Tag Archives: order management

Customer Service is Key

I recently went out for a meal with my family. We arrived at the restaurant, and were greeted and seated immediately by our smiling host, at the table of our choice.

Whilst looking at the menu, our host came over and took our drinks order, and also took the time to give us recommendations of dishes, explaining about ingredients and suitable accompaniments.

The food arrived fairly swiftly and was delicious – the recommendations were correct and accurate, and our attentive host returned on occasion to check we were happy and that we had full glasses.

Our table was cleared, and then, the best part – dessert. Being a fairly indecisive bunch, our willing host again took the time to answer any questions about the dishes and made recommendations. A couple of members of my family enquired about one particular dessert. We asked for a few more minutes to decide. Our host then re-appeared at the table, not yet to take our order, but with a sample of the dessert that we were enquiring about, to aid our decision.

What fantastic service we received. This was the thing that really made our visit special. It certainly made me want to return.

These days, it is all about customer service, or the customer experience. It can make or break an experience or transaction. There is so much riding on it. In fact, today, excellent customer service is expected and demanded as standard. It’s what makes the best stand out from the rest.

A fantastic experience with any service or transaction is always preferable, but things don’t always go to plan, mistakes are made, and then need to be dealt with, and again it’s here that excellent customer service shines through and makes companies stand out from the rest, and makes customers loyal and return time and time again.

Did you know that Esker’s customer issue management solution can help with this? It gives CSRs have the ability to log, track and manage every claim, which improves efficiency by completely automating issue management workflows. On top of this, Esker’s dashboards provide clear and up-to-date information on the number of complaints awaiting resolution, and consolidated reports enable managers to accurately analyse, detect and quickly fix any problem areas. Getting customer issue management right is so important. After all, it directly impacts financial performance and customer retention.

Written by Amy Rees – Esker Marketing Administrator

Should we view Artificial Intelligence (AI) as the evil robotic mind that has prompted an inflated cause for concern when it comes to thinking about job security becoming under threat?

As we see increased thoughts towards the adoption of autonomous vehicles, delivery of goods via drones, chatbots taking fast food orders, immersive technology such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), then should we be concerned for the future of the job roles that we currently have and the security of the future workforce?

We increasingly hear that the next industrial revolution of robotic process automation, machine learning, and AI is upon us and with this in mind, a certain amount fear, uncertainty and doubt seems to have set in. Just as history has shown with the very first industrial revolution, many people initially opposed this change due to the fear of large-scale manufacturing leading to the deskilling and replacement of the workforce.

Of course, some work practices were replaced and lower quality items initially produced but for the large majority, it actually meant a surge in workforce employment and improved practices to supply the increased demand for goods. In fact, one study from Gartner Research states that while 1.8 million jobs will be lost by 2020, 2.3 million new ones will be created.

So, we should probably embrace the new industrial revolution and view it as a positive step towards improving our work and lifestyles yet further. Yes, there may well be some short-term implications concerning job replacement but in the end, the impact will be minimal just as it was with the first industrial revolution.

Therefore, following our own philosophy at Esker, whereby we embrace technological advancements such as AI to enhance the way our customers can go beyond business as usual, we have been pleasantly reassured to continue our investment in the development of such solutions.

For example, one area in which we help organisations to improve their business practices through these technological advancements is the processing of incoming customer orders. When an order arrives in the system, the data is automatically extracted with machine learning and any exceptions are flagged for review. Approvals are then made through an automated workflow with accurate order data integrated into the ERP system. A copy is then archived for a complete electronic audit trail. Custom dashboards display data like the number of open issues or processing time, while a customer portal allows for orders to be placed from an online catalogue and for staff to quickly communicate with customers.

This allows benefits to be quickly realised, such as increasing the accuracy and efficiency of the processed data as well as improving the visibility of the workload. The result of these benefits does not diminish the skills of the workforce as perhaps perceived but actually enables them to allocate more time to assisting customers and providing a better overall customer experience.

