After a couple months of “reruns” (repurposed webinars as podcast episodes), Dan and Tony returned to the podcast studio to record the latest episode. They discussed the behind-the-scenes magic that happens between the placement of an order and receiving that order, usually just a few days later.
Dan and Tony begin by defining the audience for the discussion. Training and Development Talk is intended to reach learning, development, and training professionals, and specifically for those who hold face-to-face classes with printed materials. Whether you have a room or a closet dedicated to housing your CE training materials, or you used an off-site warehouse for inventory, if your learners are getting together, in person, for a meaningful learning session, Dan and Tony are talking to you.
Dan defines small order volume in terms of the frequency of the order, not the size of each event. For example, you might have classes with 15-25 participants. That’s fairly standard. The difference comes in how often you ship out materials. Do you send 15-25 coursebooks out once a month? Twice a day? The larger your order volume, the greater the need for other options to deal with fulfillment.
There are three main ways an order is completed:
- An order is received by email, fax, or phone. An in-house fulfillment specialist is given the order to fulfill, or it’s sent on to a fulfillment house to complete.
- An order comes in through an online portal. Inventory is managed through this system as well. Orders are placed, titles are managed, and print on demand may be a factor as well. Even with these features, it’s likely that the in-house fulfillment specialist will receive an email and is responsible for notifying the fulfillment house to get the order packed and shipped.
- An order is placed through an online store or registration system. This process is completely automated. The fulfillment house receives the order without intervention from the organization, which lessens the possibility of error and delay.
Dan outlines an argument in favor of automating the order process. When order data is submitted by the learner, the chance for data error in transmission is avoided, which gives an organization the lowest cost. (Fulfillment houses often charge an order processing fee if either of the first two ways are used.) Automation does require a higher upfront cost, however, so this is often the best choice for companies with a higher order volume.
Technology has helped increase the flexibility between these methods. Often a start-up begins by handling orders internally with a view to hand over those duties to a fulfillment partner as the business grows. We see this especially with organizations that begin to ship internationally, as that becomes much more complicated. If your staff doesn’t have experience with this, it usually makes sense to outsource fulfillment at that point.