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Retail Greatness Blog

The SINGLE Most Important Factor That Makes a Successful Merchandising Field Service Manager


There are many facets to a quality retail field workforce manager. But there’s one factor that rises above all others when it comes to successfully managing your team.





When people think of communication skills, they often think about how you say something or what your body language represents. Sure, those are important elements of communication, but for field sales and service managers, it’s more about what’s called the “volume, variety, and velocity” of the information being communicated.

Field managers have to know how to drive the right level of interactions with the field for three reasons:

  • To achieve 100% in-store performance
  • To maintain a strong field team
  • To strengthen relationships with your clients

That said, being successful doesn’t mean opening the flood gates with an uninterrupted stream of communication between headquarters and the field. That would be impossible to manage.

It’s kind of like a Goldilocks and the Three Bears, when the little girl tests three versions of just about everything in the cottage. This one’s too cold, this one’s too hot, and so on. Field coordinators have to find a “sweet spot” of communication.

Let’s look at what happens when you have “too” anything when it comes to retail field communication.

Too often

When communication with the team is too frequent, it takes resources away from actually doing their primary work. Field reps aren’t working on sets or conducting surveys or other tasks. Field managers aren’t focused on managing schedules or reporting results.

If you’re communicating with a single rep or group of reps multiple times per hour, then that might be a red flag. While more frequent communication might sound healthy, your communication velocity is too high. And there may be a problematic reason behind this: there is a dependence on one end to support the other. Maybe the manager feels the need to micromanage these individuals. Maybe the field reps feel they’re lacking guidance. Or maybe there are too many issues with those reps.

Ask yourself: Are the communications improving store service? Are they helping to successfully train the field team? Are they necessary to provide transparency between the home office and the field? If the answers are “no”, then it’s time to reign in communication that’s not contributing to the bottom line.

Too much

These days, field team managers can get real-time store visit updates with the right tools. And that’s a good thing! But imagine getting a stream of information coming from a team with 100s of field reps. Managing the volume of information being communicated every day from the field takes a well-organized – and well-equipped – individual.

Receiving, processing, and making decisions on real-time information can overload the most efficient field manager. So it’s important to determine exactly what data you need each hour of the day to maximize your field force and make EVERY STORE PERFECT.

Requiring your reps to report every single detail may appear like you don’t trust them. Sure, you need to have specific details about each workday, visit, and activities – and you can get the right details with ESP – but make sure not to come off micromanaging too much.

Too little

If you’re wondering, “What’s going on out there?”, then field communication has to increase. Although you want to allow field reps flexibility and autonomy, without enough communication, there may be too much left to chance.

There is really no excuse these days for a lack of communication between headquarters and the field. Mobile tools enable the fast flow of communication. And retail execution tools deliver the critical data managers need to support your clients.

At a minimum, you’ve got to have call reports: in-store performance, travel details, and daily work updates. But you also should be getting routine survey responses, special requests from clients, and other field information. Visibility into how your team communicates with your clients helps to guide them toward strengthening customer relationships.

Too slow

Finally, communications are too slow if you can’t act on the information being shared almost immediately. For instance, a distribution gap or stockout needs to be addressed quickly. If you’re not getting feedback from the field fast enough, you’re not going to look responsive to your clients.

Field workforce management tools, driven via mobile devices and delivered “in the cloud”, enable a rapid bilateral exchange of information that can be managed in a way that doesn’t disrupt field managers too badly. Yet you have a way to trigger quick responses from headquarters.

Without rapid yet controlled communication between the field and home office, you can’t make every store perfect. Heck, your execution rate could drop substantially! You’ve got to know about supply chain disruptions, missed store visits, and incomplete performance now, not later.

And this is why we developed the "Best Field Merchandising Mobile App." It communicates perfectly -- not too much -- not too little -- yet, makes it simple and trouble free to collect and distribute all the information you need to keep the facts, focus, and follow-up train on the tracks at all times.

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Topics: Field Manager Greatness Field Executive Greatness communicating to your field force best mobile app