Boosting Field Force Productivity
A step-by-step plan for increasing the productivity of your field force.
By Sandra R. Sabo
Ask field force automation experts how to improve productivity, and you're likely to hear a litany of what not to do.
For example, avoid buying hardware first and then searching for a solution that fits. With hardware prices coming down significantly, Palm devices and Pocket PCs may look mighty attractive, especially to an internal IT person itching to write a customized software application, but you might end up spending thousands of dollars on something no one in the field understands or cares to use.
Likewise, steer clear of the hype surrounding wireless. Although growing in popularity, wireless technologies are costly; another solution, or a combination of several solutions, might work just as well for your purposes...
To read the entire content of this Article and see related stories, please click here.
The Future Is Now
By Sharon Ward, Hurwitz Group
It's time we all stopped thinking of mobile devices as just a nice thing to have. The days when a company could say, "Sure, you can use one if you want to, but you'll have to buy it and maintain it yourself" are gone. There's really no part of an organization that this doesn't hold true for, but it is especially true for the field force.
How many times are you going to send your reps in to call on an account to ask for an order, only to have them blindsided by an unresolved service issue? Or they get the order, only to discover a credit problem that could have been worked out less awkwardly right on the spot, rather than during a sheepish phone call after the order has been held up in accounting? You can't expect to stay ahead of the competition by treating your customers this way, and you can't expect to hold on to your sales force by treating them this way!
These handy little devices do so much more than store phone numbers. Consider these two scenarios:
Bill, who sells for ABC Company, packs his literature, his samples, his PC, his projection device and his handwritten directions and heads off to see the customer. He gets lost on the way, because he couldn't read and drive simultaneously, but he makes it just in time. He runs in, sweating, fumbling with all the stuff he's carrying, and starts to set up his equipment. The customer sits through the presentation, glances at the literature, and then asks about the last order he placed. It's late. Bill makes a note of it, and says he'll call the customer as soon as he gets back to the office. The customer thanks him and says he'll be in touch. Bill leaves, dejected, no order in hand.
The next day, Sam, who works for ABC's biggest competitor, XYZ gets ready to leave for his presentation with the same account. He slips a tablet PC, approved and supplied by the company, into his briefcase on his way out. Maybe he has GPS software on it, or maybe he just has a map on it, but he doesn't get lost and makes it to the customer with a few minutes to spare. Before heading in, he calls up the customer's record on his mobile PC. On a single screen, he sees that there is a late order, but it'll be shipping tomorrow. He upgrades the shipping method to FedEx. He also notes that there is a service bulletin on another product the customer has, and makes a mental note to let the customer know. He walks in and tells the customer both pieces of news, shows him the service bulletin on XYZ's website, then sits beside him as they watch the multimedia product presentation on the tablet. Before he leaves, the customer asks about special pricing and configuration. Sam connects to corporate applications and processes the order on the spot. Sam stops on the way home to spend his commission.
Which company made the better impression? Who can afford not to arm their field force with this strategic weapon?
[Sharon Ward is director of enterprise business applications at Hurwitz Group, a Framingham, Mass.-based research and consulting firm that focuses on B2B e-business and IT initiatives. She can be reached at .]
Optimizing Mobile Workforces
Selecting the right solution can help your company tie up its loose ends and become an efficient operation.
Pocket computing hit a few potholes when it originally debuted, but now its a serious tool for the highly mobile.
What's new in field force technology.
A Learning Experience
If you're introducing technology, be sure to keep your field force in the loop from the beginning.
By Kassandra Kania, Field Force Automation magazine
Having spent the day at DCI's Customer Relationship Management Conference in Boston last week in the hopes of gaining new insight into how companies might go about improving field force productivity, I realized that the June issue of Field Force Automation magazine had already done a pretty good job of addressing this topic--although there's nothing like confirmation from another source.
The mere fact of the conference itself is proof that people are still concerned with customer service--which for some companies translates into gathering as much knowledge as possible to aid them in implementing or perhaps improving their field sales or field service solution. This is, in fact, one of the steps recommended by author Sandra R. Sabo in this month's business case study titled "Boosting Field Service Productivity" Gather information from the experts at conferences or consider hiring a consultant before jumping into a mobile project.
One such expert, Dennis Schweigert, director of CRM business process services for Information Systems Marketing, spoke at length about the field force automation business process model in his session "Building a CRM Process Foundation for Field Sales and Service." He described FFA as a "functional application of CRM" and urged people to recognize that the field is a dynamic, unpredictable environment. To understand it, you need to accompany your mobile workers out in the field and find out what information they need before you can determine the best technology or devices they will need to access that data.