With this, plus the various seminars and events I’ve attended over the past few months, I have been further reassured that this new era is not the apocalyptic end to the way we do business and won’t see humans being the puppets on the strings of a far superior robotic mind intent on taking over the world!

The fact is that technological advancements should be embraced and be viewed as a positive move towards enhancing our current working practices, improving the business world and making our lives even more positively interconnected to reap the rewards it will bring.

Written by Sam Townsend – Esker Head of Marketing, Northern Europe

Get the Right Formation for your Order Processing

I’m a big fan of football. The ups, downs, highs, lows and the general togetherness it can bring. I suppose the time when everyone comes together is particularly when the World Cup rolls around every four years. It gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling that all football fans live for. Being an England fan, it’s then normally met by the usual feeling of disappointment (normally when we get knocked out on penalties) and then you’re left for another four years craving that excitement and togetherness, that you only get at club level once every couple of weeks.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have that buzz where everyone comes together, all year round?

That got me thinking, I suppose it’s like Esker’s Order Processing solution, in that you want to have something that gives you that feeling your orders are handled successfully on every single occasion, rather than only getting the process right once in a blue-moon – then constantly chasing the game to get the winning result you are after. Wouldn’t it be ideal then, to have the right formation and a team you can depend on, week in, week out?

Consider this; the fact that you can have all orders managed within the one solution is like all rival teams setting differences aside for a common goal. The validation, data capture, and auto-learning capabilities are like the players out on the field performing to the best of their ability, showcasing different skills to provide the best results. Then this all culminates in posting the order seamlessly into the ERP, like when a goal is scored. Plus, what football fan can’t relate to the World Cup, where football is always on the TV, meaning you cannot get away from what’s happening (I love it!). It’s much like the dashboard/visibility Esker can provide on the sales order process in real time, whenever needed. The togetherness between what are normally rival fans can be seen as the integration between different systems where, although they have differences, there’s always a way in which integration can be achieved.

So, unlike England over the years, don’t pay the penalty on your customer order process, and look to Esker to make things more in “Lionel” and less “Messi”.

Ready to tackle your process?

Written by Dan Weston – Esker Export Account Manager

Today’s a Good Day for Automation

Most companies face a wait time receiving customer payments that could range anywhere from 30 to 90 days to even longer. Payment delays not only cause anxiety for the collections management team, but they impact your cash flow. The bottom line is simple — the more quickly you collect your accounts receivable (AR), the better your cash flow situation will be.

You have undoubtedly heard about or have automated certain business processes already. By automating wherever possible, you’re looking where you can leverage technology to compliment your existing ERP or finance solution, and reduce labor-intensive administrative tasks, thus operating much more efficiently in the process. AR automation transfers invoicing to a digital process, sets you up to receive multiple forms of payment, handles what is usually labor-intensive deductions, accurately applies cash, and captures and prioritises collections efforts. In addition, AR automation allows you to:

  • Create customer invoices based on your company’s data or simply upload an ERP created file of invoice PDFs to send and track electronically or via postal mail
  • Send automated reminders for payment

Finally, AR automation also supports numerous types of collections strategies and is set up for internal collectors based on the collections rules and approach unique to your company.

The benefits of AR automation are numerous and impossible to ignore after you have experienced them firsthand. Here are the main reasons to consider implementing this year:

