Doing what you promised | Technology and the Sales Fulfilment Process

Posted by David Costello on 31-Jan-2017 16:38:11

Customer satisfaction has always been crucial to building a loyal customer base. But experts routinely tell us that customer service is now “dead”, that we cannot rely on existing customers to keep coming back simply because they have worked with you before.

Obviously there are many suggestions on how to improve customer satisfaction, but by far the most effective is simply delivering on your promises. When your customer places an order, they expect to receive it within the timescale outlined at the point of sale.


Don’t be vague

The instantaneous nature of online shopping and information availability means that people now expect accurate data in real time. The success of on-demand services like Uber and Airbnb demonstrates two key facts:

  1. 1.   People want instant access to goods and services.
  2. 2.   Customers expect to receive those goods and services within the timeframes specified.

Some businesses try to manage expectations by being vague. Telling customers that their application to transfer gas supplier will take “seven to ten working days” builds contingency into the process – but it’s also extremely unclear if and when the customer can expect to see changes.

Make sure you deliver every single time

Even if your firm does persist in giving vague delivery dates, it is absolutely vital that you adhere to them. Customer sentiment quickly turns negative when you fail to deliver – especially when providing inflated estimates with built-in contingency.

Breaking a promise to a customer is the worst possible way to start a relationship – don’t be surprised if they don’t renew when their current contract expires.

How to improve your sales fulfilment process - accuracy

At the heart of many sales fulfilment delays is the introduction of basic data errors at the point of capture. There are several potential weak points in the capture process – particularly where field sales teams :

  • Customer orders are captured on paper, needing to be transferred into the company systems at a later date and time.
  • Orders are sent through to head office electronically where another processor inputs that data into the main system.
  • Orders are captured off-line, and uploaded to head office at the end of the day – or whenever convenient.

Any process that requires manual re-keying of data is prone to error. One Experian QAS report suggests that British businesses waste as much as £1 in every £6 simply coping with inaccurate data for instance.

There is also an unnecessary delay in the very first stages of the order too. The disconnect between capture and entry into the system slows down the approval process, which has a knock-on effect on the rest of the sales fulfilment process. Every delay dents customer satisfaction.

Deploying a sales fulfilment process that uses mobile technology, you can capture 100% accurate data in the field, and upload it immediately into your central system. This means that using nothing more than a smartphone, your field sales team can complete the entire sales process with the customer present.

How to improve your sales order fulfilment process - visibility

An added advantage of providing the field sales team with mobile access to back-office systems is that they are able to provide customers with more accurate information at the time of purchase. Visibility of the internal processes allows your reps to provide an accurate estimate of delivery for instance – rather than a generic guesstimate.

Improved visibility can be used to improve other aspects of your operations too. Your in-house team can observe and close incomplete orders, or pick up those that need additional information before they can be approved. And your customer service team can see the exact progress of an individual order, providing accurate updates at every development.

Visibility is the key to improving efficiency – unless your team can see what is happening in the sales fulfilment process, you have no chance of making significant advances. So investment in technology to support and streamline your sales fulfilment processes is actually essential to improving your customers’ experiences.

One final point – 60% of customers describe themselves as “very satisfied” shortly before they leave. So your service must exceed expectations at every opportunity to reduce those defections further still.

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Topics: Sales Operations

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