If you've got employees working remotely, you know that being outside of the office can sometimes be restrictive or a challenge. Without a desk and desktop, field representatives don't have access to all the same information and tools as someone working from an office would. However, with modern mobile technology being what it is, it's possible now for managers to equip and prepare their field force with the right tools to be as flexible and productive on the road as they would be in the office. Here are a few quick tips as to how that can be accomplished.
1. Instant messaging
Text messages, apps that allow for real-time communication, or any number of other methods can be used to keep you in communication with your field force throughout the day. Reps can send in updates or questions from the road, and managers can respond immediately, so that the whole team communicates and operates just as smoothly as they would in-person.
2. Position tracking
In the office, managers are able to keep an eye on where everyone is and what they're doing, but that's harder to do if you have people working remotely. Using mobile apps that keep track of the location of your field reps in real-time means you'll always know where your entire team is. This will add some accountability for the field reps, leading to increased efficiency. And it makes it easier for managers to assign the closest available rep for any ad-hoc customer calls or issues that require attention in the field. If you know where your mobile employees are at any time, you can make sure you're getting the most out of each and all of them, boosting productivity across the board.
3. Find the best tools
While instant messaging and position tracking are valuable tools for any business with reps in the field, you should also spend some time searching for and testing out other mobile technologies that might improve your company's overall performance. Giving reps the power to take orders, fill out product surveys, get customer signatures, or otherwise perform their responsibilities directly from the field through their smartphone or tablet will cut down on paperwork and save a lot of time. Taking the time to research which tools out there are the best for your business will pay off in the end, allowing your reps to do more from the field, and do it more quickly, than ever before.
4. Don't over-monitor
Keeping an eye on where your reps are and what're they're doing is one thing, but micro-managing them is another. Having a field force requires giving them all a certain amount of trust and autonomy. You want to be available to your reps should they need you, and you should know how to best utilize each of them. But it's just as important to give them the freedom to get the job done their own way once they have everything they need to do so. No manager has the time to monitor every little thing, and one of the advantages of having people who represent you on the road is that you don't have to. Once they have the tools and knowledge they need, trust the people on your team to do what they're supposed to do, but stay in touch with them, too, just to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
If you can keep in touch with your reps, know where they are, and give them the most powerful and useful available tools to get their work done on the road, you'll find that their efficiency, accuracy, and flexibility will all improve. Your field force is only as strong as you build it to be, but with mobile technology the way it is today, there should be no real limits to that strength.
Matthew Derman is a Pennsylvania-born, Boston-educated writer and customer service specialist. He currently works at Repsly as a customer success manager, focusing on supporting customers, and is a regular contributor to several blogs. He is a comicbook enthusiast, amateur comedian, and dedicated dog owner.