Archive: February, 2013
The InOrder Advantage: A Friendly Voice on the Phone
At Morse Data, we offer something that is difficult to find these days. When you call Customer Service, you get an actual person to talk to for assistance for desktop, web and POS related questions.
Our clients have commented that they’re pleasantly surprised when greeted on the phone by Joanne Powell at our Orland Park, Illinois location. Joanne is our front line operator who makes sure that our client’s needs are taken care of on a timely basis. She’s the one who gathers the details necessary for further investigation and quickly gets back to people so that they get the proper attention they deserve.
In addition to phone inquiries, Joanne also monitors all support-related requests that come in through email during our normal business hours (8:30 – 5:00 CT Monday – Friday) — and yes, she responds to all of them promptly! She acknowledges all messages within two hours of receipt so you’re assured we have received your request and have taken action.
Thanks, Joanne, for being the “voice” of Morse Data — you make us look good. If you have any question about your InOrder software give us a call at 800-860-9515. Or, email your support question to email@example.com.
Standing Orders and Continuity Order Types Explained
Do your customers ever need to reorder supplies on a regular basis? Or have you ever had customers who want to buy one of each new product you release for a particular category of products? Do you need to supply customers with a featured product each month that ships automatically?
We often get questions such as “What is the difference between a standing order and a perpetual continuity order?” This article attempts to define the similarities and differences between several types of orders you can process through InOrder.
Standing Orders – Allow customers to sign up for an offering they will perpetually get until they cancel their standing order. This type of order is normally used when a customer will get the same product at regular intervals. For example, a customer who signs up to receive regular shipments of beauty cream, motor oil, or coffee cake, forever. In this case, the quantity on the order indicates how many each customer receives when his or her interval comes up.
Another typical use for standing orders is a “Something of the Month Club.” A customer signs up to receive a different product every month, for which they pay or are billed each month as products ship to them. In this case, all customers who sign up will receive the same product for the month. This is accomplished by adding standing orders for a phantom product that is never in stock. Then, each month define a different substitution for the phantom product, and fill the monthly standing orders to ship that month’s product to everyone who signed up.
Another feature of substitutions is called “standing order trigger items,” which allows you to order one product that substitutes into shippable products, plus a “trigger item” that is used just to automatically generate the standing order for that customer.
Continuity Orders – Similar to standing orders, in that customers sign up and receive shipments until they cancel. The difference is that the items they will receive over time are from a pre-scheduled “series,” so each customer will receive the first issue in the series at the first interval, and the second issue of the series at the second interval, and so on.
So, if you have 100 customers signed up for standing order A101, then this month they will all receive A101, or else the “item of the month” that you are sending out through a substitution for A101. But for 1000 customers subscribing to a continuity item C101, each customer will receive the next item in that “series” they did not yet receive, and this will depend on how long they have been signed up for this series. In the same month, some of these customers will be new and will get the first item in the series, and other customers who have already received that item last month will get the next item in that series, and so on.
When you are setting up the schedule for the series of products in a continuity series, your goal is usually to find the sequence of products that keeps customers subscribing to the series for as long as possible. You can define varying versions of the series, and then define rules to assign these versions of the series to different customers, allowing tests to be conducted, or to vary the series sequence based on the needs of the customer.
Additionally, the features of InOrder allow for three different types of Continuity series to be defined: Regular, Perpetual, and Standing Continuity Series. A Regular Continuity Series will send a list of items to a customer at regular intervals until the customer cancels or the end of the series is reached. A Perpetual Series will send the customer all items in the series until the customer cancels. In this case, if the customer reaches the end of the list, it will start again from the beginning, and repeat the shipments again and again, forever. A simple example of this is a series that sends customers motor oil every 3 months, but includes an oil filter every other time, and fuel injector cleaner with every fourth shipment.
The Standing Continuity Series behaves similar to a Regular series (expiring at the end), but rather than starting with the first item in the list, all subscribers to the series receive the same item in any set of generated orders. (Example: In January, all subscribers get item A1, in February, all subscribers get item A2, etc.) Subscribers can join at any time, and any issues they missed will be sent when the series restarts. (If a subscriber joined in June and started with A6, then they will receive A1 – A5 the following January – May.) Subscribers are able to opt-out of any of the scheduled shipments, and an order will not be generated for them in that order fill. The InOrder default web cart even supports this series schedule listing with an opt-out feature.
