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I am rapidly approaching 50, or as any new parent reporting their toddler’s age would say, I am 48 and six months old today.  With this looming milestone, I thought I would be proactive and buy an old mustang convertible for my mid-life crisis, a 1990 5.0 GT to be specific.  I did this of course with the blessing of my wife; I wanted my mid-life crisis to be successful.   My goals with this purchase included reliving my twenties and to have a hobby to keep my mind active. I plan to spend hours and hours replacing old parts, upgrading the interior and just about anything I can think of to make the car close to a show car.  With these goals in mind, I expected finding parts would be real challenge and I would have to hunt for places to source parts; on-line web-sites, Craig’s list, e-bay and local junk yards.  After weeks of sourcing parts through various vendors I happened upon a site that seemed too good to be true.  This site seemed to have anything and everything I was looking for, even items I didn’t know I needed.  It had competitive prices and the kicker was it had videos that showed how to install what I was buying.  For someone who has never really worked on a car, this was nirvana.  After my first order, I was assigned my own customer service rep (I have to admit that made me feel very special).  Shipping was free and they of course e-mailed me a link for the tracking information and billed me only after the item was shipped.  This got me thinking, today for distributors, there is more to the perfect order than there used to be. 

We used to think about the perfect order as having the order arrive on time and invoiced correctly.  Today the perfect order has to include the services behind that order and all those services need to blend seamlessly to the customer.  In today’s wholesale distribution business climate, order management is crucial to distributor’s success as customer demands for flexibility increase, tolerance for errors decreases and expectations for additional services rise. The customer quest for the perfect order is under way, although the definition continues to expand.

Superior order management can be a competitive edge, by improving customer satisfaction and retention, as well as increasing bottom line results. What does it take to achieve superior order management performance? To move ever closer to order perfection and a truly happy customer base, you must cost-effectively eliminate virtually all the issues and errors that can hurt on-time, accurate order fulfillment and service delivery. This involves every order management process, including planning, sourcing, creating accurate orders, handling order changes, resolving order fulfillment issues and providing value added services to delight your customers.

It is not uncommon for order management processes to cross 5 departments and as many as 10 systems in an organization.  I have seen this first hand while visiting distributors.  An effective solution will make your order management strategy, processes, and IT systems customer centric – not product centric. To realize this, you must evaluate; your customers’ needs and wants, what you can provide, the areas you can cost-effectively change to improve your performance to retain and grow your customer base and the services you are able to provide.

I was pretty much set on this last web site as my new primary supplier, because they has good pricing and selection, but when I saw they offered videos on how to install the items that I was going to buy, I became a customer for life.  I no longer shop around on every order I am planning to make – this installation tutorial service was the difference maker for me.  Now, of course they still need to ship my order on time, invoice accurately and I will still price shop a little on the big items, but even if they just a little more than their competitors, they will continue to get my business.

The path toward the perfect order equates to taking customer-centric steps toward end-to-end order management, which requires operational excellence, cross enterprise integration of processes and IT, and enterprise intelligence about customers, products, services.

As always, I have enjoyed our time together, I hope I have given you insight into what to look for in your quest for the providing the perfect order.  Look for me next time you drive by a mall parking lot on a Saturday morning and you see hundreds of mustangs with their hoods open, I’ll might be there.

Mike Wise is the Industry Principal for Wholesale Distribution at SAP America.  He is a wholesale distribution technology and operations leader with over twenty years of comprehensive experience in distribution and logistics environments, executing operational improvement strategies through technology. He focuses on enabling efficient distributor operations with SAP for Wholesale Distribution solutions

Contact mike at or follow on twitter @jmikew1964

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  1. Karen Lynch

    You hit the nail right on the head, Mike.   A Wholesale Distributor’s customers are now expecting the same experience they receive when placing orders in their personal lives:   Easy, fast, informative…

    By the way, having been an avid Mustang collector for many years now, I have some parts to sell you!

  2. Lynn Lupo

    Some great observations, Mike!  It’s interesting to me that as our society becomes more and more “self-serve”, we also look for higher and more personalized levels of service. Businesses of all kinds need to challenge themselves to find new and better ways to satisfy and keep their customers.

  3. Neetin Datar

    Great blog and a catchy title, Mike.

    I think “Percentage of Perfect Orders” as a KPI would be a great indicator of the health of a distributor’s existing IT systems, people and business processes. Clearly, if there are “expeditors” still running around at a distributor’s site then they are probably struggling with this KPI. With Amazon entering the industrial distribution space, distributors have to bump up their game. And the way to differentiate would be to not only have Perfect Orders but also deliver on those ‘value-added services’ just like you mention in your blog to create some stickiness.

  4. Timothy Schroeder

    Your new supplier really connected with you!  They found a way to define the perfect order in a way that you were not expecting.  Great article.  Bet you are extra motivated to work on the car, too!


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