Order taking is a critical activity for any business, especially those in retail and eCommerce, travel, leisure and hospitality, and manufacturing. It assumes all the more importance in this age of multi-channel marketing, where providing convenience and responsive service to the customer is the key to success. Therefore, it becomes imperative that this process is easy and fast. In other words, if a customer is exposed to a complicated process of order taking, he or she is likely to lose interest in the purchase and unapologetically shift to the competitors.
Some orders are placed for immediate purchase while others are placed for products, merchandise or services that are not immediately available. These might include ticket purchase for future travel, hotel bookings, insurance, etc. However, whatever be the nature of the order, there is always scope of a potential crisis situation – sometimes involving the lead time or confusion/ doubts/ queries in the mind of the customers. This is where customer service comes into the picture to ensure that the shopping experience leaves a positive feeling in the minds of the customers. A good interaction with the first-line representatives instills great confidence in customers and often leads to up-sell and cross-sell opportunities.
Below are some of the best practices in order-taking in customer service. Businesses that have followed these practices have seen a substantial growth in their conversion ratio.
A short, simple order taking process reaps great benefits. While in the short-run, it amounts to faster and greater sales conversion and customer acquisition, in the long run, it leads to brand credibility and high customer satisfaction. In general, order taking should be restricted to three broad stages, which include:
This is the first stage, where the customer provides details of the product (type, feature, etc.) that he or she is willing to buy. It is also the stage where, at times, the customer needs to share his or her details and purchase history. However, care should be taken that unnecessary details or information that are already available in the database are not asked for.
This is a recognition of the placed order. This communication comes from the business’ side to confirm if the details provided are final and accurate. This is also the stage where most of the changes in order occur. With every change, a fresh acknowledgment should be shared with the customer. This would avoid any potential miscommunication. Only when the customer confirms the order should the process be taken to the next level.
This is the final stage of the cycle. Once this stage is completed, order processing begins and other departments, such as fulfillment, logistics, etc., start getting involved. Taking feedback from the customer and ensuring they are satisfied with the business operations is an important function in this step.
The 'how' and 'where to order' instructions should be laid down in plain, simple language. Also, there should be a link to the frequently asked questions (FAQs) so that customers can help themselves with the basic queries.
Today's customers are spoilt for choice. Therefore, when it comes to order taking, they should be provided with all viable avenues to close a purchase wish. Businesses should make order-taking available through various mediums – leveraging both traditional and well as digital mediums. This would involve easy order taking via phone, live chat, emails, etc. Care should also be taken that the process is compatible with various devices such as smartphones and tablets for a multi-channel experience. Also, more avenues for order placements means more potential for orders and conversions, and cross-selling and up-selling opportunities should be taken advantage of.
It is a good practice to keep the customers informed about the status of the order(s). When customers are able to track their purchases, it provides them with confidence that the order will be fulfilled and delivered. Also, it communicates that their business is valued and appreciated by the organization. Sometimes, logistics and inventory issues come up, and even in this case, customers should be duly informed and advised about the way forward. An honest confession goes a long way in maintaining a harmonious relationship with the customer.
Order taking gives businesses access to a large amount of confidential customer data. To ensure that the data is not misused, it is important for businesses to have stringent protocols while handling customer information and follow industry standards. Using a robust and secure payment gateway is also important. It should always be remembered that heavy penalties and legal implications are could be a consequence of any faulty financial transaction, and thus having enough filters and checkpoints is beneficial for the business.
Every interaction with the customer should be documented and shared with all the parties involved. This not only safeguards against any miscommunication that can occur but also ensures the expectations are right. Also, documents are useful to extract information or check customer history later at any point.
Customers have varied exposure to online shopping, and hence, the nature of the crisis faced by them would also vary. It is important for the front-line employees of the business, who are a part of customer service, to possess a friendly and understanding tone when dealing with customers. In this regard, agents should be trained to have clear communication skills, enough knowledge about the product and the process, the ability to handle surprises, converse in a positive and reassuring tone, and be goal-oriented at all times.
Improvisation and optimization of processes should be ingrained in every business. This is how businesses can stay ahead of their competitors and offer an out-of-the-box experience to their customers. To achieve optimized customer service, the power of analytics should be leveraged. Analytics can provide useful insights about the efficiency of the order taking process in customer service, where the bottlenecks are, what are the pain-points and what is the scope of improvement. Basic report templates are available for free, and these should be used wisely to make the order taking process simpler and faster.
For order taking to be a streamlined process, the technology that is used to connect with customers should incorporate the latest features. Whether it is live chat software, email management systems, a web or mobile app, or call center devices and applications, at no point should the back-end let down the customer or the business. Hence, IT infrastructure should be maintained well with reliable back-up, ensuring no downtime.
The resources allocated to order taking should be scalable in the event of a foreseen or unforeseen spike in business volume – for instance, a scheduled seasonal promotion or a tactical, short-term measure that increases customer interest. In such a case, placing of orders should still be a seamless exercise for the customer, and the business should have enough human resources and technology in place to ensure this. Additionally, in this digital age, customers often expect a business to be functional when they are online, which could be after business hours. Hence, adequate support should be provided to them when they require it.
In a competitive business landscape, order taking is all about reducing the wait time and offering the best service. Several successful companies rely on contact center outsourcing to ensure their customers are attended to on time and get the personalized attention that they want.
Right from having a user-friendly web page to an approachable contact center, the order-taking process should be one consolidated process where a customer is made to feel like a king. After all, once one customer is satisfied, it can create a ripple effect and bring in more prospects.