Field reps who deliver, merchandise, and sell fragile products have a number of unique responsibilities. From the moment product is placed in a truck until it is in the customer’s hands, specifications on travel, handling, and shelf placements must be strictly adhered to. These teams need a tool that will protect their product and keep their team educated in real time. Check out a few ways a field-based software solution will raise the level of accountability and product safety for teams with precious cargo.
1. Product Assurance
In nearly every industry where employees work in the field, accountability is essential. This is especially true for distributors whose products can be extremely delicate and prone to damage. Making sure that field reps follow strict transportation guidelines can be challenging. For example, in the horticulture industry, reps must ensure proper pretreatment and watering of plants during distribution. Without a system of accountability in place, back-office managers have to rely on the word of their reps that products were delivered safely and were properly merchandised.
Some managers resist systematic accountability for their field teams because they sincerely trust their employees and do not want them to feel overly watched. However, studies show that employees who believe their manager is accounting and tracking their behavior are seven times more likely to be positively engaged with their work. Field Activity Management software allows managers to create projects for each field rep with customizable forms which can require them to report on the status of a product’s condition, whether it be overall or specific. Geo-tagged photos within the forms will enable field reps to send a visual example of a product’s condition at the time of the completed project, assuring the back-office that product was safely handled.
2. Timely Communication
Some teams opt to send special instructions through email even though the the average response time is 2.5 days and the messages of emails are often misunderstood. Distributors with products prone to damage are often given special instructions for travel. For example, companies that sell both glass and crystal products need to be efficient and clear when communicating with reps about travel procedures. Since crystal products are generally more fragile than glass, if a rep misses an email that a box of crystal product is on his truck along with the usual glass products, the company risks not only breaking the contents, but also leaving the retailer without product.
Solutions like Field Activity Management software aim to raise the speed and quality of communication between reps and managers. With this kind of tool, reps can open a project in a text-style message, and unlike an email, the attached data will open and close on the screen with the touch of a finger. All of this instruction-style communication is available even when reps are without wifi access. Along with project information like dates and addresses, managers can always send specific information within a project from the back office. For example, if a rep is en route to pick up product and you want him to be aware of special delivery procedures, you can send a quick message that will appear as part of the project. That way, the rep will be fully equipped for each visit, getting real-time instructions no matter where he is in the field.
3. Supplier Responsibility
When businesses with fragile products team up with retail partners, there are certain behavioral expectations that differ from other suppliers. For example, merchandising can often be time consuming, as reps have to carefully place product on the shelf and, in many cases, will have to remove “fragile” stickers used during travel. Additionally, if you are partnered with a retail chain, reps may be expected to act as category captains. This simply means that in exchange for the chain offering your product in an attractive venue, you must take on the merchandising of that category and be stocking not only your own product, but competitor products as well. It is important to remember that although reps are merchandising competing brands, they must give them the same attention and care as they do their own product.
Effective merchandising is a very important consideration for distributors of fragile products, both small and large. To ensure that your reps are adequately merchandising all the products they are responsible for, leverage the merchandising audit function offered by Field Activity Management tools. Managers can create the audits however they want, requiring reps to report on a product’s condition, shelf placement, etc. Once that data is sent from the reps’ phones to the back office, managers can export it into organizational tools like Excel and compare the multiple audits to assure the same attention has been given to each retail location.
Growing Into the Future
Field Activity Management software has made it possible for businesses across a wide spectrum to simplify field work and foster productivity. It is imperative that businesses with fragile products keep up a high level of employee accountability to avoid lost product and protect retail relationships. Though streamlined communication and customizable audits, this field-based software solution will protect your fragile product during delivery, ensure its proper merchandising, and offer peace of mind and accountability to back-office managers.
Erin P. Friar
Erin Friar is a Content Marketing Journalist Intern at Repsly, Inc. and is completing a Journalism degree at Suffolk University. She is a master of grammar and is passionate about creating fresh content to help foster efficiency and overall success in small businesses.