Order management is the lifeblood of eCommerce businesses. If you can’t process orders accurately, you can’t make money. If you can’t do it efficiently, you can’t turn a profit. As your company grows, you’ll process more and more orders. The more you handle, the more likely it is that some of them will have problems. If you don’t want to have costly problems, you need to know what to avoid. Here are four order management mistakes you should never, ever make.

Order management mistakes can bring down your business. Here are four mistakes not to make.

Annoying Your Customers

This has to be the easiest to avoid of all order management mistakes.

An angry customer is just a click and thirty seconds’ typing away from being a bad review for your brand. Setting aside the cost of returns or refunds, that bad experience means:

  • One fewer return customer
  • New visitors being less confident to buy from you
  • And Amazon or Google reviews can even make your product less likely to be shown for each search

Don’t sell products you don’t have in stock – customers take the speed of shipping seriously.

Reply to customer queries promptly. Be helpful wherever possible.

Make sure you find the positive in any review you reply to. However tempted you are, don’t be rude.

Losing Stock in Your Warehouse

One of the easiest ways to lose money is to buy stock and not sell it. Losing that stock might be the surest way to stop you from making that sale.

And on top of that it can cause more problems when you find out you’re not actually able to fulfil an order you thought you could!

The less organised your storeroom is, the slower your shipping team will be forced to work. Even if they find misplaced inventory, it takes longer to process the order – which means you’ll be shipping fewer packages that day.

Your business is never so small you don’t need to be thinking about warehouse management. Maybe all you need is a clear location map, a clipboard with quantity counts, and a set of rules to make sure they’re always up to date.

But as your company grows, the inventory challenge will grow with it. Being prepared for the next couple of steps ahead of time makes growth easier to handle. Your team will be learning new systems ahead of time. And when the alternative is trying to learn a new system while working at full capacity, that’s a huge benefit.

Some order management mistakes can only be found on the computer, but they hurt you in the real world.

Any Paperwork Error

Some order management mistakes only exist on the computer.

An order comes in on one of your sales channels. You open up the order and jot it down onto a notepad for one of your team to use as a pick list. You’re in a hurry, so your handwriting isn’t ideal.

While he’s in the warehouse dealing with that, you do some quick mental maths to work out the rough weight of the package, and based on that and the destination, you decide which shipping service will probably be the best value for money. You open up their site and pull the details across. The formats aren’t identical, so you can’t copy and paste the whole thing. You type in the house number, still rushed, and finish booking it up.

Your colleague packs the order and sticks the label you printed into place, then drops it into the bag for collection later today. You open your message system and send the customer the tracking number, which you hurriedly cut & pasted from the shipping site. Then you tab over to your accounts package and record the order value and shipping costs.

It isn’t until the customer complains that you find out:

  • The order isn’t quite right because your colleague couldn’t read your handwriting
  • The package didn’t arrive because it was sent to the wrong house number, or even the wrong postcode
  • Which is a bigger problem because the customer’s tracking number is missing the first or last letter from when you copy/pasted

You may never find out that

Sure, this example assumes that everything went wrong. But any one of those errors adds up, especially if it happens often – and the more orders you process, the more likely mistakes are to creep in.

A lot of these errors can be avoided by systems that integrate with one another. That cuts out the need to copy information across manually, reducing errors and speeding up each order.

No Records, No Responsibility

Most of these mistakes can happen if someone’s having an off day, but they’re much more likely if your team is rushed.

When you’re busy, some parts of the job are more likely to be overlooked than others. It’s easy for one or more of your team to tell themselves the comforting lie “I’ll deal with that later.” That lets them focus on getting the order prepped, packed, and shipped.

But it does mean that updating customer records, marking down income and expenditure, and keeping accurate inventory count sometimes slip.

Anything else someone might notice and fix if they weren’t under pressure still gets noticed – but it ends up forgotten. Worse, there’s a half-certain “I dealt with that already… didn’t I?”

“I’ll deal with that later” isn’t meant as a lie. But time pressure turns it into one. There isn’t time to go back and sort it out before it slips your mind.

And this gets even worse if nobody has specific responsibility to make sure it gets done.

If something goes wrong and a customer wants to check on their order, your first step is to check customer records. If those didn’t get updated, it can take a long time to track down all the information.

One of the best things you can do for your business and your team’s peace of mind is automate these tasks – the essentials that get overlooked because they’re not urgent. Failing that, make sure your system has enough user logins to track behaviour. It’s not just about who’s done what – it’s about telling who failed to do what.

Make sure everyone knows who’s responsible for each step of the process. And make sure they’re doing their job.

If you don’t, you won’t just have trouble with the other order management mistakes on this list. You might never find out why – or how to stop them.