Consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies have been facing significant challenges since the economic downturn started a decade ago. Disposable incomes have remained flat or decreased, new digital media has fragmented the consumer ecosystem, and increased worldwide competition has leveled the playing field to a degree.
So CPG enterprises must improve to stay healthy. This means retailers, MSOs, and supply chain vendors must adopt better workforce management strategies and tactics. Part of the mandate has to include investing in systems and technologies that optimize field service workers.
What's the risk?
Client satisfaction is at the heart of the challenge to optimize field employees. According to Oracle, "U.S. companies deemed to have poor customer service are losing a staggering US$41 billion a year". It stands to reason, then, that the risk of providing poor field service is lower revenues and shrinking profits.
Social media and sites like Yelp have become filled with negative reviews, some of them about retailers. So, providing superior service to (CPG) clients is critical to keeping shoppers happy, which, in turn, keeps retailers happy and the supply chain humming along.
So, where does this improvement begin? Workforce management.
For those with employees in the field, tight management of productivity is paramount to providing great customer service. You've got to have a firm handle on information such as:
- where workers are
- what the in-store situation is (in real time)
- how long reps are on site
- who is available for an open job
Mobile devices and integrated software solutions like ESP allow field managers to have insights into what is going on without the need for speaking with field reps or experiencing delays in routing or scheduling. This up-to-the-minute connectivity immediately improves customer satisfaction.
Workforce management systems enabled by mobile technology also drives your operational efficiency. For example, a study by NDP Consulting revealed that GPS technology produces savings of 11 percent in labor costs, 13 percent in fuel, and 13 percent in vehicle maintenance and repair for field service fleets.
On top of that, field service managers have found that workforce management software can increase field productivity by more than 10 percent and dispatch efficiency by over 20 percent.
Let's look at a few key areas that mobile technology and workforce management tools help optimize field workforces:
Real-time visibility. Workforce management tools that give managers and dispatchers immediate visibility into daily work schedules and in-store activities help optimize performance when home office staff can quickly collect, digest, and act on field data.
Instant notifications from the field. Messaging to dispatchers and team leaders is crucial to staying on top of your field workforce. This includes alerts on job commitments kept or missed, length of time on site, and project needs, to name a few.
Cloud-based storage. Using cloud-based programs improves data sharing, and makes field reporting more efficient.
Real-time data collection. Gathering data from the field through mobile connectivity can reduce or even eliminate wasted resources and unnecessary expenses, such as extra fuel or overtime costs.
Productivity analytics. Field management software can provide a wealth of knowledge without combing through piles of paperwork. Team leaders can compare historical data with current information to identify problematic trends and areas that need improvement.,
Crowdsourcing available projects. For companies with a primary workforce and a secondary team, crowdsourcing assignments when there is no fixed rep available improves scheduling efficiency. (Crowdsourcing allows you to notify the entire secondary team about the opening and let those workers self-select or bid on the job.) The assignment gets filled faster than waiting for a primary worker to become available.
Photo capture and distribution. Field reps can instantly share images... Using in-store photo collections to capture store, shelf, and set-level situations is important to inventory management, delivery scheduling, route planning, and more.
Bottom line? Field performance is optimized when service leaders can monitor and manage their workforces by accessing performance data to analyze their operational efficiency. All these optimization capabilities result in better service and happier clients.