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If your order processing is time-consuming, error-prone, complex or expensive then your B2B business has a big problem. Are you literally ‘faxing’ your customers away?

The majority of B2B businesses still process orders manually via fax. In many cases, the required product name and quantity is hand-written onto a pre-printed order sheet that is faxed or emailed to the supplier's customer service team where it is manually processed and entered into the ERP system for order processing. Let’s examine what happens in more detail.

No visibility of product availability

The manual data entry process involves typing customer-, material- and serial numbers into the system - which in itself is a time-consuming and potentially error-prone process. Orders are then processed in the ERP systems and shipped to the customer.

As customers don’t usually receive an order confirmation or shipping notification for orders placed, they have to manually check shipments based on the original order sheet to see if the correct articles and quantities have been delivered.

What’s more, with no visibility of product availability, the business buyer has no idea if the product they need is readily available for delivery the next day or has to be produced – and therefore has an extended delivery time. 

Manufacturers of medical technologies for example, face challenges with un-automated stock management.

Business buyers such as doctors, hospital administrators and nurses manually check on the stock levels and product expiry dates, but have no tangible reporting tools to identify the ideal consignment stock levels at any given moment.

Items are usually re-ordered after they’ve been used via the "consignment stock replenishment" process, which involves faxing a consumption notification to the supplier.

Manual processes are error-prone

The supplier's customer service team manually processes this notification sheet, entering the customer ERP number into the ERP order process and adding the used item serial numbers. The corresponding products are then booked out of the customer’s "consignment stock" and invoices can be created. The customer service agent (CSA) then creates a replenishment order for the used products.

However, this approach has significant limitations from the customer perspective. For example, business buyers have limited or no visibility of whether all necessary items are available for ordering – and can’t see estimated delivery dates.

What’s more, they have no real-time visibility of stock levels - unless a manual stock count is currently being performed. As a result, an item needed for a surgical procedure may not be in stock – due either to a lack of ordering or product expiry of existing stock items. In such instances the buyer has to contact the supplier for an express replenishment and incur a high ‘express’ transportation charge for the organization.

In summary, the purchasing process not only needs to be slick and affordable for you, but for your B2B customers too. It’s a major decision factor when businesses go looking for suppliers.