Companies that have a dedicated franchise network channel to sell and service their high value products have a wide range of specialized processes to support and strengthen their network of dealers. These processes include active collaboration between field team and their dealer counterparts, network performance reviews, implementation of corporate initiatives and various other processes.

These processes apply to a wide range of industries but are specifically used by Automotive, Powersports, Transportation and Equipment manufacturers. It is vital for these companies to establish a very close and operational working relationship with their franchise partners who can represent the brand effectively.

The above relationship and processes are managed by a team of Field Managers focused on either Sales Operations or After-Sales / Fixed Operations. Such teams help guide and coach their franchise partners / dealers into providing high quality services to serve their eventual end customers – thus keeping their products competing well, improving customer satisfaction, and increasing brand reputation while keeping the network financially strong and viable.

A traditional CRM solution is typically geared towards managing a sales pipeline with focus on the sales team selling the products directly to its customers. This will include managing leads, contacts, sales opportunities, and all related activities.

However, a traditional CRM solution does not fit with the franchise sales and after-sales model which requires a different set of processes and focus to effectively manage Field Operations. A traditional CRM system will usually have to be customized extensively at a significant effort and cost to meet the industry requirements.

This perspective article highlights some of the processes that are special to Field Operations in these industries.

1. Performance Tracking

One of the key requirements for a Field Operations solution is the need to closely track the sales and after-sales performance of the dealers on a variety of metrics such as sales performance, sales effectiveness, inventory, finance sources, customer satisfaction, service performance, warranty spend, repair parts purchases, etc.

Therefore, a performance scorecard is a critical part of the field operations process and should be embedded in the day-to-day interactions of the field team with their dealers. Traditional CRM systems do not usually have configurable & flexible scorecards and performance tracking tools – which will have to be developed at significant additional costs.

Optimum IKON, on the other hand, includes an integrated performance scorecard / dashboard which can be configured out of the box or easily adapted to address each customer’s requirement.

The performance metrics (KPIs) are also integrated into various other reports to help with better management of the network performance.

2. Structured Visit / Contact Management Processes

Sales or After-Sales Field Managers meet with their dealership counterparts on a regular basis – mostly once a month. Such visit reports can be recorded in a traditional CRM system as documents or as notes, but they are typically not well structured for better analysis and actions.

In fact, traditional CRM tools do not have a structured way of recording contact discussions. Optimum IKON system uses a structure to document discussions around specific topics, allowing users to analyze such discussions and even see impact of such discussions on specific performance metrics. Such structured reporting is also useful from management perspective.

Additionally, traditional CRM systems may not have other tools for escalations, internal notifications, and collaboration.

IKON Field Operations solution helps users manage the full contact meeting process – starting from meeting scheduling, centralized calendar, defining performance-based agenda) and then tracking discussions around specific topics in a structured manner

These discussions can also be tracked for follow-up action plans (detailed below). IKON also provides opportunities for internal notifications to inform other departments or management on important developments within the dealer network.

3. Collaborative Action Planning
Traditional CRM systems have features to manage activities and tasks linked to each entity. Through this feature, field managers can track all their follow-up activities that they need to carry out with their retailers.

But the important missing link is that these activities are managed internally and not working with the dealership network.

Optimum IKON includes processes and features which make it easy for the sales / after-sales field managers to collaborate with their franchise partners on such follow-up activities. They can create activities / tasks (Action Plans) for their franchise partners and assign these activities to specific users to complete by a specific time. Action Plans can be assigned to dealer users to track improvement on specific performance metrics as well.

Extensive reporting is available in the system to manage such activities and track performance improvements.

4. Internal Collaboration
Strong features for internal collaboration are another important area of difference between a traditional CRM solution and a Field Operations solution like Optimum’s IKON.

Any company requires channeling on-going initiatives and projects that are managed by various corporate groups but need to be executed by the field operations. These could include groups like Network Development, Vehicle Distribution, Marketing, Incentives, Warranty, Parts Sales, etc.

All these corporate groups require many activities to be carried out by the field with the network – an area that is usually not addressed by traditional CRM solutions.

Optimum Info’s IKON solution includes extensive processes to manage field assignments / projects and collect data from the field.

Most manufacturers tend to manage such projects through email communications or other tools, while these processes are already integrated within Optimum’s IKON Field Operations solution.

5. Industry Focus Optimum IKON system is tailored exclusively for automotive, powersports, transportation and equipment OEMs that sell and service their high value products through a closely knit franchise network.

These companies require special and focused solutions to collaborate effectively with their dealers in order to be successful in the market. A well performing franchise network will represent the brand well and create a good impact with the end-customer, which is key to growth in this hyper-competitive environment.

A traditional CRM solution could be customized to develop features that may satisfy an individual company, but at a tremendous cost.

However, an industry-specific solution like IKON allows manufacturers to strengthen their Field Operations in a more cost-effective way and incorporate out-of-box features and functionalities tailored to their business needs.

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