order management cycle

Mastering the Customer Experience with the Order Management Cycle

The Customer Experience 

In today’s fast-paced world of business, the importance of the customer experience is top of mind. In fact, being “customer-oriented” has become a mantra for many executives. A cornerstone of exceptional customer service is the Order Management Cycle (OMC). From planning to postsales, the OMC orchestrates every aspect of a customer’s experience with a business. In this piece, we’ll delve into the OMC concept and its pivotal role in shaping customer experiences. We’ll explore the critical stages that define the OMC and discuss how each touchpoint contributes to customer satisfaction. Executives will gain insight into the correlation between effective OMC management and customer loyalty, enabling them to strategically enhance the end-to-end customer journey. 

Discover how mastering each point in the process can transform your customers’ success by delivering the kind of customer experience that boosts satisfaction and retention. When customers have a good experience with a company, they are more likely to remain loyal, to help build brand awareness, and to increase their orders. 


The Order Management Cycle: A Team Approach

Imagine your business as a football team. Each department has a specific role to play to carry the team to success. The OMC is the coach that guides this team, ensuring that each player knows their position, that every handoff is completed successfully, and ultimately, that points are scored. The order planning, the scheduling, and the billing all contribute to the ultimate win–customer satisfaction. When customer satisfaction is high, your organization’s financial performance also increases.1

As leaders of this team, executives need to have a clear and deep understanding of how the OMC affects their customers. Not only do you want to deliver a superior product, you want to deliver an experience that stays with the customer long after a sale is completed. By mastering the OMC, you’ll learn to fine-tune the customer experience, enhance the end-to-end customer journey, and ensure that the ball isn’t dropped along the way


The 10 Stages of the Order Management Cycle

The OMC includes 10 key stages, each one a critical point in the customer’s journey:

1. Order planning

This first step in the process sets the stage for the entire customer experience. In this early stage, sales teams are developing their forecast and operations groups are determining costs and inventory. Executives must ensure not only that customer needs are considered throughout order planning, but that their internal teams are aligned to best serve the customer. Often, the team members responsible for order planning are the furthest from the customer. As a leader, you must guarantee that the customer is prioritized at each stage and that employees are communicating across departments. 

2. Order generation

Often, order generation falls to sales and marketing teams, without much input from other departments. Marketing is developing campaigns while the sales team reaches out to customers. This stage presents an opportunity for executives to engage Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) and other employees who are more directly connected to customers later in the cycle. By connecting with employees across teams, you can close gaps in the OMC.

3. Cost estimation and pricing

At this point, the customer is often left waiting while too many departments battle over pricing. Be sure that your customer is not forgotten while waiting on a bid or quote. While the sales team develops a price and accounting considers costs, remind your team that a customer is on the other end and lines of communication should still be flowing. 

4. Order entry

After an order is received, CSRs enter it for processing. CSRs often work mostly closely with customers, but are disconnected from executive management. Communicating the company’s top-level strategies to CSRs, and considering their feedback, ensures that priorities are known across departments and sets a tone for the rest of the cycle. You can empower CSRs by ensuring they have the information needed to enter orders as efficiently and accurately as possible. This enables them to correctly communicate to customers when to expect order fulfillment.

5. Order selection and prioritization

This stage also typically falls to CSRs to make selection and prioritization decisions, instead of executives who are determining company strategy. Deciding which orders to prioritize directly affects customers, who might grow tired of being deprioritized or forgotten altogether. Communicating a top-level strategy to all departments ensures that orders, and customers, don’t slip through the cracks.

6. Scheduling

Different departments are typically at odds with each other over scheduling priorities. CSRs may prefer to ship to special customers first, while operations simply schedule orders as they come in. This is a chance for executives to facilitate communication across functions and departments as all groups consider how their scheduling priorities will affect the customer.

7. Fulfillment

Order fulfillment is one of the most complex stages in the OMC. Complicated assembly requires more coordination across departments, creating greater opportunities for an order to get dropped. Executives should be involved in setting clear strategies to guarantee that the fulfillment process works for both the company and the customer.

8. Billing

Finance departments tend to focus too much on the company and not the customer. The billing stage is an opportunity to determine whether customers can interpret their own bills and make changes if necessary. Create opportunities for coordination by connecting the finance department and CSRs, who can provide input on how billing aspects are perceived by the customer.

9. Returns and claims

Many companies design their OMCs with products moving in one direction only: to the customer. Even when returns are offered, they tend to be hard for customers. Executives should consider input from CSRs, operations, and production staff to ensure that returns are an option for customers without being too costly for the company. By collaborating across those teams, you can build successful return policies and foster customer relationships.

10. Postsales service

This final stage might include installation, repairs, or training, and provides a great opportunity for better customer satisfaction. Unfortunately, the postsales service team members are typically disconnected from internal teams who have less direct contact with customers. Connecting these disjointed teams will give your staff a chance to discover improvements in customer service.


Effective OMC Management: Principles for Executives

So, how can executives master the OMC and create wins for their customers? The answer lies in these key principles:

  • Holistic approach: It is vital to view the OMC as a comprehensive system rather than individual steps. With this perspective, executives can identify the gaps in their OMC and opportunities for improvement across the whole organization. Think about how each stage in the cycle is affected by the steps that come before it. For instance, orders cannot be accurately scheduled without knowing the strategy used to prioritize those orders.
  • Cross-functional collaboration: Every department is involved in the OMC and it’s important that they not remain siloed. Executive encouragement of both collaboration and communication across teams ensures a better flow of information and improved customer satisfaction. When different departments have opportunities to discuss issues, they can collaborate to close bottlenecks and reduce errors.
  • Prioritize customers: By considering the customer at every stage of the OMC, they will remain top of mind. Setting this principle from the top down creates a company culture that is truly built on the customer experience. Walk through the order process to get a first-hand idea of how each stage affects the customer.
  • Continuous improvement: The OMC is not a static process; it should receive continued refinement. By encouraging a culture of continuous improvement, executives will foster innovation and positive change in response to customer needs. Seek out new technologies and capabilities that can improve your OMC.


The Value of Customer-Centricity

Mastering the Order Management Cycle is not just good business strategy, it’s essential to building a customer-focused philosophy that permeates every aspect of a successful organization. When executives understand the distinct features of each stage in the OMC, as well as how departments can overlap, they lead their teams to create top-tier customer experiences. 

By acknowledging the opportunities found in every customer touchpoint, executives can truly master the Order Management Cycle and build superior customer loyalty. Studies show that just one bad experience can cause a customer to leave a brand they had previously loved.2 As an expert in your company’s OMC, you’ll ensure positive customer experiences that keep customers coming back and increase your revenue. 

Have you started the journey to mastering the customer experience? Let’s discuss.

Part 2 — Coordinating Responsibilities for a Cohesive Distribution Cycle
Part 3 — The Power of Order Tracking
Part 4 — Accelerating Order Management Cycles with Automation

1. Kestenbaum, Richard. “Customer Satisfaction Is More Important Than You Thought.” Forbes, December 4, 2018. https://www.forbes.com/sites/richardkestenbaum/2018/12/04/customer-satisfaction-is-more-important-than-you-thought/?sh=38de2c2b5ed9.

2. Puthiyamadam, Tom, and José Reyes. “Experience Is Everything. Get It Right.” PwC https://www.pwc.com/us/en/services/consulting/library/consumer-intelligence-series/future-of-customer-experience.html.

order management cycle