  1. Faster Payments
    If you’re accustomed to dealing with clients who tend to pay your invoices at their leisure, then you’re not alone. This is just one of many reasons to consider automating your AR processes as soon as possible. The enormous benefit of automation is that e-invoices are made available for customers to pay immediately. This eliminates delays in payment that might have previously been common. AR automation can help you speed up your invoicing so you get faster payment.
  1. Improved Customer Experience
    A benefit of AR automation is an enhanced customer experience. Your team is better able to focus on more strategic and detail-oriented tasks. When it comes to AR-related customer data, you know the more you can do to merge things for greater visibility, the better customer service you can provide. When it comes to inaccurate invoices or collections issues, AR automation technology allows you to quickly address any issues that may arise. By implementing technology in your AR processes, you are giving yourself a valuable tool that allows you to provide stronger customer service. Because of this enhanced customer experience, you can expect improved customer retention and a decrease in customer service-related problems.
  1. Cost Savings
    Studies have shown that e-invoicing saves approximately $8 per invoice sent. This cost reduction might come as a surprise. However, the decrease reflects cost savings in several areas, such as postage costs, manual handling of paper invoices, cost of paper, envelopes, and equipment used in the printing and posting process. By implementing invoice delivery automation, your company can cut costs where you never could before. In time, the sizeable cost savings will be worthwhile to leverage technology to your benefit.
  1. More Control & Visibility
    Another benefit of AR automation is the added control and visibility you and your team will gain. Invoicing and international e-invoice compliance, automated payment reminders, online customer payment, automatic cash application, collectors outreach and workflow, and capturing dispute reasons are just a few of the AR automation functions that allow real-time visibility and reporting. Improved visibility provides insight you and your team can act on.

You may still have reservations about making the switch. The manual processes you’ve always known feel comfortable and familiar. Change can sometimes be scary. Look at automation technology as something that can easily be adapted to your business needs. Opt for software that’s simple, intuitive and closely matches how you already do business. Consider automating your AR and collections process — it’s a more predictable and repetitive sequence of activities that provides benefits from end to end.

Esker: Growing the P2P Suite in 2018 and Beyond

Company Background

Esker was founded in 1985 with the vision of helping businesses deliver paper documents electronically. Today, more than 30 years later, they have stayed true to its roots and are now one of the larger document process automation vendors in the market. Over 85% of sales now come from its on-demand (SaaS) solutions for Purchase-to-Pay, Order-to-Cash, and document delivery. Headquartered in Lyon, France, Esker also has operations in North America, Latin America, Europe, and Asia Pacific.

Based on the strong growth of its cloud-based solutions (+21% YOY), Esker’s 2017 sales revenues increased by 15.3% over 2016. Another interesting stat from the earnings release is that the number of employees in R&D increased by 18% in 2017, and now represents an impressive 22% of the total workforce.

During our briefing, Esker spoke to us primarily about the newer solution for Purchasing but also covered the Accounts Payable solution as well. Below is a brief description of each solution.

Accounts Payable

Esker’s sweet spot has always been its AP automation solution for the mid- and large-market. The cloud-based AP solution is designed to eliminate paper, reduce manual processing of invoices, lower costs, and improve efficiency. As you would expect they can easily handle most invoice formats and delivery vehicles. The solution can automate the AP process from invoice receipt to 3-way matching, and through to, and including, approval and transfer for payment. They have also automated the exception handling process, which can automatically be routed around based on customisable workflows and business rules.

Esker offers adapters for a number of ERPs including SAP, Oracle eBusiness Suite, and Microsoft Dynamics NAV. Over 50% of Esker’s AP customers have SAP as their backend ERP, not surprising since Esker has long provided integration to SAP. Two years ago they introduced an adapter for Oracle and this has resulted in good growth in this market segment as well. It is important to point out that Esker’s workflow sits outside of an organisation’s ERP, something they say is one of the major reasons clients select Esker for their AP automation.

Purchasing

Based on requests from its existing customers, and sensing market demand, Esker launched its on-demand Purchasing solution four years ago, in order to be able to offer full P2P functionality. The majority of Esker’s customers utilising the purchasing solution already had Esker’s AP solution or were sold the full P2P suite in the last four years. Esker Purchasing allows enterprises to automate the full P2P cycle, from the purchase request all the way through the payment process. Esker automates purchasing workflow and integrates seamlessly to the Esker AP solution. They provide out-of-the-box, role-based dashboards tailored to the specific needs of the user, and allow for easy switching between the AP and Purchasing solutions. Esker provides functionality to easily manage internal catalogs and is in the process of launching ‘punch-out’ catalog capability that will be available later this spring. Eskers purchasing solution is currently best suited to handle an organisation’s indirect spend but, Dupuy-Holdich said their vision is to possibly handle direct spend as well sometime in the future.

