Fulfilling online orders

Automated order processing

The first stage of the fulfilment cycle for online sales is the way in which your business processes a customer's order.

How your business handles orders has a major impact on customer service, from encouraging initial interest to prompting repeat business. Factors such as price, quality of product or service, range of goods, stock availability are vital to achieving sales in the first place, but a responsive, fully automated order-fulfilment procedure plays a key part in overall customer satisfaction.

Improving how you handle orders

You need to know exactly how well your business deals with order handling before you can make improvements. You should evaluate how orders are processed by doing the following:

  • Identify the connections between sales, planning, purchasing, etc. Flow charts and activity diagrams can help you map out your processes and highlight the links. There are simple software tools available to help you do this.
  • Consider linking your systems to those of your customers if you operate in a business-to-business environment. Find out what systems they use and determine if yours are compatible.
  • Ask staff for their input - they may be able to help you identify problems and solutions.
  • Encourage customers to give you feedback on how their orders were handled.

Automating your internal systems can help achieve the speed and efficiency you need from order processing. It brings together all departments that handle the order, from website or sales reps to warehouse staff. You can:

  • Consider using enterprise resource planning software. This can tie in your website with other facets of your business, such as planning, manufacturing and distribution. Decide whether an off-the-shelf package will be enough, or whether it is worth investing in a system tailored to your particular industry and supply chain. Cheap, easy-to-implement basic order and stock management software is also available and might suit some smaller businesses.
  • Connect your suppliers and customers to the system. Integrate your system with your website, then customer orders that arrive in your system can be transformed into orders to your suppliers. This is so that they can benefit from timelier, accurate order information, with invoices sent and processed automatically.

Automating your internal systems may speed up order processing, but remember that some customers may still prefer personal interaction to maintain the customer service experience.