sales order is created, the team will review the order to identify and address issues (if present), else they simply move to the next step. The automated workflow gets triggered once a sales order is added to the ERP system. The workflow allows employees to access actions and data in the app without leaving the business platform.
Updating inventory counts in real-time – As soon as the order is placed, the inventory needs to be updated for the item. Transparency of the sales order process streamlines the inventory updates on the sales order. Implementing automation lets the change get automatically updated across the connected systems.
Key Features of an Automated Ordering System
An automated order processing system makes sales order processing quick and effective for the sales team. When repetitive admin steps in the process are automated, the sales team has more time to focus on strategic initiatives. The right workflow automation software can turn around the way sales orders are processed in your organization. Choosing the right software is key to successful automation.
Here are the key features of an automated ordering system –
1. Document management
Salespeople should focus on selling rather than on creating paper documents, getting approvals, and order fulfillment. When sales order processing is digitized, they are processed quickly without any error. Automated sales order processing triggers notifications and alerts automatically so that approvers are intimated promptly about pending approval deadlines.
2. Workflow building
The sales order processing workflow must be flexible enough to capture and handle the exact needs of the organization. Building a workflow must be a quick and simple process. A no-code workflow automation software like Cflow provides a visual workflow builder that uses visual elements to create workflows. To build the sales ordering workflow all you need to do is rearrange visual elements and the connectors according to the sales workflow in your organization.
3. Mobile interface
The sales processing software must enable anytime, anywhere processing and approval of sales orders. Users should have access to records from their mobile devices for on-the-go approval. Omnichannel support also must be provided by the software so that users can process sales orders sent from any channel.
4. Third-party integrations
Sales order information includes data that is spread across multiple internal systems. Data like product codes, inventory, and prices need to be maintained accurately across systems. Manual data management can be laborious and error-prone. The software must be easily integrated with third-party applications for seamless transfer of data.
5. Data security
Sales orders contain confidential data that needs to be protected from unauthorized access. The automation software must protect data from unauthorized access by providing data encryption features.
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Benefits of Order Processing Automation
There are several advantages of automating the order processing. In addition to the obvious advantages of saving time and effort for the sales team, the following are the benefits that sales order automation offers –
Data entry when performed manually for updating inventory counts or updating customer information, is prone to errors and inconsistencies. While some errors may not cause significant damage to business operations, many others like customers receiving the wrong order or lack of communication about the status of orders, could cause serious harm to the customer relationship. Automated order processing prevents the team from performing tedious data entry, which in turn human errors are prevented.
Better employee experience
Manual order processing not only leaves the team susceptible to errors, it also disengages and dissatisfies the sales team. As a result, employees are less productive and quit their jobs. Automation can by and large eliminate the manual burden in sales order processing, so that employees get to spend more time on meaningful tasks.
Better customer service
On-time and accurate delivery of all customer orders helps build strong customer relationships. The demand for fast order fulfillment is always ON, with 1 in 5 customers willing to spend more time on online retail purchases to receive orders sooner. Automated order processing helps expedite the order fulfillment process so that the team can keep up with customer demand and strengthen customer relationships.
When the volume of customer orders increases, the team’s ability to perform order management should scale proportionally. Automated order processing helps ensure the ability of the team to scale up to an increasing volume of customer orders. Tedious and time-consuming tasks that slow down the supply chain are effectively automated, so that order processing can scale up to organizational requirements.
Human error can cause a dip in sales or increase costs in remedying the mistake, either way, manual processes add up to the overall sales costs. Also, when employees are pushed to perform significantly high volumes of manual tasks, they tend to get disengaged and disinterested in their work. Automated order processing cuts down on human errors and allows employees to focus on tasks that improve productivity. Improved productivity translates to higher revenue.
Cflow is a workflow automation software that simplifies order processing automation with the visual form builder. To create order automation workflows, all you need to do is drag and drop visual elements according to business specifications. You can build end-to-end automation solutions
Order automation enables you to fulfill customer orders easily and quickly. Automated order processing is key to increasing the efficiency and productivity of sales processing. When orders are processed on time and products are delivered to customers on time, customer satisfaction improves significantly. A workflow automation solution like Cflow automates key business processes to improve business productivity.
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