Processing Electronic Orders

The process of handling orders that come via the Web is the same, regardless of the quantity. The cost of processing Web-based orders is small.

To prove the theory can work in practice, take a look at RS Components. Started in 1937 selling radio spares (hence the name), they now carry an inventory of over 300,000 products that businesses need—literally anything from a switch to a safety shoe. What is more, they process over 35,000 orders worldwide taken by telephone, fax, over the counter, and on the Web every day. Each order has on average over four different items. They ship these to customers in 160 countries from 24 strategically located distribution centers around the planet. Virtually 100 percent of orders received by 8pm are shipped the same day, and a staggering 99 percent of products are held in stock at any one time. Their returns rates are close to zero because their distribution system is almost failsafe and the product quality is high, so the chance of defective goods is low. They calculate that a return takes three to four times as much to process as the original order. Several well-known online retailers have run at significantly higher rates.

To have people come back again and again for items purchased on the Web, you must set exemplary standards of efficiency. For example, up to 5 p.m., all orders should be dispatched the same day. All sales queries should be acknowledged and, if possible, replied to within 60 minutes by e-mail, telephone, or fax.

Make particularly sure you do the following:

♦ Have taken down the order correctly and that you have complete dispatch and billing addresses

♦ Dispatch the right goods promptly

♦ Deliver prompt and pleasurable service to the client

If you do these three things well, you have opened the way for future communications and sales. When you send the goods, there is an opportunity to include information and other offers that may be useful to your customers.

As soon as you receive an order you should acknowledge it with a confirmation by e-mail (immediately preferably). The acknowledgment should include the following:

♦ Confirmation of the goods ordered

♦ An optional dispatch note

♦ Newsletter

♦ Promotional offers

The only difference between ordinary orders and those from the Web is that in the latter case all the goods and confirmations are electronic and dispatched by e-mail.

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