Final Thoughts

After a successful 2017, it was great to get an update from Esker to hear how they achieved such positive results and learn what they are currently working on and plans for the future. They have recently provided integration to SAP S4/Hana, Dynamics NAV 2017, and early payment discounts. Future plans include support for SAP S4/HANA Cloud and NAV 2018, punch-out catalogs, and contract management. They are working to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in all of its solutions. The ‘Esker AI Engine’ is currently being used to improve global field recognition, for an intelligent splitting of invoice batches, general ledger auto allocation, and improved supplier recognition on invoices and purchase orders. Esker R&D is looking to utilise AI to improve the functionality of its solutions wherever possible. Esker understands the importance of being able to offer a full P2P suite and is motivated to bring its purchasing solution on par with that of the AP solution. Esker has produced solid revenue growth over the last couple of years and has a plan in place to keep that momentum going in 2018. Ardent Partners is very interested to see where Esker goes from here and the traction they are able to achieve in the full P2P market.

 

Source: http://payablesplace.ardentpartners.com/2018/03/esker-growing-p2p-suite-2018/

 

The Benefits of Document Processing Automation in the Food Industry

The exchange of documents is essential to how daily business activities are conducted, especially in manufacturing and distribution. In fact, how well an organisation optimises document processes directly impacts profitability. This is especially true in the food and beverage industry, where FDA regulations and product shelf life make efficiency and accuracy particularly important. It is also true then that the promised gains from automation are often amplified in this space.

The Pitfalls of Manual Processes

Each and every day, warehouse distributors and manufacturers handle faxes, emails and other paper-based supply chain management documents that cause problems such as:

  • Data entry errors associated with the manual rekeying of data, resulting in delayed/incorrect shipments
  • Inefficiency in getting fax/email data into a back-office system, resulting in production delays and overstocks
  • Concerns about the cost for increasing staff and infrastructure to handle high volumes and peak periods

Management Concerns

The struggles associated with manual processing affect a business at multiple levels —, particularly at the managerial level. When document entry cycle times are long, managers cannot grow the business without adding staff. Additionally, there is no easy way to prioritise and monitor document entry, meaning high-priority and time-sensitive processing can be delayed. Document processing errors are also a common problem that causes a domino effect of issues for managers. Errors can lead to delays in fulfillment and cash collection, additional shipping costs, waste (especially with perishables) and repetition. Furthermore, processing errors can cause returns, which a business must pay off in credit notes, restocking or write-offs. Finally, archiving poses a major concern for management. The cost of printing and the space to store documents, combined with the time it takes to file and retrieve records, can hold a company back. Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) are often unable to find documents to answer customer questions, and information is not readily accessible for auditing purposes.

The Promise of Document Management Automation

The more efficient a company’s billing and cash collection methods are, the faster documents are handled, processed and tracked, which accelerates the flow of business cycles. There are then four main expected outcomes from replacing traditional, paper-based processes with document management automation:

  • Cost-effective integration of incoming documents into business processes so they get to the right places/people as quickly and efficiently as possible.
  • Removal of human intervention and manual paper handling from document processes, increasing efficiency and reducing errors from manual touch points.
  • Increase in the efficiency of back-office operations frees staff to focus on higher value, strategic activities.
  • Improvement of supplier and customer relationships by creating a superior, more efficient experience receiving payment or products.

Success Story: Sales Order Processing and Bel Group

If a manufacturer or distributor in any industry makes a mistake with an order, it incurs costs associated with bringing the product back to the warehouse, repackaging it and redistributing it. There are the shipping costs, the time wasted on duplicate processes and the incurred risk to reputation to think of. But when it comes to the food and beverage industry, order processing takes on an even greater importance because in many cases, product cannot simply be reshipped in case of error. Perishable product must be disposed of, which can lead to a total loss of revenue on inventory. That’s a cost no company wants to pay.

