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Nexternal: Purchasing Groups (Customer Groups) Overview
Nexternal: Purchasing Groups (Customer Groups) Overview

Provide buying & approval controls, & group order visibility for select group members, to help businesses self-manage organizational buying.

Pamela Topper avatar
Written by Pamela Topper
Updated over a week ago

Product: Nexternal

Understanding generally how the Purchasing Groups feature (called Customer Groups in the Order Management System "OMS") works will facilitate a more expeditious setup of this powerful functionality. Watch this 2-min video for a great overview before diving into the text in this article.

A. What are Purchasing Groups and Who Can Benefit From Them?

The Purchasing Groups feature (Customers / Preferences/ Customer Groups) allows your business customers to monitor and control their spending, and to afford visibility of consolidated group member orders to multiple people in their organizations. This feature also provides an automated and streamlined process for order approvals, and even allows for group orders to be paid from a single billing account instead of by the individual purchasers, should either of these controls be required.

Another really great aspect of the Purchasing Groups feature is that it can be utilized solely to provide group masters (Masters) and designated members (Members) with visibility into the group’s orders at any time in a consolidated portal, even if none of the other options (such as approvals or single billing account) are required.

The Purchasing Groups feature allows you and your business customers to create as many purchasing groups as you need. Each group is managed separately by the Group Master, who decides for each Group:

  • Who are the Members of the Group

  • If and when approvals are required for Member orders (for no orders, for all orders, or only those over a set $$ threshold, and how many approvals are required)

  • Who can approve orders, if approvals are required

  • Whether orders are paid by the individual purchasers or by the Group Master's single billing account

  • In addition to the Master, who else can see the group’s consolidated orders at any time on their personal account page

On a global basis, when setting up the Purchasing Groups feature in your Order Management System "OMS") and deciding how it will operate for all customers using the feature, you have the following options:

  • If a Master has multiple Groups and requires order approvals in one or more of them, whether each Approver can only approve orders from Members of the Group they are in, or whether they can approve orders from Members of all of the Master's Groups

  • If approvals are required in any Group, whether unapproved orders will stay pending forever or will automatically expire after a period of time if no action is taken on the order, and the length of any auto-expiration period

  • Even if approvals are not required, whether a Master can appoint other individuals to share the Master’s visibility into the Group’s orders, or further, into all of the Master’s Groups’ orders.

  • Whether any customer can appoint themselves as a Master to form a Group

  • Whether Masters can self-quit and step down as Masters on their own

  • Whether Group Members can voluntarily leave a Group on their own

  • What happens to Group Members when a Group is deleted

*This feature can benefit you if any of the following are true*:

1. You or your business customer(s) need to enforce an order approval process

2. You or your business customer(s) need one or more people to have access to a portal in which they can see orders placed by others (even if approvals aren’t required), without getting bombarded by emails for each order

3. You need multiple people to be able to place orders which are paid from a single billing account instead of by each purchaser

4. You are an organization that has various departments placing internal orders for materials (such as a non-profit where branded materials are ordered for use by various chapters or branches or departments within the organization), and you want to track orders by department, not just by each individual.

B. How are Masters and Members Designated?

As outlined above, you control whether or not customers can designate themselves as Masters in their online accounts, or whether customers may only be designated by you as Master Customers by modifying customer records via the OMS or via XML. Similarly, you control whether or not Masters may self-terminate as Masters.

You may designate or invite customers as group Members through your OMS by modifying their customer records, and a Master can invite customers to be group Members even if the Master doesn’t have OMS access. Section E. below offers more detail on this process.

You control whether Members may leave a Group on their own. You will also have the opportunity to specify what happens to Members when a Group is terminated.

If some or all orders will require approval, then you or the Master of each Purchasing Group designates which Members are Requisitioners (may only place orders) and which Members are Approvers (may place orders and approve orders placed by others.)

If you have activated the Universal Approvers option, then Approvers will be able to approve any order for the Master Customer (other than a self-placed order), even those in the Master's Purchasing Groups to which they do not belong. If Universal Approvers is off, Approvers may only approve orders within their own Purchasing Groups.

By utilizing the Enhanced Approvers option, you may also choose to give Approvers the same visibility and editability into Group Member orders that the Master has, even if the Approver is not on the order's list of approvers, and even if approvals are not required at all. In this case, you would designate some members as Approvers even if approvals aren't required, just so they can have enhanced visibility into Group orders. If the Universal Approvers option is also on, Enhanced Approver visibility extends to all orders and subscriptions in all of the Master Customer's Groups. If the Expose Invoice to Customer option is on, invoices are also visible to Enhanced Approvers, and if the Allow Customers to Pay Invoices option is on, then Enhanced Approvers may also pay Invoices.

C. How does the Ordering Process Work?

When Members place orders where the Master is set up to be the payor, they are not required to specify either a Bill-To Address or a payment method; rather, the Bill-To Address is taken from the Master customer, and the payment method is specified by the Master at the group level. If the Group is set up to require Members to pay as they go, they will be required to provide payment in whatever forms are allowed (credit card, invoice, etc.)

