Writing an order confirmation: what is it and how do I draw one up?

Once a customer has placed an order with you, you should prepare a written order confirmation. This lets the customer know that their order has been accepted and is being processed. All businesses and self-employed persons who generate income from dispatching goods and/or services need to be very familiar with the preparation of an order confirmation. This article will outline what such a document should look like and which details it should contain, as well as several other factors that should be considered when writing one.

What is an order confirmation?

An order confirmation is usually preceded by a purchase order sent from the buyer to the supplier. To put it simply, an order confirmation is a way of communicating that an order has been accepted. It is used to ensure the customer that you will deliver the product and/or service under the conditions that had already been set out. This is binding — as soon as the order confirmation has been written and sent to the customer, you are then legally bound to complete the order.

When is an order confirmation necessary?

In many cases, the supplier is not required to provide their customers with an order confirmation. However, it is recommended that you do create one for each order: this makes it clear for all parties involved exactly what conditions have been agreed. If it so happens that a conflict arises, then this document can easily clarify which party has failed to follow through on their side of the deal. This is especially important if it’s the case that the details of an order have only been agreed to orally. This way the conditions that were agreed upon are guaranteed in writing.

While it is recommended that sending an order confirmation is always a good idea, there are certain cases when it definitely shouldn’t be avoided. These include:

  • If the customer has placed an order without having received a corresponding offer beforehand.
  • If you had made a non-binding agreement beforehand, perhaps in relation to the price or time/manner of delivery (e.g., using terms like ‘non-binding,' ‘price subject to change,’ etc.). In this case you need to specify or outline the exact terms of the offer by formulating an order confirmation.
  • If there is a change relating to the details of what was previously ordered (e.g. the price, quantity, etc.)
  • If you have made the customer several different offers
  • If the customer responds to an offer too late and hasn’t noticed that it has already expired. 

It is especially the case with new customers that it is recommended that you confirm an order in writing. This means any potential misunderstandings can be avoided, and it also demonstrates to them that they are dealing with a professional sales organisation.

Writing your own order confirmation: content, structure, and more

When it comes to the content and structure of an order confirmation, there are several aspects that it has in common with a purchase order, both documents being very similar, after all. When an offer is made that the customer accepts, then it is often the case that the written offer is given an audit certificate and sent again to the customer — as opposed to writing a whole new order confirmation. The preceding written offer also makes for a suitable order confirmationtemplate. However, there are some differences between the two that you should take note of. 

The similarities between an offer and an order confirmation are clear, among other things, in the formalities of the two documents. As with an offer, the logo, name and address of the company, as well as that of the customer (including the contact person) should all appear at the head of the document. The only difference is that next to the date and customer number, instead of the offer number, you write the order confirmation number (or even the invoice number), and not the offer number.

The date that the customer made the order should also be included, either in the heading or in the main text of the order confirmation. Bear in mind that if the order has been made as a result of an offer being accepted, you should include a reference to the previous offer — this can be done by including the offer number. This is an ideal way of referring back to the previously discussed services and conditions.

The biggest difference between an offer and an order confirmation becomes obvious in the main body of the document. When confirming an order, there is absolutely no need to use any marketing techniques; at this stage, the customer is convinced of your business’ capabilities and trusts you enough to make an order. This means that the size of the text is seriously decreased. Furthermore, the content of the document should be short, precise, and formulated without the use of technical language. You often thank the customer for placing the order, followed by listing the products and/or services agreed on, as well as relevant information, such as the description, quantity, or price of those products/services.

In general, you should make sure that your order confirmation contains the following information (assuming that they are relevant to the order):

  • The offer, customer, and confirmation/invoice number
  • Description and name of the goods and/or services
  • Quantity and price of the goods and/or services
  • Information on the delivery and/or the execution of the service
  • Payment and delivery conditions
  • Packaging and postage costs
  • Details on proprietary rights, rights of use, and delivery location
  • Reference to the general terms and conditions, and the area of jurisdiction

In our digital guide, you can find a free order confirmation template, that you can personalisze and edit free of charge. This design will save you from having to spend time formatting and also offers various suggestions when it comes to formulating the main body of the text. The template is suitable for Microsoft Excel and Word.

More useful information to know about order confirmations

Another issue of importance is the time frame in which the order confirmation is sent to the customer. Once the customer has confirmed the purchase, the order confirmation should be prepared as quickly as possible. Ideally, it should be dispatched within the same working day. It should definitely take no longer than three days for the confirmation to be received by the customer. Keep in mind that the earlier this happens, the more professional your business will appear.

On occasion it’s the case that staff shortages or various other shortcomings may lead to the method of delivery agreed upon, or certain service, or the envisaged delivery period, no longer being possible. Even if this seems highly unlikely, it may still be possible that an order confirmation differs from an offer previously submitted to the customer. This signals a cancellation of the contract that had previously been offered.

Given that order confirmations are seen as sales documents, it is required of you to retain them for a certain amount of time. In the UK you are legally required to keep such documents for a minimum of 6 years.

So when it comes to confirming an order there are certainly quite a few things that you need to be aware of. No details being missing from the document is of the utmost importance to you and the consumer. Make sure that everything is complete, precise and in the right order. This then means that if a conflict arises between you and the customer relating to the agreed on products/services, you can then refer back to the information outlined in the order confirmation as this then acts as proof of the original agreement.

Please note the legal disclaimer relating to this article.

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