The Bel Group is a worldwide leader in branded cheeses with operations in 36 countries and more than 12,000 employees. Its Spanish operations were hamstrung by inefficient, manual processing of customer orders and invoices. Prior to implementation of an automated order processing system, two-thirds of the approximately 25,000 customer orders the division received annually came in via fax, email, and telephone. Processing those orders manually was slow, labor-intensive and much more susceptible to error.

Like many companies with traditional systems and long-standing customer relationships, Bel Spain worried that their customers would balk at submitting orders electronically. Since solution implementation, Bel has taken an active role in helping customers change the way they send documents, moving from telephone and paper to electronic format (fax or email). Within a year, two-thirds of Bel’s orders were being received electronically. Thirty percent of those were processed using optical character recognition (OCR) technology, drastically reducing the number of manual touch points—and opportunities for error—associated with their traditional system. Today, 100 percent of Bel Spain’s document exchange with customers using non-electronic formats is automated and seamlessly integrated with SAP. Orders are now more accurate, and the company has seen significant improvements in the quality of managing order-to-cash and procure-to-pay cycles.

Sales Order Processing Benefits:

  • Achieved significant financial savings by eliminating the costs involved with printing and mailing invoices and manual reception and processing of customer orders.
  • Decreased order and invoice processing time.
  • Eliminated processing errors associated with manual handling.
  • Streamlined relationships with vendors and customers by making communication with both more reliable, resulting in faster sales cycles and increased customer loyalty.
  • Eliminated physical archiving by using 115 fewer filing cabinets every year, resulting in an estimated savings of €4,500 per year based on the average price per square meter.

Bel Spain also automated the sending and archiving of electronic customer invoices. Invoices are now received quicker and easier, and never get lost. Duplicate copies can easily be printed if needed, there is greater invoice traceability and Bel Spain benefits from decreased days sales outstanding (DSO).

Accounts Receivable Benefits:

  • Invoices with electronic signatures are automatically generated from SAP.
  • Signed PDF invoices are automatically sent by email via Lotus Notes.
  • Electronic invoices are archived online, freeing-up physical space and decreasing associated costs.

Success Story: Accounts Payable and Farmland Foods

Increasing industry pressures have many food and beverage companies looking for ways to lower operational costs and gain leverage with suppliers. The expense and inefficiency of keying in, verifying and approving vendor invoices manually make accounts payable automation a popular way to modernise AP processing, reduce costs and improve vendor relations.

International pork processing company Farmland Foods processes about 30,000 invoices every month. That’s an awful lot of paper to push via outdated manual processes. AP operations were frustratingly slow, and the accuracy rate wasn’t where it should have been for a company of Farmland’s standing. Invoices were stored in paper files in an inconvenient storage room, and employees were wasting too many hours printing invoices and manually re-entering them into SAP.

In 2014, the company decided to implement an automated AP system that integrates with SAP. As a result, the Farmland experienced tangible cost-savings.

Benefits:

  • Improved visibility. Managers now have access to key metrics, such as number of invoices to process, how far out they are, payment terms for discounts, etc.
  • Easier access to invoices. Instead of tracking down invoices in a file room, Esker allows users to access them via document numbers to easily email/print a copy online.
  • Faster freight processing. Esker helped Farmland reduce its “out period” for freight invoices from a deadline-pushing 14 days to just two days.
  • Cost savings. Fewer manual processing tasks allowed Farmland to save on costs equal to three FTEs, and reallocate current staff to projects offering greater value.
  • Faster invoice entry time. Where the invoice entry goal for Farmland’s AP staff used to be 150-200 invoices per day, they are now achieving over 400 invoices per day.
  • Fewer outstanding accruals. Faster invoice entry times have enabled Farmland to reduce the number of outstanding AP accruals by $8 million.
  • Increased discounts. When comparing the last six months to the six months prior to automation, Farmland estimates it has gained an additional $29,815 in discounts.