In these cases for standing orders and continuity series, the filling interval can vary, each shipment to a customer is done by generating an actual order, the inventory is tracked for the items that ship, and “adjust to invoice” credit card processing can be used based on the original order.
Choosing the Right ERP System for Your Business
If you’ve done any research regarding ERP systems, you know you have many, many options. In fact, you have so many options, you’re probably overwhelmed. To reduce overwhelm, it helps to break the process down into manageable steps.
1. Determine your software needs.
The benefit of any ERP system is that it gives you a 360 degree view of your business — from marketing and accounting to warehouse logistics and sales. The first thing to do therefore, before considering any software vendor, is to determine which functions you need to automate. ERP systems can handle any number of functions, including accounting, marketing, order inventory management, warehouse management, manufacturing, supply chain logistics, and customer relationship management (CRM), to name a few things.
If you’re a multichannel merchant, for example, you’ll want to look at ERP systems that automate all functions of your sales process across your various points of sale — Internet, in-store, catalog, etc. You’ll also want to consider a system that shows inventory levels in real-time to people in your warehouse and customers placing orders online.
Add to your list any other functions you need or want. If you’re currently using an ERP system and are thinking of upgrading, start mapping out the processes that are working well. Then consider those that aren’t and ask why. Finally, search to identify current system limitations that are restricting your growth.
Look for ways automation can save you money. By choosing the right ERP system, you can lower costs through better inventory control, more accurate forecasting, and efficient marketing.
One view of information — Does the thought of a single database, where all of your information is in one place, appeal to you, along with real-time inventory and order tracking? Think of how much easier reporting will be with all of your information neatly stored in one location.
Technical support — How important is a responsive, US-based technical support team with one number to call where an actual person on the other end of the phone can provide assistance? When assistance is needed, the last thing you’ll want to deal with is being placed on hold and transferred to various departments. Be sure you will receive the immediate attention you deserve.
Modular vs. one size fits all — Does a modular system appeal to you? Why pay for features you do not need? The ability to customize not only the system’s features, but also your users’ screens and reports is a feature to consider.
Customization — Are there customizations you would like to add to the software? Can the vendor offer a configuration that enables a competitive edge in your market, or one that offers a superior customer experience? Be sure the vendor is flexible to accommodate your special needs, using your business guidance.
2. Look to third-party consultants for help.
Once you’ve determined which functions you need, do research using third-party software consultants. Software consultants are experts in a specific niche, they know all the players in their industry, and they’re usually unbiased. Some, such as Ernie Schell, issue reports or scorecards each year that detail the vendors and their offerings. Schell, for example, authored the 2012 Order Management Software Roundup.
As you do your research, create a list of possible vendors and visit the website of each one. Download any relevant white papers, case studies, and other collateral. From this information, create a short list of vendors — generally three to five.
(You can also read our case study about how IPD, a Volvo parts distributer, used a third-party consulting firm to help them find the right ERP software for their business.)
3. Schedule demos.
Revisit the vendor websites on your shortlist and schedule demos. These usually take place online, and the sales person will walk you through the software and answer any questions you may have. This is also a good time to research the company:
- Search Twitter and LinkedIn to see how the company manages any customer support-related issues.
- Ask your own networks if anyone has done business with the vendors on your short list.
- Ask the vendors on your short list for references, and follow up on those references.
- Call the Better Business Bureau to see if the company has any complaints lodged against it.
4. Make a Decision.
Once you’ve completed your demos, you’ll be able to narrow your choice down to two or three vendors and, at some point, vendor reps will meet with you to learn more about your company in order to prepare a proposal.
Even with your shorter list, you should still be asking lots of questions. Don’t settle for software that’s less than ideal in order to get a “special deal” or for promises that a major upgrade is in the queue six to nine months hence. The last thing you want is to be the topic of an ERP horror story (you can read a few in this Forbes article).
It is important that you continue to evaluate the vendors with more in-depth questions and feel comfortable and confident in their responses.
This will be quite a large investment for your company and huge change for your staff. It is important that you can see yourself building a long and lasting relationship with your new vendor and that you carry that enthusiasm along to your staff.
If you don’t “click” with a vendor, its representatives or the offering, end negotiations and restart the process. An ERP system is a major purchase, and one you and your employees will be using for many years. Take your time, research your options, get to know the people, and ask lots of questions!