Take the Time to Do It Right
Success in a manufacturing/distribution business starts with your order entry system. It's an expensive proposition to say there's no time to do things right the first time but always time to redo mistakes over and over again.
If you don't get it right the first time, your costs add up and your bottom line erodes. You can spend hours, or even days, fixing errors and squandering resources. The costs go beyond measurable forms, such as customer complaints, lost orders, wasted inventory and excessive overtime. Your staff may become frustrated and apathetic.
Shore up your bottom line by ensuring the efficiency of your order entry system. Put a priority on the following areas and set the foundation for tightly controlled costs, satisfied customers and new revenue streams.
Priority 1: Spell out job responsibilities. It should be unacceptable for any employee to say, "It's not my job." Employees must recognize the importance of taking responsibility for getting the job done, whether it's part of their specific role or not. The customer is always right and each employee must be held accountable for upholding that principle.
Priority 2: Make sure information flows freely. Your sales staff needs reports and updates quickly so they can pass the information to customers. You need to send orders immediately to the warehouse for processing. Look for bottlenecks. Make certain your employees communicate with each other, with customers and with product manufacturers. Explore technological solutions, such as more efficient use of e-mail, laptops or software geared to your specific needs.
Priority 3: Keep a fastidious database. Gathering and storing customer information is the foundation for successful, targeted marketing programs. Keep your database continuously and consistently updated. Include the products that customers order, the amounts and dates. Keep a record of promotions offered and accepted. Log conversations with customers. Make sure your employees know the importance of correctly entering data. A simple price error costs time and labor to fix and could cost a customer. And maintain only one database. Too often, companies keep more than one and they cannot easily make a change to correct everything at one time.
Priority 4: Establish a firm pricing policy. Customers and employees must clearly understand your pricing system. Special pricing programs can drive promotional campaigns. Your staff should use these policies to advise customers placing orders to take advantage of discounts and special offerings.
Priority 5: Customers want guaranteed delivery times. Be sure your shipping department allows your sales and service reps to make that promise. If you receive an order by a certain time, your system should enable you to ship it the same day. Offer customers partial shipments if an item is unavailable and make every effort to get the missing items quickly. Your delivery times should be in line with, or better than, the competition's. In addition, your process should allow for the quick handling of emergency or irregular orders from both existing and new customers.
Details count. Small errors can work their way into your system and be difficult to weed out. In the end, your bottom line suffers and you run the risk of losing valuable customers.