 

EDI Made Easier Through Automation

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) came onto the scene as an antidote to the traditional cumbersome and error-prone ways of manually moving business documents between partners. Before EDI, documents in the order purchasing process, such as invoices, purchase orders and receipts, were exchanged through emails, faxes or traditional mail. This required human effort on each end inputting the data and handling document transmission. As with most manual systems, order processing was slow, inefficient and costly. Errors in data entry were commonplace and the processing could not keep up with the increasingly fast pace of modern business.

EDI digitized the process, removing most human intervention and paper from the equation. It made the document exchange a computer-to-computer event that accelerated processes, improved accuracy, increased document security and reduced costs. However, while EDI has been a great start in improving order purchasing process, it isn’t a panacea. It comes with its own set of complexities and challenges that can slow the system down and introduce inefficiencies. Businesses can turn to automated order processing management solutions to help address the myriad EDI exceptions that can impact data accuracy, bottom-line costs and business cycles.

This technology has been around for about three decades, and there are multiple EDI formats and standards, including XML, EDIFACT, ANSI and UBL. In order processing, EDI essentially involves taking the data that’s been entered into the system by the buyer and putting it through a series of translation, mapping and processing steps before an invoice is sent to the supplier. Within that process, there are multiple points at which errors and exceptions can occur, affecting accuracy, adding costs and throwing speed bumps into the system. We have found that up to a third of EDI orders can contain exceptions. Errors can range from incorrect pricing or promotion codes to invalid material numbers to missing segments, and addressing them can be time-consuming and expensive. For example, about 30 percent of shipments are received with an advanced shipping notice (ASN), which can cost a company as much as $178 per purchase order to process.

The complexity of EDI means that when an exception occurs, customer service representatives (CSRs) often have to bring in the IT team to figure out the order and fix the problem. Essentially the company is paying two people to handle a single problem.

Those exceptions also have a ripple effect throughout the entire supply chain, where there are so many stakeholders involved — not only the CSR, IT team and management, but everyone from the supplier to the customer. Any slowdown caused by inaccuracies and inefficiencies in any part of the supply chain can have a domino effect throughout. It can damage business partner relationships and result in lost profits or lost business. EDI has helped digitize the entire order purchasing process, but complexity, challenges and exceptions remain.

Automated order processing solutions can help alleviate many of the problems caused by EDI exceptions. It can ensure the accuracy, efficiency and security of the system and remove the need for manual intervention. An order processing automation solution essentially becomes an overlay of the EDI system and the central place where every order is processed. That includes the orders received not only through the EDI system, but also via email, fax, paper or any other route, with the orders sent to the right CSR and all the purchase order data collected and used to create a sales order in the ERP system.

These automated solutions make every order readable to humans and provides full visibility and control over every order. Purchase orders can come to the trading partner through the EDI system, but, at the same time, they can come separately via other avenues. It’s often up to the CSR — and at times the IT staff — to remedy any discrepancies. With a best-of-breed automation solution, the software brings all of that together in one place, can quickly determine if there is a problem with the order and provide feedback to the business partner if the order needs to be reworked and the problem addressed.

The handling of exceptions is also automated, which puts control back into the hands of the CSR and eliminates the need for an expensive IT professional to help resolve the issue. Now, the data from an EDI file is used to create a PDF, where discrepancies are not only quickly and easily flagged, but the automated solution can learn from previous situations to automatically correct recurring issues and remember changes that users have made in the past. This accelerates the process, increases efficiency and reduces the number of exceptions that need to be addressed. An automation solution can reduce EDI processing time by an average of four days over EDI systems where manual intervention is still needed.

