As retirement nears, departing baby boomers are leaving behind an ever-widening skills gap in the workforce. With these experienced industry veterans retiring more and more frequently, manufacturers across North America are facing a serious hiring crisis, struggling to fill the critical roles which are being left vacant.
According to a recent U.S. Census report, more than 20 percent of the total U.S. population will be over the age of 65 by 2029. This not only means that your staff may soon retire, but also that there will be fewer qualified fresh faces entering the workforce to replace them. Confronted with this rapidly dwindling talent pool, it has become increasingly vital that you extract the wealth of information your senior employees have accumulated and integrate it into training programs for new hires. Not to do so would mean losing the valuable product and customer knowledge needed to impress your client base, damaging customer loyalty and thus also your company’s continued growth. After all, knowing your customers is part of what makes your business model successful. Over the course of their careers, long-standing employees will inevitably have discovered undocumented techniques to effectively serve their client accounts. With years to build strong relationships, your senior CSRs will have established an unparalleled understanding of your customer’s needs and pain points. Meanwhile, your sales reps will have gathered extensive product knowledge to support your broad product lines. Expertise of this kind takes a long time to develop. If you can’t find a means of documenting the details of it before these employees retire, you risk losing the information their replacements need to provide the same superior service.
But, considering the amount of coordination and expertise required to develop what is known as a brain dump program, where will the time and resources come from to make it happen? The answer is simple - process optimization. Investing in automation technology that eliminates bottlenecks and accelerates business practices can quickly boost operational efficiency, liberating staff time to focus on this all-important knowledge transfer. For manufacturers and distributors, one area primed for this kind of automation is sales order processing.
1. Optimize Your Order-to-Cash Cycles
Whether email, fax or mail, every customer has their own unique internal business processes to navigate when sending in their orders. In the past, this meant you were forced to assemble a small army of customer service reps every day to manually process incoming purchase orders. A repetitive, time-consuming chore, this manual entry requires staff members to take time away from other important tasks to compile orders as they arrive, manually processing each one individually before re-keying the same information for a second time into your ERP system as a sales order.
By implementing sales order automation, you eliminate manual entry entirely. Allowing you to treat email, fax and print orders like standard electronic documents, the right solution captures critical line data with 100 percent accuracy, feeding it directly into your ERP system as a sales order with zero human intervention required. All orders, regardless of their complexity, can then be processed automatically in mere seconds rather than minutes, accelerating the sales order process by up to 95 percent. In the process, that small army of customer service reps can turn their attention away from keying in orders and onto establishing an efficient inter-generational staff transition.
2. Boost Your Order Accuracy
With employees processing hundreds of orders manually every day, each one containing potentially thousands of complex line items, it is little wonder that mistakes are frequently made. But, just one innocent data entry error can have serious consequences for your business, causing customers to receive the wrong part, color, quantity or even price. This is not only unacceptable if you want to keep your customer’s loyalty, but also results in your staff dedicating even more precious time to rectifying these mistakes and placating frustrated clients.
As mentioned earlier, a good sales order automation solution translates order data directly from the purchase order into your ERP system, bypassing the need for manual entry all together. This eliminates the opportunity for human error, freeing up further staff time for relationship building, product training, customer service, exception handling, and transferring knowledge.
3. Redistribute Your Funds
In today’s business world, time really does equal money. With CSR staff working overtime to collect, distribute, and manually re-key orders daily, the costs of processing just a single email or fax order can be between $30 and $60. Not to mention, the additional costs associated with resolving any errors made along the way. Multiply this figure by the hundreds of purchase orders arriving daily and this can rapidly eat away at your funds.
Decreasing the number of human touches required to process an order, the right sales order automation solution can minimize your operational costs by up to 80 percent. With these savings, you will be able to review the distribution of your funds, reallocating to hire additional staff or bring in expert guidance to help facilitate and develop your knowledge transfer.
So, ultimately, while identifying and documenting your senior staff’s key knowledge may seem to be beyond your reach and resources, optimizing your business processes will help you free up the manpower and capital necessary to develop this vital project. Thanks to advances in technology over the last few years, it is now possible to automate the sales cycle, significantly boosting your operational efficiency. With the right solution implemented, this sales order automation can accelerate your order-to-cash cycles, eliminate error-prone manual entry, cut costs and liberate crucial man-hours. With these substantial cost savings in place and little to no man-power needed for order processing, you will be able to divert staff time to extracting and recording the valuable customer and product knowledge that helps your company stand out from the crowd.
Brent Halverson is President and CEO of ecmarket.