Do this sound familiar to you? You merely wanted to quickly order supplies for the printer cartridges. But thanks to the confusing catalogue and the new requirements for selecting suppliers, it takes forever...

Placing orders for a company in compliance with the guidelines is not always easy and can cost a lot of time and nerves. And in the end, it also costs money, since the working time of the employees must also be remunerated and lengthy ordering processes also drive up the transaction costs.

In this blog post you will learn:

  • What makes it difficult for employees to process orders?
  • What is Guided Buying?
  • What are chatbots?
  • How does Guided Buying work with a chatbot?
  • What are the advantages of Guided Buying with chatbots?

What makes it difficult for employees to process orders?

Employees outside the purchasing department often find it difficult to place orders. Often they have to often have to search through a multitude of very extensive and not always user-friendly online catalogues to find the desired item. Moreover, they often do not know how to create a BANF according to the guidelines.

This leads time and again to frustration and often also to expensive free-text orders, which then have to be processed by the purchasing department. Or the employees buy directly past the purchasing department. This so-called Maverick buying then leads to higher costs and other negative consequences for the company.

Companies can save an average of 24% of their expenses if they prevent Maverick Buying. (Wucato)

But buyers also have to deal with the requirements of supplier selection and ordering processes time and again. Complex and extensive regulations and guidelines must be observed in order to meet compliance requirements.

To be able to memorise all aspects, framework It is simply not possible for employees to know all the aspects, framework agreements and exceptions by heart and to always observe them correctly when placing an order. Looking up the rules and manuals costs far too much time.

To help these employees, they would need a personal assistant. Someone who can help them navigate these catalogues and even answer questions about supply chain law.

Of course, it is not possible to hire a real human assistant for every employee. But that is not even necessary. Instead, companies can resort to guided buying through chatbots:

What is Guided Buying?

Guided buying is an assistance function that enables users to purchase efficiently and conveniently. Requesters and buyers do not need to read instructions before the ordering process, but automatically comply with the procurement guidelines set in the company.

E-procurement platforms, for example, can be used for this assistance function. These promise to simplify the ordering process, but basically the employees are confronted with yet another complicated task. They first have to learn how to use the platform and if they have questions, there is still no contact person. This is much easier with chatbots:

What are chatbots?

Chatbots are dialogue systems that enable users to communicate with a bot in natural language. There are rule-based chatbots and smart chatbots that use machine learning to understand and answer the user's questions and intent.

However, the capabilities of intelligent chatbots go far beyond simply answering individual questions: They can guide users through complex processes and retrieve information as well as store it in databases.

How does Guided Buying work with a chatbot?

The fact that the exchange with a chatbot takes place in a dialogue, an ordering process can take place like a conversation with an experienced colleague:

The employees contact the chatbot and tell it what they want to order. With the help of various questions, the chatbot then collects the necessary information. For example, it asks for the order quantity, the desired delivery date and other requirements that need to be fulfilled for the order. 

If different versions or suppliers are stored in the system for a product, the chatbot can make a comparison for the employees. It is also possible for the chatbot to show the company's preferred products and suppliers to the users first. Furthermore, it can suggest bundles or kits. This ensures that compatible products are ordered.

In some cases, it is less important from which supplier the product is delivered, but rather whether a certain quantity can be made available on a certain date.

Here, the chatbot can automatically send a request to the suppliers and check the availability of the product. As soon as the information is available, the purchasing department is informed and the employees can place the order.

If a step is not clear, the chatbot can explain it and provide assistance. Of course, it can happen that users ask a question that is not relevant to the order itself. For example, what is the status of another order. The chatbot can answer such questions and then guide the user back to the previous process.

During the ordering process, the chatbot ensures that regulations and guidelines are adhered to. For example, if employees want to order an item that is not approved, the chatbot will point this out. If possible, the chatbot suggests alternatives so that the order can be processed without further delay. If there is no alternative for the desired item, the chatbot contacts the person who can give approval.

This would also be the case if the desired order exceeds the maximum order value. The chatbot contacts the responsible person and, as soon as the approval has been given, can carry out the order independently. In this case, the requesters receive an order confirmation by email from the chatbot. If the approval is rejected, the requesters are also informed by the chatbot.

It is also possible to interrupt an ordering process and resume it later. This may be because the employees have to go to a meeting or because they want to consult with their supervisor. When the users resume the conversation, the chatbot can go back to the old conversation and pick it up again. In addition, the chatbot can send a reminder if an order has not yet been completed.

This is possible because the chatbot can assign individuals to their individual employee accounts. At the beginning of a conversation, the chatbot asks the user to log in. This way, the chatbot can access all orders already placed by the person and other stored information, as well as old conversation histories, and use them to interact with the employees.

What are the advantages of Guided Buying with chatbots?

By using virtual assistants, employees can process orders without the involvement of procurement. Since the purchasing department only has to be involved in occasional cases, the buyers are relieved and have more time for other activities. For the buyers themselves, it is much easier to place orders that comply with guidelines and contracts, as the chatbot helps them to apply the complex rules and regulations.

For internationally operating companies, the use of chatbots opens up the possibility of further accelerating processes. Chatbots are available around the clock and enable the seamless exchange of information. Different office hours are no longer a problem.

The acceptance of a guided buying solution is directly related to its user-friendliness. Chatbots can be operated completely without prior knowledge and, unlike e-procurement platforms, can react individually to the user. Therefore, they are particularly suitable for guided buying.

How much routine tasks are handed over to virtual assistants and the degree of automation of the ordering processes can be individually adapted to the needs and wishes of companies. This ensures that on the one hand the employees are optimally supported and on the other hand the employees can fully contribute their strengths. After all, people are still best at negotiating contracts with tact and building up supplier relationships based on trust.

Would you like to know what an ordering process with a chatbot looks like in detail? Then get our whitepaper "Guided Buying - How Maverick Buying can be prevented with Chatbots".

Are you curious and want to know what other areas of application there are for virtual assistants in procurement? Then get our white paper "Smart chatbots in procurement":