Satisfying customers, in principle alone, is essential in business. It was even touted by famed business author Michael LeBoeuf as "the best business strategy of all". There are many ways to satisfy customers and one smart way of achieving this goal in today's digital commerce world is through automated order processing.
Order processing basically refers to taking orders and sending products to customers. From using pen and paper or mere conversation, order processing has progressed through the years alongside technology enabling businesses to gain higher visibility, speed, and reliability in sales operations.
Besides being attainable, automated order processing is a very important capability to have since it plays a pivotal role in improving customer experience, like meeting the omnichannel (buy anywhere, fulfill anywhere) processes in digital commerce.
Jordan Jewell, IDC Senior Research Analyst, Digital Commerce and Enterprise Applications, said digital commerce has transformed how consumer and business transactions take place across the world and order management applications are critical in powering this evolution.
"Consumer and business customers have come to expect excellent customer experience when they purchase products and services digitally. This is largely due to the improvements that have occurred in digital commerce applications, making it easier and quicker for customers to get what they want when they want it," Jewell said.
He also noted: "As core digital commerce 'shopping cart' functionality becomes commoditized, both B2C and B2B sellers must find new avenues to differentiate. One of those avenues is optimizing fulfillment, which is driven by order management systems."
Benefits of Automated OP
Dynamic means of capturing, tracking, and shipping customers' orders, are just some of the main benefits of automated order processing which all contribute to gaining greater efficiency.
In automating the sales order processing, for instance, this would cover the setting up of catalogs to order receiving, to inventory transfers to delivery tracking, all the way to getting customer feedback.
The automated system optimizes the order-to-cash cycle as it streamlines order fulfilment by providing 360-degree visibility across departments and activities.
When it comes to business-to-business (B2B) customer service, automated order processing empowers customers to place their own orders, check on the status of their order or account - all without calling customer service or a sales rep.
The improved process also allows a company to have a centralized way to monitor orders and tackle challenges with greater agility as it helps in achieving configurable workflows, management approvals, and real-time reports.
Information errors and internal fraud are two nagging friction points in order fulfillment that causes delayed orders and worse negative business reputation. They can be avoided through an automated system that minimizes manual data entry and intervention.
All of these improvements can boost the sales & finance team’s productivity and the real essence of their functionalities. They would now be able to focus more on their fields of expertise, work on strategic tasks that matter since they won't spend a lot of time anymore eliminating tedious manual activities like purchase order (PO) data entry, inventory checking, and invoice generation.
Smart OP System
The technologies that make automated order processing a smart system include but not limited to Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) that leverage on artificial intelligence (AI) -- especially machine learning (MI) class of AI. This is because the whole system not only lives up to being a "Self-Monitoring Analysis And Reporting Technology" (SMART) but also because employees like sales and finance teams can work alongside with it to make even smarter decisions.
MI, as a new class of AI, allows computers to learn and improve from experience instead of needing to be specifically programmed for a task.
EDI automates buyer-seller transactions like invoices and purchase orders, including inventory management and product distribution. A smart order processing system automatically extracts purchase order data from different channels such as email, snail mail, or their own web portal or mobile app to eliminate manual entry errors.
And one smart way of bidding goodbye to manual, error-prone data entry systems is through Optical Character Recognition (OCR) that automates data capture and expedites document processing right from the start.
A smart OCR system enables order status monitoring. It should give visibility on each order status to your customer by connecting to your in-house supply chain management (SCM) systems or 3PL systems (third party logistics) via direct integration or AI robots.
OCR can capture important information and classify documents automatically. It transfers relevant data to your business process applications, faster and more efficiently than any manual processing. OCR ensures paperless processing of the best quality, in every language, for every document and every process.
And since OCR enables paper-free operations like transactions with suppliers for invoices and with employees for their reimbursements, this allows individuals to create digital copies of invoices and/or speeds up data retrieval in case of damage or loss of physical copies. It, therefore, helps to trim down costs in copying, printing, shipping of documents, among others.
Process of data entry is also improved as OCR enables quick conversion of scanned documents to searchable thus providing technical and business benefits that far surpass traditional methods of data collection and verification. OCR is even able to recognize various kinds of text, such as typed fonts or even handwritten letters.
Increased productivity and efficiency are the other important business values that can be realized in using OCR since it facilitates quicker data retrieval when required. This would allow employees to focus more on core activities or participate in strategic tasks compared to performing routinary activities like manual extraction of information.
Processing every document and information daily, both paper and electronic, are not only time consuming but also resource intensive. Paper documents also eat up storage space within your office area and risk data loss since paper is vulnerable from catastrophes such as fire, flood, and earthquakes. With OCR, however, it makes it easy to back-up documents by converting them to digital ones that do not take up physical space and can be easily retrieved anytime.