Sabo agrees that mobile workers need to be involved in the process from the start. They also need to be trained and given support. "Don't take for granted that every field employee is knowledgeable about or comfortable with the technology," she says. Case in point: During the keynote address, "Wireless Data: Revolutionizing the Mobile Field Force," Peter Dupre, CIO of W.B. Mason, an office supply dealer, explained that the company was introducing its 160 sales reps to Isovia, a developer of mobile and wireless business solutions, on PalmPilots. When his youngest sales rep, 20-year-old Chris, heard about the use of Palms for sales calls, his response was something along the lines of: "Great! I have a Minstrel. Will that work?" When Dupre introduced the concept to Ernie, the oldest sales rep at 80 years of age, Ernie asked, "How can I write all that on my palm?"
[Kassandra Kania is managing Editor of Field Force Automation magazine. She can be reached at .]
FFA Road Show
FFA's first Business Solutions Seminar showed a trend toward device convergence as a means of simplifying the business process
Leveraging Wireless Data
Plan ahead with a future-proof strategy to get the most out of your wireless field network.
Managing Business from the Palm of Your Hand
With IBM's SWAP, you don't have to give up the applications on your server for the convenience of your PDA.
IT Telecommunications Bluetooth Market Strategies
Date: August 20-22
More Information: www.it-telecomsolutions.com
DCI's Field Force Automation Event
Date: August 28-30
Location: New York
More Information: www.ffaevent.com
MobileExpo With Illinois Technology Showcase & ProjectWorld
Date: September 11-13
More Information: www.mobileexpo.com
Here's a sampling of what's coming up in the August issue of Field Force Automation magazine. To subscribe, please click here.
Cover Story: Read about small- to mid-size businesses and how their field force processes compare with the big guns.
Field Goals: Get informed about advanced technologies for field communications and automation.
In the Pipeline: Read about legislation to ban cell phone use while driving.
Mobile Automation's MA2000: New Release and a Sybase Partnership
Mobile Automation, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based software company, produces device management software, called MA2000. The product, which the company describes as a "complete software product," provides IT departments a tool for managing a mobile workforce. The software provides four capabilities including 1) software distribution, 2) inventory and asset management, 3) application self-healing and configuration, and 4) remote control. MA has just released Version 4.0 of MA2000, which supports Palm OS devices and Windows CE handheld wireless devices. In its initial version, the handheld software provides software distribution and inventory and asset management; later this year, MA plans to have support for application self-healing. At the time of our interview with the company, they were undecided about providing remote control capabilities for handheld devices.
Read the rest of this review and more reviews of mobile products and service in Mobile Insights' Mobile Letter by clicking here. You can also get it in your e-mail every two weeks. Sign up here.
Notes From The Field
Boost Your Bottom Line
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July Web Chat: How to Hire CRM-Savvy Employees
Since your CRM strategy is only as effective as the people who implement it you need to know how to hire and retain the right employees. destinationCRM.com and CRM Magazine host a live Web chat on July 12 at 2 p.m. EDT, 11 a.m. PST on "How to Hire CRM-savvy Employees." Featured presenters include Jason Compton, contributing Editor, CRM Magazine, and Timothy McMahon, CRM/sales guru, destinationCRM.com Expert on Call and author of "Solving the Sales Management/Sales Automation Equation." For more information, please click here.
Free e-Broadcast: Do You Know Which Customer Relationships Make You Profitable?
CRM magazine invites you to a live, interactive e-Broadcast that will discuss using the Internet to access customer data across the enterprise and integrating that information for a complete view of your customers. Join Matt Purdue, director of content for destinationCRM.com; Rod Johnson, research director enterprise application strategies, AMR Research; Robb Eklund, vice president CRM product marketing, PeopleSoft; and Paula M. Casey, director channel sales, support & order management, Polycom on Wednesday, August 8, 2001 at 2:00 p.m. EDT, 11:00 a.m. PST. Register today by clicking here.
Astea International: Free Case Study!
Get the most from your service operations! Astea International specializes in equipment-service-centric Customer Relationship Management solutions to improve productivity, top-line revenue growth and customer interaction. Free Download.
Oracle Interactive Webinar
Get the benefits of CRM without all the complexity. Attend a free interactive Webinar on multi-channel solutions with experts from Gartner Group, Oracle and HP. Take advantage of HPs experience implementing Oracles CRM solution. For more information, please click here.
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