Categories: Founder's Blog


Sam Bayer


Faxes + SAP ecommerce?!

You’d think that by the year 2013 the word “Fax” (first related fax patent granted in 1843) would be found on the same page as “typewriter, phone booth, record player and phlogiston “.  But, amazingly so, faxes are still around and are the preferred way to communicate for many of our client’s customers. (I’m trying not to be judgmental here). In fact, one of our friends in the SAP ecosystem, Esker, has built an entire business around helping clients process faxes.  In particular, they enable SAP clients to receive inbound faxed orders and after some very sophisticated optical character scanning and data mapping, can post them directly into SAP.  It’s a great service and provides real value to Customer Service departments in a way that’s totally transparent to their customers.

But I’ve always felt that Esker’s Sales Order Processing Solution only solved half the Order Management problem for our clients.

While Esker helped get the order into SAP, they provide ZERO visibility into the delivery of that order.  Basically, they make the hand-off of the fax to SAP more efficient and transparent (that in and of itself is a great value), but if a customer wants to know what the status of their order is, or get a reprint of some order related documents (confirmation, bill of lading, invoice etc.), it’s back to the phone, email or fax machine.

That’s where b2b2dot0 can come in.

Our SAP integrated website can expose all of the post order entry “Order to Cash” data and processes that can provide real value to fax…and phone and EDI…customers.  Back in February of 2010, I wrote a post about the value of Order Status to one of our clients.  In that post, I showed that 150 customers who faxed orders came to the website over a 3 month period and inquired of it 2400 times as to the status of their orders.  That’s 2400 saved “post order entry” phone calls and emails that Customer Service personnel could redirect to more useful purposes.

So I was excited when in the middle of last year, we found ourselves implementing our service at a client who was also implementing the Esker service.  We finally had our test bed to prove my thesis.  After our usual quick implementation of our b2b2dot0 service, imagine my disappointment when we barely registered any traffic to our website after its launch.

We built it and they didn’t come. (sound familiar?)

Our client announced the availability of the website to all of their salespeople, customers and CSRs with no noticeable effect on website traffic.

They held personal training sessions with key clients.  No traffic bump.

So earlier this year, our client and I decided to make a concerted effort to increase the traffic to, and therefore value of, their SAP integrated website.  They were determined to free up their Customer Service Reps from the mundane tasks of answering routine order delivery questions.

The solution we came up with was to send an order confirmation, with an embedded link to the website, to every customer after each order was posted to SAP.  The thought was to make it as easy as possible for them to get to and use the B2B website.  Basically, they didn’t have to register to the website.  They didn’t have to remember a URL.  They didn’t have to remember a user id and password.  All they had to do was click on a link in an email.

Not exactly rocket science, but not exactly trivial since:

  • our website, which normally is responsible for sending out order confirmations, couldn’t do it because the orders weren’t being placed from the web.  Esker was passing them to SAP without our knowledge.
  • SAP was sending out order confirmations, but they weren’t in HTML and had no idea if the user was registered to the B2B website, what their user id was, what the url of the B2B ecommerce website was etc.

So we extended our service to help SAP understand how to send personalized order confirmations for all orders received and the results were amazing!

Increased Value of Sending out SAP Generated Order Confirmations

The average weekly visits to the website increased by over 850% within days of implementing the SAP generated order confirmation solution!  The number of answers that the website was able to provide customers (as opposed to CSR’s having to spend the time on phone/email) grew by over 1400%!

A few other analytics of interest:

  • While internal employees are still using the website for Order Status checking, they only represent 27% of the activity whereas they were over 50% before.
  • Status Checking is the most popular activity (43%) and then Reprints of Order Confirmations followed by downloading of Invoices.

The moral of the story?  You want to provide your customers with more value?  Make it easier for them to come to your SAP Integrated B2B ecommerce website where all of the real time information they need to transact business with you exists.

Personalized Advanced Shipment Notices with links back to the website for Bill of Ladings and Invoices anyone?


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