Customer On-Demand Self-Service
Contain costs and elevate service levels with direct on-line client interaction
Managing a varied mix of critical storage requirements, diverse product lines, and discrete packaging, scheduling, and shipping demands in an efficient and timely manner that both advances customers' individual objectives and assures profitable warehouse operations.
Opinions vary on the aggregate cost of handling third-party logistics (3PL) customer service queries. The typical range cited is $40 to $60 per support call or even more. Some issues can be resolved quickly and easily by a single agent while others can be complex, sometimes requiring participation by multiple personnel at various pay levels. All chew up valuable time and drive up your costs. What matters as much or more than the costs of individual queries is the potential volume of such calls, which ultimately can have serious fiscal impact as well as create efficiency bottlenecks. More customers usually mean correspondingly more customer interactions, compounding the problem as the 3PL provider pursues
its growth agenda.
EMPOWERING YOUR CLIENTS
The impact is felt on both sides of the transactions, typically in response times and high service costs. The solution: reduce or eliminate the
calls by providing inventory owners with a means to get the information they need without calling the 3PL provider. AccellosOne Enterprise 3PL
does just that with a suite of sophisticated customer on-demand self-service features and capabilities:
- On-demand supply chain web visibility
- Workflow assurance
- Personalized self-service reporting
- Automated report delivery
- Order and receipt booking
- Customer-to-customer extendibility
- Document management
All of these capabilities are accessible and executable through Active Desktop, AccellosOne Enterprise 3PL's graphical-user-interface single point access and control module. The central elements of the AccellosOne Enterprise 3PL customer on-demand self service suite include:
- e-Vista, the e-Vista web-based 24/7 customer visibility portal
- d'Amigo, the alert management data mining and reporting tool
- eFile, a versatile scanner-based document capture, filing and retrieval tool
These are valuable tools, but they are not free-standing information resources. They are input and access tools that are integrated within AccellosOne Enterprise 3PL warehouse management software to provide extraordinary benefits in efficient, cost-effective information management. This paper provides an overview of how they work, with representative examples.
ON-LINE WEB VISIBILITY
AccellosOne Enterprise 3PL's e-Vista customer visibility portal allows inventory owners secure access to their discrete data using an easy-to-use browser-based web entry. Logging in takes the customer to a set of "privileges" — information repositories that have been established by the 3PL operator that the specific customer is authorized to acquire and use. Access and security are enabled through a series of buttons on the
menu bar. All of the available information is inventory related, and clicking on a specific button allows the customer to drill down to additional selection criteria. Levels of detail can include inventory based on item summarization, lot number summarization, pallet ID summarization, and much more. Importantly, the terminology that is employed for the various entities used by the customer are specific to the terminology each customer employs to measure his own inventory: lot, pallet ID, case, etc. AccellosOne Emterprise 3PL has the ability to craft inventory identifiers appropriate to each customer's unique requirements. e-Vista not only displays inventory balances, but also provides drill-down capability that allows the customer to further refine his query. Similarly, it provides an inventory history, enabling the customer to view all of the transactions that have occurred for any item or entity (such as lot number). The transaction records provide up-to-the-minute information about ongoing activity, as well as the ability to select time periods — current day, week, month or any period the customer wishes to define. For example, the customer can obtain a log of all of the activities that took place in the course of receiving a particular product. The information is customer specific and is captured in-process along with any appropriate commentary. Such a view enables the customer to visualize what happened as it happened and confirm that in receiving the product, the 3PL operator is following the precise steps that it was asked to follow in receiving the specific product. There is no need for the customer to call the 3PL operator to obtain information on the shipment: Was it on time? Were there any problems? Is it now situated properly?
All of the information is date- and time-stamped, so the customer can answer their own questions. Additionally, each client can access and view any special documents, such as a PDF of the inbound receipt, while on the portal.
INFORMATION SHARING AND REPORTING
Customers can also use e-Vista to communicate with the warehouse management software. For example, once on the portal, he can create or send a notice of an inbound receipt. Once entered into the on-screen dialog box and saved, the information is converted to an order for the AccellosOne system to execute a transaction. The automated data entry makes it easy to alert the 3PL software that inbounds or outbounds should be happening. Compared to the conventional method of faxed or manually-entered orders that regularly include attendant delays and occasion for error, information accuracy is much higher with the AccellosOne system. e-Vista allows customers to specify and or customize a dedicated, individualized report series that they can review at any time. These reports can be selected from the broad reports structure of the AccellosOne Enterprise 3PL software. For example, a customer may wish to see appointment detail. A report structured with their particular form or look can be created, with non-relevant information screened out to present only the information they require.
