Sales order processing is the steps from purchase to delivery. While sales order processing challenges can vary from business to business and for different industries, the current supply chain crisis has only made the process harder to manage.
Manual sales order processes have become a practice of the past as innovations in automation continuously push the need for digital transformation. Sales order automation speeds up order cycle times and provides a better customer experience.
The key to business success is properly implementing technology and digital tools into every step of business processes. If your company takes advantage of these tools, your average sale cycle time will stay within customer expectations, and you will be able to retain customers.
This article will highlight everything you need to know about sales order automation and how it will speed up your sales cycle and leave you with happier clients.
Traditional Order Processing
Before we discuss sales order automation, let us first dive into the traditional order processing mechanism and its pitfalls.
Traditional order processing operates on physical labor and manual data entry. In every step of the process, workers gather information from the customer orders, compile it, and set it up for the next step. Because of this chain structure of processing, if a worker makes a mistake at any stage, it can throw off the entire fulfillment process and result in an incorrect order.
Some of the most common errors occur in the first step when purchasing orders are placed, and data is entered into ERP by the order management department. If the business processes numerous orders or moves too quickly, it is easy for employees to enter information incorrectly. Suppose a worker records an order delivery as the standard 3-5 day delivery time instead of the 2-3 day delivery time the customer paid for. In that case, the order will fail to be processed fast enough, and the company’s customer satisfaction rates will take a hit.
Some other common human errors include entering incorrect shipping addresses, item quantities, types of items, lack of stock, and the warehouse location of the items. Verbal miscommunications may also be made when sorting the orders and gathering inventory.
The entire manual order processing chain is fed incorrect information when these mistakes are made. Even if another worker down the line catches the error, the fulfillment process gets slowed down and bottlenecked.
This leads to extra work and later returns that require more order processing. Your customer base will become frustrated if they need to contact customer service representatives when their order is missing items. A customer service rep may offer a product to the consumer for free or a significant discount to avoid losing their business. These mistakes eat up profits, waste time, and hurt the customer experience.
Sales Order Processing Challenges
In our extensive experience working closely with our clients, the following are some of the most glaring challenges that we found organizations face during sales order processing:
Every organization’s biggest challenge is managing expectations, especially after the Covid-19 supply chain crisis. As deliveries became delayed due to industries halting production, and strikes impacting delivery, managing the expectation to the end customer became more challenging. The supply chain was bottlenecked at several stages with no insight into completion as these challenges had yet to be seen at this level. Setting realistic expectations became vital, with many businesses investing in automation to help remove unpredictable manual processes. This continues to be an essential investment for organizations into 2023 as they look to understand how they can manage expectations once again.
Customer responsiveness is often a manual interaction between businesses. As employees take time to complete a manual task, delays can occur due to waiting. With trends such as the great resignation, companies could be without staff for extended periods, or due to Covid-19 sickness, organizations needed more staff numbers to be as efficient as they usually would be. This meant business-to-business sales were waiting for customer responsiveness for much longer than they’d previously been used to.
Businesses often need to consider various exceptional situations regarding their sales orders. These can be situations such as campaigns or seasons, which could spike a few weeks at a time. While sometimes these are caused by internal factors, external factors such as competitors, the changing market, or the economy will also impact them. An efficient exception management process is key to managing successful sales orders and improving customer service.
What is Sales Order Automation?
Sales order automation uses innovative technology like RPA and artificial intelligence like intelligent data capture to process orders. Automation removes the need for manual data entry and manual data transfer by automating administrative tasks.
Sales order automation enables quicker cycle times by working much faster than manual processes. It also eliminates the room for entry errors and bottlenecks in the process that are commonly caused by manual data entry.
Traditional sales order processing requires a manual data entry in the first step of the sales cycle chain, and this step is where the most common mistakes occur. Because administrative workers go through a large number of orders and manually enter all the data from the order forms into spreadsheets, entry errors such as incorrect quantities, wrong shipping address, types of items, lack of stock, and warehouse location consequently occur.
Though such mistakes are common human errors, they disrupt the entire chain of the sales order process, and packages are more likely to be missing products, arrive late, or arrive at the wrong address. When these mistakes happen, customers get frustrated, and organizations risk losing crucial business. Companies can also lose revenue with returns, shipping costs, and discounts to make up for their mistakes as more packages need to go through the sales order processing cycle repeatedly.
Sales order automation eliminates these errors by implementing technology that has much stronger attention to detail and does not get burnt out like human workers. Entire processing times improve with automation, and accurate sales orders reach the warehouses for item picking, sorting, packaging, and shipping.
How Does Sales Order Automation Work?
Sales order automation relies on intelligent data capture to extract data from customer order forms. The orders can be in any format, including PDF, XML, EDI, or even image. Once the data is extracted from the document, the system quickly reviews the order to ensure that all of the necessary information is present. The data is all kept in a secure cloud-based system so that no data goes missing or unchecked.
Processing automation streamlines order processing time by doing the hard work for you in a centralized location. Workers no longer need to enter order data into ERP because the system automatically captures the order data, validates it, and then extracts it to index the data into your ERP system. The ERP system then automatically reviews the order information and moves it on to the next step in the process.
Suppose the automation solution finds a missing field, like an absent shipping address. In that case, the order is automatically sent to a staff member who can contact the customer for missing information. Other than that, no human intervention is necessary in the entire sales order process, which significantly minimizes entry error rates.
Without staff needed for these administrative tasks, companies can reassign staff to other departments to increase productivity in other areas and save payroll revenue. When sales teams are relieved from stacks of paperwork and menial tasks, they become more motivated and engaged at work.
HubBroker’s Sales Order Automation Solution offers seamless integration with preexisting systems and sales processes while creating a smoother sales workflow.
Advantages of sales order automation:
Sales order automation dramatically impacts how a business processes its customers’ orders and directly affects the order-to-payment process. Below we discuss what companies think the most significant advantages of sales order automation are.
Time is money, and it takes time for orders to be manually processed. Automating the sales order process eliminates the time taken to process orders manually and frees up the customer service employees to do more critical tasks, such as providing better customer service. It often also requires less of an employee overhead as roles to manually enter sales order data become unnecessary.
Sales order automation enables your employees to get better at their core skill set rather than have to focus large amounts of time on admin-related tasks. This allows customer service teams to offer improved levels of customer service, often providing more personalized care to your customers. Sales teams can build relationships, actively listen, and perform strategic tasks to help the company’s growth. This all results in high customer satisfaction as they have up-to-date statuses on POs.
With human data processing, there is always a certain amount of errors that will occur. Introducing an order automation solution reduces the possibility of data errors. Thus ensuring that your customer receives the correct delivery every time.
With the reduced wait time for order entry and faster internal processing, your customer’s orders can be fulfilled in a much shorter timeframe. This also means that invoices can be generated sooner, and your order-to-payment process is reduced, helping you to maintain a positive and accurate cash flow.
Sales order processing has a direct impact on customer experience as well as your company’s O2C success. Any loose ends and the whole thing can unravel. And the market will continue to demand better customer experiences and faster deliveries as technologies advance and businesses move into digital transformation. Sales order automation is essential to speed up your business processes and personalize the consumer experience.
HubBroker’s Sales Order Automation solution seamlessly integrates with your current business processes and adapts quickly to your unique requirements. HubBroker helps you digitalize and automate sales order processing to eliminate manual work and significantly increase operational efficiency in your O2C process.
HubBroker enables organizations to automatically receive, process, and extract data from orders in any format, including PDF, UBL, XML, EDI, and email. Companies can receive sales orders electronically from all customers worldwide via HubBroker’s platform.