In these challenging times for retail, manufacturers and MSOs have to bring every advantage to the table to succeed in this business. Often they think that means hiring the best field service reps or making the most appealing products. But a full team and great merchandise don’t automatically translate to a winning formula. History is full of vendors who fell flat because they didn’t win using the key ingredient -- Execution.
You can have the best ideas, the most awesome products, and the brightest field team money can buy; but if you don't execute you're going to fail. Specifically, here are some areas where I see failure occurring as I'm out talking to prospective clients...
Documentation processes are too slow…reporting and organizing information from your entire field service organization can be a painfully slow process if you’re not organized and efficient. If you’re managing multiple teams over several partners, a lack of efficiency can spell DOOM for your company.
Some retailers these days want up-to-the-minute reporting. They want to be able to identify store-level and shelf-level issues quickly. It’s critical that shoppers enjoy their experience in the store…or they may go online…or to a competitor. So updating and reporting to your partners has to be available when reps are in the store, and manual entry is TOO SLOW.
Incomplete or missed visits/data gaps…if you have even one field service rep repeatedly missing visits, or a store that experiences continual issues following a visit, your reputation will suffer. Retail partners often update their requirements at the store level, so survey and audit data have to be complete, accurate, and on time. That means field reps have to be there on time, prepared to fully document their visit.
If updating store, project, or task details is inefficient for your rep, she may not be enthused about completing documentation. On the other hand, if your reporting process has “holes” in it, you can get bad data. Either of these situations are not good for building you partner’s confidence.
Poor communication with field team...when communication isn’t swift and clear, your partners will know it. If reps are required to call their managers or send an email, there may be a delay in connecting or a crucial detail missed. Closing the loop on visits becomes slow.
Reps who aren’t able to communicate distribution gaps before leaving the store, for example, means that partner is less prepared to provide the best shopping experience for some customers. That can mean hard dollars lost for them…and for you.
Improving payroll costs…part of staying competitive is reducing costs, especially wasteful costs. If you’ve got hundreds of merchandisers over multiple states, payroll management can be cumbersome, inefficient, and costly. In some cases, this can require a team of payroll administrators.
One frequent payroll issue is fraud. Getting a handle on fraud can take weeks if you rely on manual reporting processes. And if you can’t tie hours to productivity, fraud can be even more of a problem. You also can have waste because of ineffective scheduling practices. This can lead to bloated payrolls when field reps aren’t where they are supposed to be every time.
High service costs…when project costs strip your profits because reps can’t complete them, it’s tough to compete. Even with smaller teams, you can encounter higher than necessary costs for servicing stores. If tasks take longer than they should because of incomplete project guidance or slow reporting processes, visits take longer or they’re left incomplete.
When surveys, tasks, and projects aren’t done as expected, follow-up takes longer. Closing the loop costs you more, tightening your thin margins. Each visit should aim to yield maximum sales and get done efficiently. That can’t happen when teams can’t operate “cleanly”.
Does that mean YOU CAN’T address these challenges and grow your business? NO! Look at what some brands were able to do when they took on their challenges:
- Alliance Foods was able to reallocate approximately 3,600 labor hours yearly to high-impact activities as opposed to spending that time filling out forms.
- Egg·Land’s Best sales team was able to grow to sixty reps and sales have increased by double digits every year, with cost-per-store decreasing by 17%.
Their advantage? Having a mobile-connected workforce using real-time data that improves scheduling, project management, merchandise issue reporting, and follow up.
If your company needs to improve in any of these areas, contact us to discuss your options.