Moving away from an order-taking culture: Strategies for distributors and aftersales leaders

Updated May 10, 2023
Customer shaking hands with sales person

In today's dynamic business environment, staying competitive requires a more dynamic approach to utilizing your organization's valuable resources. As a distributor or aftersales leader, your teams should be focused on delivering exceptional products, enriching customer experiences, and driving revenue growth.

However, some companies still rely on outdated practices, operating as mere 'order-takers' and spending a significant amount of time on administrative tasks, rather than adding value to their customers. And adding value can make a massive impact for distributors.

If your organization is more focused on order-taking tasks than creating value for your customers, you may be at risk of falling behind. Here are three telltale signs that your organization operates as an 'order processing center':

  • Customer service teams are spending most of their time responding to customer inquiries for parts identification, price, availability, and order-related tasks.
  • The organization is relying heavily on manual workflows and paperwork to manage orders, returns, and warranty claims. 
  • The organization is not leveraging technology or automation to streamline processes, reduce errors, and improve customer experiences.

[RELATED: Four steps for distributors to grow their online sales]

So, what can you do to move away from an order-taking culture and start focusing on value-adding activities? Here are five things that distributors and after-sales leaders should consider: 

  1. Implement a digital self-service platform - One of the most effective ways to reduce the burden of order-taking on your customer service teams is to provide customers with self-service options. This can include customer or dealer portals that allow customers to access product information, place orders, track shipments, and request support without having to engage with customer service representatives every step of the way. By enabling users to self-serve, you can reduce the volume of calls and emails your customer service teams receive and free up their time to focus on more strategic activities.
  1. Automate order processing and fulfillment - By integrating EDI and ERP systems, businesses can streamline their operations, reduce errors, and improve customer satisfaction. Automated order processing and fulfillment allow businesses to allocate inventory, generate pick lists, and create shipping labels automatically. This helps in reducing the burden on customer service teams and allows them to focus on more strategic initiatives. Additionally, automation provides real-time visibility into inventory levels, order status, and delivery tracking, which enables businesses to proactively manage their operations and improve customer service.
  1. Use data analytics to anticipate customer needs - Rather than waiting for customers to contact you with their needs, you can use data analytics to proactively anticipate their needs. By analyzing customer behavior and buying patterns, you can identify which products or services they are likely to need next and offer them personalized recommendations or promotions that encourage repeat business. This can help you build stronger customer relationships, increase revenue, and reduce the need for reactive order-taking.
  1. Invest in training and development for customer service teams - While digital self-service and automation can help reduce the burden of order-taking on your customer service teams, they still play a critical role in ensuring customer satisfaction. That's why it's important to invest in training and development programs that equip your customer service teams with the skills and knowledge they need to handle complex inquiries, resolve customer issues, and provide exceptional service. By empowering your customer service teams to add value, you can differentiate your organization from competitors and build a loyal customer base.
  1. Create a culture of continuous improvement - Finally, it's important to create a culture of continuous improvement that encourages experimentation, innovation, and collaboration across your organization. This can include regularly reviewing and analyzing customer feedback, identifying areas for improvement, and testing new processes and technologies to drive efficiency and customer satisfaction. By embracing a culture of continuous improvement, you can position your organization for long-term success and move away from a culture of order-takers to a culture of value-creators.

[RELATED: Three reasons distributors should start their digital journey]

The pressure to deliver more value to your dealers and customers is greater than ever, and organizations that fail to prioritize this risk losing market share. By implementing the steps outlined in this blog, distributors, and after-sales leaders can optimize their operations, improve customer experiences, and set themselves up for success in the years to come.

Kris Harrington is the CEO of GenAlpha Technologies.  During her time with OEMs in the mining industry, Kris and the other founders of GenAlpha saw a need to find a better way for B2B brands in manufacturing to do business.  This led to the development of an eCommerce solution for manufacturers and distributors who want to grow their business online.  For more than 10 years, the experienced team at GenAlpha Technologies has been helping equipment manufacturers repurpose their bills of materials, 2D and 3D engineering data to make it easier for customers to safely identify and purchase parts.

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