Companies also gain greater visibility into the order process through customizable dashboards that enable users to track all orders in real time. For CSRs, this means being able to better manage SLAs, ensure the integrity of priority orders and see what orders are awaiting approvals, rather than having to sort through layers of data or use guesswork. Managers can use the tool to view long-term performance forecasts and anticipate staffing needs.

Relationships with trading partners are further strengthened, in part by enabling CSRs to not only process orders through the automated solution, but also to track and address customer issues through the same interface. Problems are dealt with quickly, strengthening the relationship between the companies and freeing customer service representatives to spend more time working with customers. Automated solutions also include a self-service online portal to ensure instant communication between business partners and give customers an always-available online place to access order information and address issues as they arise.

Onboarding new customers is simplified through an intelligent and easy-to-use mapping tool, and automation solutions can easily be configured to work with existing EDI or ERP infrastructures. Businesses don’t need to rip out and replace any systems in which they’ve already invested. Instead they can bring in an automated solution to improve the overall process.

EDI was a great start to improving the overall order purchase process, which for a long time has been a heavily manual — and thus slow and error-prone — operation. However, as with any process or rule, with EDI there are exceptions that have to be dealt with. Until now, managing EDI exceptions has meant more human intervention, by a CSR with few IT capabilities and by an IT professional without deep experience in business process models. Essentially, two people were needed to fix one problem. An automated order purchasing solution can address exceptions quickly and easily by ensuring that all orders go through a single system regardless of where they originated, granting CSRs full autonomy to EDI exception handling and offering customer-friendly features to build and cement trust in business relationships.

 

IS YOUR SALES ORDER ENTRY PROCESS AFFECTING YOUR DAYS SALES OUTSTANDING?

Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) is one of those key indicators that ultimately indicates how streamlined your order management process is — how quickly your product or service gets to your customer and how efficiently they pay you. There are many areas within an organization’s process that can affect this.

I’ve seen companies shave 3-5 days of DSO just by switching from paper/mailed invoices to electronic invoice delivery. However, recently, I’ve been learning just how much DSO can improve even more. One notable area of focus is the sales order entry process — a process that, if not working efficiently, can negatively affect customer service and DSO.

I had the privilege of sitting in on a presentation by Adrian Posteraro titled:  “Overcoming the Negative Business Impacts of a Manual CS Work Environment”. Adrian’s background is quite impressive with 27 years at MEDRAD and heading up Global Customer Support and Global Customer Satisfaction, as well as being responsible for maintaining Business Excellence and Regional Field Service. It’s safe to say that Adrian is more than qualified to speak on behalf of his experiences.

MEDRAD Sales Order Environment Before Esker

MEDRAD previously had a 100% manual sales order entry process, with orders taking anywhere from 7-10 minutes to be fully entered into the ERP system. Aside from the burnout of customer service agents, there were some particular manual sales order entry processes that affected customer service, and, most notably, DSO.

MEDRAD was dealing with backlogged order processing, and missing same-day shipping requests. Order entry errors were creating issues with getting invoices paid, resulting in rebills/re-invoicing. Additionally, the collection department was spending excess time chasing down payments. MEDRAD needed to improve the sales order entry process to mitigate these issues to improve customer satisfaction and DSO.

Sales Order Processing Automation with Esker

What happens when you automate your sales order entry process with Esker? You achieve world-class results! Esker customers consistently see their order entry error rates decline, (i.e., less rebilling/re-invoicing) and backlogged order entry disappear since orders are getting out the door faster and more accurately (i.e., invoices get paid faster).

Which brings us back to square one — improved DSO — which I started out by describing it as one of the key indicators that helps determine how healthy and efficient your order management process is. Now that your gears are turning, what benefits would automating your sales order entry process help your company realize? Leave your comments below!

Debunking the Myths of Sales Order Processing Automation

“We are already automated” is a common phrase many manufacturers and suppliers say consistently when I first start talking with them. At first, I was blown away by how quickly so many companies were adapting to this new digital order processing technology, but as conversations continued this proved to be incorrect.

