Setting up a customer order management system

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Customer orders are the lifeblood of most small businesses, so managing how they are processed is essential for success. Read our tips for choosing a order management system. Orders are likely to arrive in many different forms – phone, fax, email, letter, via websites and in person. You could even receive orders via SMS text messaging or instant messaging. What is crucial is that these orders are managed so that customers receive the right products at the right time and get the correct invoice. IT can be a great help in managing customer orders. This guide explains some of the tools and techniques you can use to manage your orders. The good news is that most of these tasks can be carried out using standard spreadsheets and word processors, so you won’t need to purchase specific software unless you predict a high volume of customer orders. Using spreadsheet software, such as Excel, means that the cost of an order management system should be minimal. Specific order management software for small businesses can cost anywhere from £100 to £10,000. What is an order management system? An order management system enables businesses to process orders efficiently and effectively. There is often a close link between an order management system, stock control system and accounts system. In fact, many vendors sell a suite of related products with different components that you can buy to add appropriate functionality. Typical attributes of an order system include : Order entry screens Product information so that you can select the products customers have ordered Pricing details Product picking/packing/shipping details Links to accounts and stock control systems. The complexity of a system will depend a lot on your business. You will need the ability to enter the details of the order. Most systems require you to do this by hand, irrespective of how the order arrived. Re-keying data is something that should be avoided as it can really put users off a system. Order systems linked to e-commerce websites can be quite involved, but will do most of the administration for you. Once the customer has entered in their details, the system will authorise the payment, create picking notes and let the customer know when the order will be delivered. This type of functionality will cost a lot of money. A cheaper route for small businesses may be the facilities such as those provided by online shops, for example, eBay. Using office software as an order management system A simple spreadsheet will manage most low-volume orders. You will need to record details of the customer and their order on the screen and then add the financial details of the transaction at the end of the rows. By keeping it simple it is possible to build a useful record of your customer orders which can then be used for analysis later on. Remember though, the data you enter needs to be accurate as there is a saying in computing – ‘Rubbish in, rubbish out’. It therefore pays to keep your data correct and up to date at all times. More advanced users may decide to build an order system in a PC database product. In reality, most small business owners should be focused on selling, marketing and product development. If you feel a need for a more complicated order system then you are probably better off buying one. Buying an order management system Like all software purchases you need to be certain that you have bought the best product to meet your needs. If you are expecting to grow your business quickly then you need to buy software that will grow with you. It is pointless obtaining an order management system that will only support one user if your order processing department has six people in it.
Customer orders are the lifeblood of most small businesses, so managing how they are processed is essential for success. Read our tips for choosing a order management system.