First, what is multi-channel order management?
Some of you will say “oh, that’s easy – it’s the web”. Yes, the internet is one of the most growing and most innovative ways to reach your customer. So imagine you put up a web site and you put a lot of effort into the graphics and put flash on it and provide real-time ATP check. You make it at a state-of-the-art experience. Will you have mastered multi-channel order management now?
Oh, there is also the store or warehouse – yes you can make buying from you a pleasure by putting up a storefront that reflects your brand, by providing an experience that is tailored to the buying habbits of your customers – for example by providing an ability for your customers to drive into your warehouse with their truck, load based on the list provided by the driver and get your customer out of the door in 10 minutes. Yes, this is another part of a multi-channel order management strategy.
Are there more channels – yes, there are many more! But how do you get each one of them right and how do you make them all fit with each other?
Recently i asked one of our customers what is most exciting to their customers. Igor, an experienced Sales professional said the following: “Marcus, if there is one thing that really is exciting for our customers and really builds loyality in our customer base then it is this simple thing … (pause) when their order is captured, fulfilled and billed correctly. The more we can guarantee this – the more we retain and grow our customers.”
Igor was in the course of the discussion pointing out that the ability to increase the product portfolio, to increase the up- and cross-sell opportunities and to win a bigger share of a customers wallet depend on making sure every interaction with the customer is on the spot in regards taking care of his orders as requested. He closed with, yes, you might have a service technician or a call center agent who has the initiative to provide a free gift or extra service to the customer to sooth an unexpected out of stock. But a) this does not scale well across all of your employeess and b) it is simply to costly. Our customers talk to each other more and more and their end-to-end feedback directly impacts our ability to retain or win new customers.
Here are four basic principles that help you achieve a solid multi-channel order management:
- You need one system of record for all your orders to go through to have the necessary control
- This system needs to be available in every channel and in every customer-facing part of your or your partners organisation in real-time to allow every interaction with your customer to be productive in moving the order forward
- The system needs to support your efforts to keep the order on track pro-actively and methodically. Especially when you start selling packages and bundles having pro-active support for avoiding any kind of delay or mishap is critical
- Invoicing and payment need to work hand-in-hand with the order – from a customers perspective the payment is the tail end of the ordering experience – if something goes wrong here the customer will be even more unhappy then when the service is delayed or when the product that seemed available is suddenly unavailable
So the basic premise of this blog post is that multi-channel order management is not so much about the technology of a specific channel but about all of the customer facing departements rallying around setting and meeting the expectation of the customer.