news

The Success-Driven Benefits of
Automating Sales Order Processes

June 25, 2018

Nobody starts a business without the intent of becoming successful. The most strategic leaders have thorough plans in place for their business processes and strive to make the most of the best tools at their disposal. A mere couple of decades ago, systems that capitalized on emails, phone calls, in-person meetings and folders worth of Excel spreadsheets were created to establish workflow processes that would guarantee success. However, it appears that in many ways, these manual business process systems are no longer cutting it.

In this day and age, organizations reliant on traditional approaches to sales order processes are seeing a decrease in the productivity and customer return rate they always imagined they would have. These reasons and more are the cause of the rise of business process automation and the use of smart data capturing technologies. These innovations, it would appear, are not only relevant and trendy, but they are becoming more and more essential for companies looking to keep up.

212benefits

For any kind of distributor or manufacturer, success is dependent on becoming highly efficient and on improving customer service to the point where order cycles are increasingly fast, while also maintaining complete accuracy.

It's unsurprising that a chaotic, loose system for order processing might lead to error-prone work that slows the process down. More and more, it has become evident how manual process systems waste precious order-to-cash cycle time. Your business may have already adapted the handy use of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, but the time has come to embrace automation one step further and stop processing your orders by hand.

Why is this the case? We can find the answer by taking a look at the following characteristics of a successful business process.

  • Success Equals Productivity
  • Emails and Excel spreadsheets have been elements of business processes since computers and the Internet came into the picture, but they both tend to drain employees of valuable work minutes that could be used for productive activities instead.

    In 2017, ServiceNow surveyed close to 2,000 managers in five countries to determine whether automated processes could affect productivity in the workplace, and the research showed that nearly 16 hours a week is spent performing manual, redundant tasks such as data entry, filing and responding to emails. Even business leaders appear to be buried in busywork that is leading them closer and closer to the breaking point, and 94 percent of respondents agreed that company productivity could be improved through automating some of these manual tasks.

    The results of most manual tasks are essential to successful business activities, but there is no reason why people need to continue performing them by hand. One of the advantages of an order processing system, for example, is that it can use smart technology to generate the same results more quickly — and do so in a much less error-prone way.

  • Success Means Avoiding Costly Mistakes
  • Continuing to invest time, energy and payroll on unnecessary manual tasks is a costly mistake in and of itself, considering that across the United States, companies spend nearly $600 billion a year on these inefficiencies. But even more than that, manually performed order processes can lead to all kinds of human errors that can cost tremendous amounts to resolve and correct.

    There is a 1-10-100 Rule in the Total Quality Management approach to excellent business that states that the cost of error repair grows exponentially the longer the mistake goes unnoticed. Initially, it may only cost the company a minimal financial factor to correct the effects of an incorrect order number or billing address, but as the project progresses, this cost multiplies 10-fold and later 100-fold.

    Considering how typical it is to find errors in manual processes, whether caused by reading and recording numbers incorrectly, misfiling certain requests or creating unnecessary delays, it is crucial that business leaders consider the accuracy-related importance of order processing if they aim to be successful. Taking steps to improving sales order processes and data capture can help leaders in every industry minimize common mistakes, which can help them with cost efficiency and also keep customers much happier with the service they receive.

  • Success Is About Maintaining a Positive Reputation
  • The most critical element to any business success is directly related to the consumers of the service or products that the business provides. Without happy customers, companies drown, so it should be at the forefront of every leader's business strategy to fulfill orders with efficiency and accuracy every single time.

    Slow, erroneous work paired with cold customer service is a recipe for disaster, and many businesses may not even know they are in trouble. Only 4 percent of dissatisfied customers report their complaints to the company, while news of their bad experience is likely to reach twice as many ears outside of the company than if they had only good news to share.

    Seventy percent of the customer's experience is related to how they feel like they are being treated, so it is essential that success-oriented organizations focus on performing accurate, quick processes and communicate effectively. While maybe it isn't impossible to achieve these results with paper-based order forms and redundant processes, automating can help businesses attain a reputation of leaving their customers 100 percent satisfied much more often.

    Many effective business strategies can be fulfilled through capitalizing on the advantages of an order processing system, so let's turn the specific ways automation leads to success.

    312benefits

    After reviewing some of the goals for successful business processes, it's crucial to examine the specific benefits of sales order processing that can help businesses achieve these results.

  • Time Savings
  • The route that a sales order has to take with manual processes can be a long and winding road through different offices and archives. With automation, workflow processes become much more streamlined, condensing the amount of time required for each processing step, from the point of sale to verification to inventory management to delivery and long-term customer retention.

    These benefits aren't just theoretical, either. When looking at real numbers, order cycle times between when an order is placed and when the warehouse is notified are 8.6 hours, on average, without automation, while with automated processes, the average cycle only takes 4.6 hours.

    By merely using a little over half of the required cycle time, not only will employees be freed up to perform more productive tasks, but more orders can be processed in a smaller timeframe than ever before, which leads to higher revenues and savings across the board.

  • Increased Return on Investment
  • One of the most influential factors of any business process endeavor, from tweaking different process steps to adopting a fully automated system, is, of course, the bottom dollar. As if the time and energy savings, and the room they leave for additional profits to be generated, weren't enough to predict an advantageous return, studies have shown that any efforts required to implement a system to automate sales orders are sure to pay off.

    According to a survey by the American Productivity and Quality Center, cost efficiency was one of the top three anticipated benefits of sales order process automation along with time savings. Respondents saw a 67 percent decrease in cost when using automated systems for their sales order processes.

