Let’s talk about the link between eCommerce and business operations and why it’s so critical to look beyond your traditional eCommerce goals when you implement new solutions. Part II of my eCommerce Operations Series.
Don’t let human error ruin your day–solve it the eCommerce way. (ha ha)
Fat-fingered data entry is a tale as old as time, turning a would-be-simple ordering process into a major headache riddled with human errors. At best, human errors are annoying, inconvenient nuisances. However, at their worst, these errors become major stumbling blocks for businesses, manufacturers, and consumers alike. The good news is that there is no need to live under the constant threat of attack-by-human-error. The better news is that eCommerce solutions can do so much to help you–no human necessary.
The most common example of human error in my world has been my ops team getting so sick of receiving mis-keyed orders. The orders get stuck and require manual manipulation to drop to the DC, which is a massive administrative time waste. If it’s not mis-keyed orders, my ops team is dealing with reps and customers placing crazy backorders because they just don’t know what’s in stock, out of stock, or on long-term manufacturer backorder. This means the team has to manually swap in alternates or the backorder report just sits there and grows like a gargoyle.
These are simple issues to offset if you look at two things:
- Controlling how the orders are entered by working with data management on data field challenges.
- Improving the information available to the user at time of order placement, leveraging category management and product purchasing teams.
Yeah, I know that was kind of reductive, but bear with me.
I’ve worked with several companies where ops or Materials Management is plagued by poor manual order and data entry. In some cases, the sales order entry tool, the eCommerce tool, and the ERP weren’t properly configured or connected in real time, and it has meant major headaches, manual item fixes/replacements, and rerouted orders for the administrative teams.
Many companies leave open text fields for folks to put in whatever quantity or unit of measure they like. This opens companies up for all kinds of additional data headaches.
We’ve solved a lot of these problems with our eCommerce solutions by:
- Consolidating ordering platforms for uniformity across the organization. This also means one platform for sales and customers, increasing transparency and communication and ensuring that everyone stays on the same page.
- Streamlining eCommerce order functions so customers love to use them. Frankly, customers often do a better job of ordering (especially reordering) what they want rather than going through another party.
- Ensuring close to real-time connectivity if you need to keep multiple applications. So, if your DC runs out of an item, your ERP will immediately tell your ordering platform, and your salesforce and customer base can pivot accordingly.
- Simply doing a better job with the user experience in communicating with sales and customers about stock status and alternate items. Empower your customers to make the choice on the eCommerce platform and make life easier!
- Changing allowable order operations and open fields to drop-downs and limiting selection options to those that are correct. Stop mis-keying altogether and only let them put in the right quantities or options. Think of the orders flowing freely!
A lot of these solutions are common sense, but getting them through multiple teams can still be a heavy lift.
So, how might you proceed? Here are some suggestions:
- Sit down with your operations teams early and often–everyone from purchasing to distribution and support teams–and talk about areas of error and potential solutions. Simple changes can have BIG impacts.
- Make sure you also talk to different constituent groups (you’ll get different answers and great examples from front line reps!). That on-the-ground insight can help you develop more credible ideas, which will help you with their leaders.
- Identify the biggest annoyances of your constituent groups (workers and managers). What are they? Can you solve any of them by creating eCommerce solutions and web interfaces that can normalize item ordering? Can you set different rules and alerts around backorders and help with automatic substitution?
You’d be shocked how much a team will lean in if they think your project (and budget) can help them solve their biggest pain point. This can also create important camaraderie between teams and offer opportunities for ambitious folks on those teams who would love to participate as point person in your project or initiative.
Instead of avoiding these issues, go seek them out! You have the opportunity to create a collaborative environment with the teams dealing with downstream order data issues. You can solve those problems with the eCommerce user interface and by eliminating opportunities for human error when you have the opportunity–and you can build consensus and opportunities for more feedback in the future.