Regardless of who is paying for the order, if order approvals are required, placed orders awaiting approval land in the OMS as Pending Orders which automatically activate when approval is granted. Pending Orders cannot be processed until they are activated through the approval process. Orders automatically cancel if rejected by an Approver, and they may also automatically cancel after the passage of a time period you may specify, if neither approval nor rejection occurs in that time.

Orders that require approval may be approved (or rejected) by the Master, and by any subcustomer Members with the role of Approver at the Customer Group level.

When a Member places an order that requires approval, an Order Submitted E-Mail is sent to the ordering Member, and an Order Approver E-Mail is sent to the Master and each of the order's Approvers. When approval is granted, the orderer receives an Order Approved E-Mail. If approval is not required, the orderer receives an Order Confirmation E-Mail upon placement, while the Master receives a Master Customer Confirmation E-Mail. If an order is canceled, the orderer receives an Order Cancellation E-Mail. These automated emails require that certain Boolean options be turned on in the Settings section. The Activate Purchasing Groups guided tutorials (Parts 1, 2, and 3) will walk you through that, and you will also be given the opportunity to customize the emails (Layout/Enhanced Emails) if you wish to modify the defaults.

In their online accounts pages, Master Customers may view Group Orders and Subscriptions, and approve or reject Group Pending Orders. Approvers may also view Group Orders (but not Subscriptions) for which they are Approvers, and approve or reject Group Pending Orders.

Finally, you will have options about how to handle Bulk orders, if you plan to place any in your OMS, as they relate to Members. You may choose to i) exclude Members from Bulk orders entirely, or (ii) Override Bulk Order settings with Master Customer settings (which means that Member orders follow the Customer Group settings, overriding options selected for the Bulk Order {e.g. Payment Method, Pending Order status} when they conflict), or (iii) Override Master Customer settings (which places Member orders as regular orders, honoring all options selected for the Bulk Order and ignoring the relationship with the Master).

D. How do Members and Masters Know How to Use the Feature?

As a part of the setup, you will have the opportunity to modify the default “explanations” of how Purchasing Groups work, which Masters and Members will see on their online account pages. For example, if you enable Universal

When Masters log in and navigate to their Account pages, they will see your customized text explaining how Purchasing Groups work, and they will be able to manage their groups by adding and deleting groups, adding and deleting members, and viewing and approving member orders and subscriptions.

When Members log in and navigate to their account pages, they will see what group they are in and will see your customized text explaining how Purchasing Groups work.

You may also choose to communicate separately with your employees or customers (as appropriate) about who can or should use Purchasing Groups, as well as how and when to use them.

E. How do I create Masters, Groups, and Members after I set up the Purchasing Groups Functionality?

After you set up the Purchasing Groups functionality, if you wish to set up Groups, you must first ensure that a customer account is created for the Master and add a new Purchasing Group to this customer’s account in the OMS.

After the Masters and Groups are created, you may assign or invite members, or your end customer may invite Members, making each either an Approver or Requisitioner. If a Member is assigned, there is no invitation process and they are Members upon assignment. If a Member is invited, they receive a customizable email invitation and become a Pending Group Member until they either accept or decline the invitation via a customizable response email.

You can create customer records, assign Masters and assign or invite Members, via spreadsheet upload, manually, and via XML. You must create Groups manually. You may simultaneously create customer records and assign or invite those customers to be Members. Your end customer may invite other customers to be a Member, only if that customer record already exists in the OMS.

Only people with existing customer records in the OMS can be invited into a Purchasing Group. For example, new employees of yours or your customers must be entered into the OMS as a customer prior to being designated or invited as a Group Member. Or, customers can be designated as members of existing groups as you load them into the system.

Per the above, a customer who is invited to a Group is a Pending Member of the Group until he/she accepts (or declines) the invitation, and any orders placed by a Pending Member have no relationship to the Master.

Additional Notes:

1. Activating Enhanced Email functionality is a prerequisite to activating Purchase Groups.

2. A customer in the OMS may be designated as either a Master or a Member, but not both.

3. A Master can have multiple Groups. However, Members (Requisitioners and Approvers) can be a Member of only one Purchasing Group at a time.

4. When a customer joins a Customer Group, he/she automatically takes the Customer Type of the Master Customer. However, this may be overridden when creating or editing customers within the Order Management System; via the Customer Import (Customers/Import); or via the CustomerUpdate XML Tool (Settings/XML Tools).

5. We recommend that you either use an “Elegant cart” -style, always-onscreen cart in your store, or add an “Account” link to your store header to make it easy for Masters, Approvers, and Requisitioners (as well as all other customers) to log in and easily navigate to their respective account pages to manage Groups and orders, as applicable. To facilitate this please contact your TrueCommerce/Nexternal implementation specialist or account manager, or TrueCommerce/Nexternal customer support. Fees may apply.

To set up Purchasing Groups in your Nexternal OMS, please use Guided Tutorials called "Activate Purchasing Groups", parts 1, 2, and 3. (Guided Tutorials are accessed separately from the Support Center in Foundry, through the link to Guided Tutorials in the system navigation under the question mark at the top. In the legacy standalone version of Nexternal they can be accessed through the Guided Tutorials link in the left navigation.)

rev. 6/23/21

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