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Which order management system features can improve customer service?

Great order management provides insight that shipping, production, marketing and other functions need to gain a competitive edge and keep customers happy. Here's what to know.

Today's customers want what they want, when they want it and where they want it. Because of that, an effective order management system is critical to delivering the level of service customers expect, and it's important to know what features enable that.

Simple order management vs. a true system

Most companies already have order management software that they use to take orders and record fulfillment activity. But all order management software is not equal. In addition to order entry and fulfillment tracking, the most basic order management software features include invoicing and perhaps a link to credit card processing. But order management should be much more than order handling or order entry.

A true order management system will extend its functionality to include links to accounting, inventory management, shipping and planning. It is also likely to include transportation management and integration with package delivery partners for fast, efficient and effective completion of the vital customer interface aspect of the business.

A great order management system will also collect and manage a comprehensive database of customer and order information and make it available to other parts of the enterprise to create greater visibility and enhance value for your company and its customers.

Data sharing a critical feature for order management software

The main idea behind integrated systems like ERP, manufacturing execution software and CRM is that information has value beyond the immediate task that an application addresses, and sharing that information multiplies its value. In a similar way, order management system features that enable integration and data sharing are critical to modern companies, as most are striving for omnichannel operations.

Basic order information -- including customer names, items and prices -- supports the fulfillment function, which, in turn, includes other business functions. Data is shared with the warehouse for picking and shipping, with the plant for scheduling for make-to-order products, or with accounting for handling credit, invoicing and payment. In some cases, the order has to be passed to engineering for configuration and pricing before completing the order entry.

Demand-driven fulfillment

And that's just order handling. All of the data that supports these simple functions remains in the system and can be shared and used to offer additional value. Product marketing can analyze demand to gather clues about customer needs and preferences.

Likewise, design and engineering can use demand patterns to steer development of new products and product variations as they follow shifting preferences. Demand data is critical information for planning, scheduling, purchasing and operations as they go about acquiring materials and making products to meet future demand.

Determining which of the factors above are most important for your company will guide you to the order management system features you need. Ask yourself: Does my current order entry system coordinate effectively with functions such as inventory management, planning and marketing to make the order and fulfillment functions operate effectively and efficiently?

Further, does my current order software capture and manage demand data and make it available to other applications and analytics in order to learn more about customers, markets and product trends. Finally, does my current order entry software include, or can it be upgraded to include, CRM functionality to fully support the high level of customer service that is required for success in my company's markets?

This was last published in March 2019

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