For many organizations, being automated refers to back-end processes once a sales order is entered into the ERP system. For example: sending out a confirmation email with ship date, determining if a customer is in good standing with credit, ensuring stock is available, etc.

While it’s fantastic to have as much automated as you can on the back end, what about the front end? Would it be useful to have your orders automatically routed to the right person and no longer have to print or file them away? What improvements could come from customer service if they no longer had to manually key in all those sales orders that come in each day? Would it help supply chain performance if they had full visibility to all orders before they got into your ERP?

Some companies think they are automated because they use EDI. At face value, this makes sense. The EDI order comes in, seamlessly feeds into your ERP (i.e., no one sees or touches it) and your front end is 100% automated — awesome! Unfortunately, this is essentially a myth all of its own.

Companies can’t get 100% of their customers to send in EDI orders. There will always be those customers who prefer email or even fax. Even for those customers who are willing to send in EDI orders, it’s practically an IT project to simply get each customer onboarded; even then, companies typically still need to “touch” some of the EDI orders because they fail out. Also, for many organizations, it’s left up to IT and their already-strained resources to determine why the EDI order failed.

So … just how automated are you with EDI? For each company the answer will be different but, regardless, you will still have some fax and email orders coming in, and you will still have to manually touch at least some of the EDI orders. Could it be helpful to have a solution that can take in EDI exceptions, flip them into a human-readable format, and allow customer service to fix and handle the EDI errors? What if IT no longer had to onboard new EDI customers — could this be beneficial?

A funny thing happened as all these questions were being asked. Organizations who thought they were very well automated started realizing there were still many manual touch points in their process in need of automation. As digital order processing technology continues to advance, it now offers organizations the opportunity to revolutionize their customer service teams while, at the same time, removing the burden of EDI away from IT.

So, the next time someone brings up sales order processing automation, don’t be afraid to dig below the surface, you may be surprised just how helpful a solution like this could be.

You’re Trying to Manage What With Your Email System?

automated business process

3,352

That’s how many messages currently reside in my inbox at the start of this blog. I am not ashamed nor proud of this stat, but it’s a fact. I’m envious of those that can manage their mailbox like it’s a task or to-do list but, as much as I’ve tried, this simply hasn’t worked for me for a variety of reasons. And I know I’m not alone in this.

Many strategies have evolved over the years for me to efficiently find and manage my inbox. Key word in that last sentence…evolved.

New technology is great, but as it becomes more established in our everyday lives, both personally and professionally, it can morph into a solution it was never intended to address.

Email is not a workflow tool, business automation or document repository.

Organizations have come to me to optimize a variety of business processes that currently reside in their email system…sales order management, help desk tickets, master data requests, invoice approval, customer issue resolution — the list goes on and on.

Regardless of the process, where’s the visibility? Who has it, when did they receive it, what is the status, where does it need to go to next, how long did it take and why isn’t it completed?

No matter what industry you are in or department you report to you probably have encountered something similar.

As more and more emails are received, the potential for information being lost, misplaced, accidentally deleted, or unintentionally ignored increases.

This post is not a magic pill that is going to solve your overwhelming inbox. It is simply a statement that there are many great tools developed to help streamline business processes such as:

  • Accounts Payable Automation
    Allows businesses to eliminate the manual pains of traditional AP invoice processing thanks to intelligent capture, touchless processing and electronic workflow capabilities. The end result? A simpler, more efficient way to manage cash flow and generate new revenue.
  • Order Processing Automation
    Automation with workflow tools, customizable dashboards and self-service portals allowing customer service leaders to bring accuracy and security to every order processed and can eliminate backlogs from one day to the next.
  • Accounts Receivable Automation
    Completely automates the sending and archiving of invoices according to customer preferences and regardless of media type – postal mail, fax, email, EDI and publication on a web portal.

Now, it’s just a matter of doing your research to find the right automation tool for what you are trying to manage that best suits your organization’s requirements.

3,361…time to get back my email.