AccellosOne Enterprise 3PL software allows warehouse operators to configure and maintain workflow configuration profiles in a variety of ways. One of the most important is detailing the stored inventory. Once profiles are established for a particular customer, the software manages the specific activities in a systematic manner. Receipt of goods, for example, is handled in a linear flow from the time the shipment arrives at the dock to the time it is stored in its warehouse location. The profile defines the process. Outbound shipments are similarly managed, but in reverse. Assembly and light manufacturing operations can also be accorded a profile. As each step in each process (inbound, assembly,
outbound, etc.) is performed in its prescribed order, the information is recorded and time-stamped for permanent archiving in the warehouse software, for example creating a workflow record on an outbound order:
- Order entry
- Time of arrival
- Stock allocation
- Begin pick
- Start loading
- Finish loading
- Order confirmation
With the entire process documented in the AccellosOne Enterprise 3PL software, inventory owners can confirm that the required steps were taken for the individual order number as well as to see the precise time each step was executed. The software can generate specific "looks" or forms for various information elements: by clicking on "Bill of Lading," for example, the customer can see the actual document for an order as well as confirm that the document was sent with the shipment. The e-Vista workflow assurance capability looks at the past and allows customers to monitor whether activities maintain conformity with their agreements with the 3PL operator.
AUTOMATED SELF-SERVICE REPORTING
A companion feature to e-Vista that also resides in Active Desktop is the d'Amigo alert notification and reporting tool. As inventory owners, customers can be granted access to a variety of reports that exist in the warehouse software. For example, if the customer wants to see a labor report that is associated with the handling of their inventory, the client simply performs a request search using a query box. Two options are available: to see the report immediately on-screen, the client clicks on "Search." If the client wants it sent to a local PC, they click on "Schedule," which provides a number of options: to have the report appear immediately, at certain dates, at a set frequency, at a specified time of day, etc. d'Amigo monitors the process and automatically sends fresh reports as scheduled. Similarly, alerts can be set up and maintained in Active Desktop to facilitate event management. When a specified activity should be performed or a named event transpires, Alerts automatically creates and sends a notification to the appropriate parties.
ORDER AND RECEIPT BOOKING
Not only does e-Vista allow inventory owners to view the status of their product and pending orders or receipts, it also provides a means to create new work orders and post them in the software for execution using the "Create Inbound" and "Create Outbound" control buttons. New outbound orders are generated by filling in a dialog box where the user can stipulate date, destination, carrier, delivery warehouse, etc. Detail can include how much to ship and how the shipment is to be set up (lot number, pallet ID, and more). Filled in and saved, the information becomes a live order with a warehouse order number that is visible in e-Vista. From this point, all of the workfl ow steps will be taken and documented prior to the shipment of the order. The Receipt Booking process is handled similarly, and in reverse.
Just as the 3PL operator can grant a set of privileges to inventory owners through e-Vista, they in turn can grant their own sub-set of privileges to selected users on a need-to-know basis. Certain carriers might need access to shipping information that pertains to them, allowing the computer-to-computer exchange of shipping orders and documentation. Certain vendors could also benefit from access to specific sets of
information. As an example, an inventory owner might want to apprise a supplier of shipments or receipts of its product even though the actual inventory is obtained from a third party, e.g. a distributor or wholesaler. In short, e-Vista allows users to extend access to any person or group that needs the information. Rather than take on yet another tedious customer service task, the 3PL operator is able to off-load it to the customer, who in turn can make it a self-service capability.
AccellosOne Enterprise 3PL can operate in a paperless environment. Documents are automatically digitally rendered and stored automatically as their various functions are executed. These digital documents are then available for easy access and viewing and printing, as necessary both within the core application, and by the client on the web. Besides these internally generated documents, 3PL providers and their customers sometimes need documents that are externally generated — for example, photographs to accompany a damage report on an inbound item. This activity is enabled by eFile, a scanned document capture utility that is also accessed through Active Desktop. To input the photographs
(or other documents), the user opens eFile and scans the material, which is then automatically sent to fi le, indexed and associated with the fi le documentation on the damaged unit. The merit of using this feature is significant, since it not only can show the damage visually, but can identify it by product code and various other external markings. It enables 3PL management to establish that damage occurred prior to the product's coming under the warehouse operator's control. eFiles can be viewed within e-Vista by authorized individuals, along with the associated documentation.
BEST-IN-CLASS CUSTOMER SELF-SERVICE
Companies that need to store goods on their way to market need to know in various levels of detail the status of their product as it is received, managed while in storage and shipped. The historical means of obtaining this information has been to place a telephone call requesting an update, a costly time-consuming process on both ends of the call as well as one with marginal accuracy, since status can shift with regularity.
Fortunately, technology has an answer and AccellosOne Enterprise 3PL technology is known by users and outside analysts to provide one of the best customer self-service solutions available, providing direct 24/7 access to product fi les and documentation in fi ne detail through an internet portal. Moreover, AccellosOne's customer self-service capability allows inventory owners to perform numerous other tasks that would normally require direct person-to-person communication. Prominent among these are the ability to schedule deliveries to the 3PL warehouse, to place shipping and other orders, to generate standard and custom reports ad hoc or on a schedule, and to automate or off-load information-sharing
tasks required of both warehouse and customer. Accellos' attention to customer economy, efficiency and convenience is why its self-service capabilities are widely regarded as the best in their class.