    The true ROI of automation can be immeasurable, thanks to the many key areas in which it saves both explicit and hidden costs, including the increase in data accuracy and a higher percentage of customer satisfaction, which can both produce financial advantages.

  • Enhanced Accuracy
  • With improved data capture and OCR technology, the number of human-based errors can be dramatically reduced in sales order processes. Additionally, automation software offers an increase in process visibility, which can alert you to discrepancies before they become problematic. There is also a higher sense of accountability in sales order processes through an automated system thanks to the extra visibility, giving employees a tangible incentive for minimizing mistakes and delays in their work.

  • Higher Customer Satisfaction
  • As if the other three benefits weren't enough proof of the substantial perks that automation can offer, it won't only be you and your employees who end up happier because of it. Customers can also enjoy the benefits of speed and accuracy, and they'll definitely have a better experience without the pesky delays that unwanted errors can cause.

    The buying experience itself can see some incredible improvements through automated systems. The top three ways in which software for sales order processes improves customer satisfaction include:

  • Access to knowledge about the products and the company.
  • Gaining understanding between parties is a sure-fire way to build positive relationships. Especially in business, creating a sense of confidence is crucial for customers to become loyal, repeat consumers.

  • Expedited order processing and feedback.
  • With the higher demands of our current fast-paced economy, success-driven businesses simply don't have the time to enter, process and complete orders manually in a way that will satisfy customer expectations. Sales order automation helps streamline processes for quicker responses and deliveries and enables customers to receive much-appreciated updates on their orders in real time.

  • Empowerment through self-service opportunities.
  • A sense of control often helps customers feel more at ease. With automated systems, customers can check on their order, plan for additional needs and view other information they might benefit from, leading to a more satisfying experience overall.

    Thanks to the right order processing software, you can go beyond merely filling orders and create a culture that puts efficient order management and improved customer service first. Set yourself up for success, and see where it can take you.

    412benefits

    The best way to ensure that converting your sales order process into an automated system will pay off is to keep the following tips in mind:

    1. Analyze and Prioritize

    The first step in ensuring that you'll get the results you want is thinking through your sales order process to create tangible goals. It involves gaining a holistic understanding of your current sales order process using reliable metrics on headcount, order volume, data-entry error rate, time required for each stage of the process, and KPIs like days sales outstanding.

    You'll want to look at potential exceptions, costs, steps and benefits to implementing any changes to your process and determine which areas of focus need to take priority, providing you with a roadmap for other process automation initiatives.

    2. Define and Refine

    There are a few different elements of the sales order process that you will need to identify so that you can get a clear picture of where you display successful task management and where there may be some gaps to fill.

    First, there are the systems you already have in place, such as your ERP system or Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system. Are they flexible enough and easy enough to use to meet your needs? Today’s sales order automation solutions range from end-to-end automation to separate capture, workflow systems and portals that enhance existing ERP/ECM systems. Identify all the systems that store sales order data, documents and metrics and identify how these systems need to interact with the systems and tools you’ll use to extract data from your sales orders.

    Next, you will need to define the ways you capture your data and how you receive information. What format are they created in? What is the most efficient way to capture data, file documents and extract data for reporting and analysis? Is your current format optimized for automating sales order processing with batch technology?

    And finally, make sure you have well-defined categories of data fields that you will be capturing, and focus your attention on the areas that will help you get closer to the goals you have set.

    In a sense, pinpointing these elements is another way to take inventory of your current process, but it also helps you set up for the next step, which is determining how both new and old systems will integrate for optimal performance.

    3. Integrate or Eliminate

    Once you've identified these systems, data capturing processes and data fields, determine how they will fit together with your automation software and newly defined goals. If it won't integrate, you may find that it's time to eliminate some steps in the process that have been holding you back.

    4. Separate, Sort and Store

    Create a clearly defined process of separating documents into appropriate groups and archiving them accordingly. Your automated solution can sort files based on content, but if you frequently encounter non-related documents in the mix, you may need to ensure that your solution is configured to identify each document type and inform the workflow system of the downstream processing requirements. You'll also want to identify where images will be stored and the policy for image retention.

    5. Communicate Clearly and Consistently

    Be proactive in how you communicate with your customers. Invest time in confirming orders, verifying information and ensuring the right products are delivered. Automation will increase your ability to satisfy your customers through the increase in visibility and accessibility, so take full advantage to set yourself apart from the competition.

    You'll also want to stay in touch with your software vendor. Be prepared to provide them with a copy of your customer master data and a representational set of a few hundred order images. This will facilitate configuration and improve capture quality. When you're initiating your automation process, create an implementation plan with the vendor. Together, you'll be able to minimize the disruption to sales order processing staff and ensure that the implementation does not prevent them from meeting their daily responsibilities.

    Finally, communicate with your employees. Schedule appropriate training and plan for an adoption period with support resources to help them and promptly address their questions and arising issues.

    6. Measure Using Metrics

    Periodically measure the performance of the automated process and compare it to the pre-automation metrics. This will allow you to set new goals for further process optimization and allow you to cost-justify further investments in process automation within finance and throughout the organization.

    7. Focus the Process on Progress

    When issues arise, use them to consistently improve and optimize your system. Developing an ongoing action plan is crucial to the success of your newly established automated systems.

    Optimize Your Sales Order Processing with OrderAction by Artsyl

    Enjoy the benefits of sales order process automation and more thanks to the innovative approach of the OrderAction platform here at Artsyl. Not only can you save precious time and money and improve customer satisfaction, but tracking buyer habits for attaining valuable customer insights becomes a breeze.

    Ready to give our demo a whirl? Don't hesitate to contact us and start achieving the success in your business processes that you've always imagined.

    x