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Field Operations are a critical link between a manufacturing company (OEM) and its franchise network.

This team includes field managers that help execute a manufacturer’s sales and after-sales strategies initiatives and convert them into specific actions carried-out to the franchise network.

Success and failure of a company’s sales & after-sales strategies depend on the field operations team’s efficiency to work with the retailers to implement those strategies.

Being an effective middle-man between corporate and the franchise network is not an easy task. The team has to contend with high levels of expectations from both entities – something that they have to grapple with on a day-to-day basis.

It is, therefore, important for a company to consider how it can strengthen and equip its field personnel with the right set of tools and technology to help them succeed in this high-pressure environment.

These tools & technologies can be broadly classified in three important categories:

  • Providing the team with the right set of data and KPIs
  • Centralizing field managers’ tasks and activities with real-time information
  • Implementing a collaborative platform to expedite the execution of field initiatives

Providing the Field with the Right Set of Information

Field managers typically have to keep a wide variety of information in order to have an effective conversation with their dealer counterparts.

For example, a salesperson not only needs to know the latest sales numbers, but also inventory details, flooring information, market performance, customer satisfaction scores, customer loyalty scores, and a variety of other information.

On the After-Sales side, the field manager needs to be aware of the service record, warranty information, service campaign information, parts sales, customer satisfaction, training and similar information.

It is a daunting task for field managers to easily manage so much information for all the dealers in their area of responsibility. Without such information, the conversations with dealers will not have the required focus and depth and will therefore not lead to meaningful performance improvement.

While some seasoned field managers have a strong control of information, most field managers either have limited information or take a lot of time to collect the information required for a productive meeting. Based on our interviews with various field managers, we think it takes anywhere between two to four hours to prepare for each dealer visit.

It is, therefore, imperative that a good field operations system includes back-end systems to collect all the important performance metrics together and present them in one place in a meaningful way to the field managers. This will save significant time and ensure that all required information is available in a consistent and reliable manner.

The performance scorecards / dashboards should not just be a static set of information. They should provide the ability to drilldown for more details to allow field managers to take a dive into deeper issues.

Tools to Help Field Managers Manage their Internal Activities

As field managers visit their dealers and conduct their meetings, they should be equipped with systems and tools to help them effectively manage their own activities – the foremost being a process to document and memorialize the details of their dealer visits.

This is not only useful for the subsequent meeting and to keep track of all specific commitments, but also to document the overall progress with the dealership on key performance areas.

Even to this day, many organizations continue to be quite accommodating in requiring field managers to document their meetings.

Some companies still use Word / Excel templates for record-keeping and not necessarily for active engagement with dealers. Such lack of effective documentation is not just an issue for management and other departments, but even for the field managers.

Even though field managers may save time by not effectively documenting meeting, they end up spending more time in managing their work and other follow-up tasks. Essentially, by not documenting visit reports, they will operate from memory or scribbled notes which invariably leads to lost activities or lost time.

This inefficient process is further exasperated when someone new joins the team and is tasked with piecing together the previous activities of their predecessor.

This where a user-friendly and intuitive system can help field managers to easily document their visit reports and specific dealer commitments for future follow-ups. Such system will also help streamline activities, save significant time in follow-ups, and help ensure tasks are completed.

Streamline Coordination of Corporate Tasks and Initiatives

The field managers are always required to carry out or coordinate on a variety of activities required by the corporate groups. This can be a launch of new marketing initiatives, requirements of new standards or guidelines, executive visits and other similar activities.

Sometimes the avalanche of such activities can take so much time that the field managers are not able to carry out their own primary responsibilities. They need to not only complete required tasks but also to report back to the corporate teams on a regular basis. Such fire-drills happen so often that they become part of the daily routine of the field team.

Yet, in most organizations there is no good way to manage such processes. In fact, each department may come out with a different way of tracking such field activities, which further adds to the workload and confusion at the field managers’ level.

Therefore, an integrated company-wide system to help manage such frequent drills will go a long way in helping improve the productivity and morale of the field management team. Such a system to coordinate tasks coming from various groups in the company will help field managers to prioritize activities better and ensure that they are completed as planned. The system will also help the corporate team to easily track their respective projects and follow-up only on exceptions.

In summary, the three major processes outlined above will go a long way in standardizing and streamlining field operations and empowering the field managers to work efficiently with their franchise dealers.

Field operations are a crucial link between a company’s own business operations and the franchise network that helps sell and service its products. Strengthening the field operations through strong processes and effective systems will go a long way in helping implement a company’s business strategies and achieving goals.

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