Achieving “total visibility.” It’s an attractive statement. It’s what all us distributors and product-centric businesses are after. It’s also much easier said than done. When you’re dealing with intel that only tells half the story, operational visibility can seem like an impossible goal. In order to gain the data and insight you need to keep your company moving like clockwork, your entire order-to-cash cycle has to come into play. Just as some wise old person said, no man is an island, and no data is complete without taking the whole of your operations into account.
We know a thing or two about optimizing operations, and we’re especially passionate about clean, easily repeatable processes. We’ve broken down a few strategies that will give you crystal-clear insight over any piece of your company.
Increasing visibility in customer relations: Tracking customer data
Every B2B blog post ever written will tell you that customer relationships are essential to the success of your company. We’re going to say that here too. Your sales are dependent on your customers’ impressions of your company. Any time spent optimizing your customer service experience is time well spent.
In order to optimize, you need historical data on your customers, especially data that goes beyond their name and contact information. By tracking customers’ historical data and purchasing habits, you get a better idea about their specific needs and the patterns behind them.
Imagine you’re a customer calling to double up on the same order you placed last month. What would your ideal experience be? Would you expect to be met with “um” and “let me double check”? Would you be encouraged by follow-up questions that you’d already answered, or long wait times? Of course not.
Visibility into your customer information doesn’t just mean capturing the information — it’s also about making customer information easily accessible and navigable. Your best practice for improving your customer relationships is keeping all this vital information stored in one tab. The next time a customer calls to re-up, add to, or cancel an order, you can take care of it in record time — something they’ll fondly remember.
Increasing visibility in inventory: Nail down a reordering strategy
We’ve talked before about getting a better look at your inventory. But having a handle on your inventory levels doesn’t just mean knowing what you currently have stored in the warehouse. Visibility means hindsight, foresight, and all the sights in between. In order to have a truly accurate idea of your inventory, you need a consistent reordering strategy.
Your reordering strategy is a formula that allows you to track how much product you sell and how often your supply needs to be replenished. Most reordering timelines will be determined based on three main components:
- The average amount of inventory that moves out of your warehouse on a daily basis.
- Lead time, or the amount of time that passes from the moment you order your inventory to the moment it arrives at your warehouse.
- Safety stock levels, which is additional, unsold inventory that you store in your warehouse in case of unexpected surges in demand.
By collecting these stats and applying them towards a reordering strategy, your inventory shows you a whole new story. You’ll not only know what’s currently available, but you’ll be able to communicate to employees and customers about what new products you have coming in, and exactly when they’ll be available. With the right strategy, you’ll have 20/20 insight into your stock levels indefinitely.
Increasing visibility in shipping: Adding mobile devices and tracking
In our modern world, the scope of business is no longer just contained to your brick-and-mortar office. Without mobile capabilities embedded in your software solution, your influence over your operations is inherently limited.
This is especially relevant when it comes to managing your shipments. You want to feel confident about your shipments’ whereabouts. For the sake of yourself and your customers, you can’t allow any uncertainty. Once you’ve picked, packed, and sent orders out of your warehouse, that’s where mobility becomes crucial.
By adopting a business software with mobility, you’re expanding your reign of influence over your orders. Mobile applications come in most handy with your driving staff. Drivers can easily track their progress and check in from the road, instead of waiting to call once they’ve dropped the package off.
Adding a mobile device to your shipping process also allows drivers to easily update routes from on the road, keeping you in the loop from the office. This way, you and your customers know the exact location of their order the entire time it’s on the road.
Even though we’ve reached the end of this blog post, note that this is not a comprehensive list of solutions. These are just a few of the many ways that you can challenge your current operations to give you the insights you need for success. Getting a true bird’s eye view of your company isn’t always as simple as we’d like it to be. This blog post is a great place to start, but achieving order-to-cash success is a process that never truly ends. In order to really get the results you need, you need to revisit your usual operations regularly.
While running your business is never completely predictable, there’s one time of year that poses a greater challenge than others: the holidays. Fluctuating demands, chaotic warehouses, and the added pressure to expedite processes can be huge burdens on your efficiency. That is, unless you’re ready to tackle it head-on. Check out our guide to navigating the crazy holiday months, because it’s never too early to get the ball rolling.