Hi everyone! Zarte here! I’ll be with you in a moment, I’m just mapping out a giant shopping list, so bear with me...
...OK, and I’m with you. You see, I’m a big believer in managing logistics effectively. It’s why every shopping list I make, I lump all the things that can be bought from the same place together, so I’m not going to and fro, or missing things out.
That kind of thinking isn’t just for retail trips though – it can also be applied to many business situations. But the one that I’m specifically thinking of today, is how to effectively manage your field-based staff to ensure that you’re not wasting their time, or your money.
You see, all the parts of our in-house designed Business Data Toolkit were designed in response to common data and resource management issues that our customers were having – in this case, finding that they weren’t getting enough effective working hours from their off-site staff.
Particularly of concern, was looking to find an engineer or salesperson who is free to fulfil a customer’s desired appointment time, but realising that assigning that job to them means they’re likely to spend most of their day on the road, and only managing to see a couple of customers – delivering minimal value in the process.
What we thought seemed like a more sensible plan of attack, was to instead plan days out geographically. Rather than fitting things into the staff’s days, it was more sensible in our mind to start using a geographic route mapper, organised in conjunction with details of how long a particular customer’s job should take, to instead divvy jobs out amongst ALL engineers, based on an optimum ratio of time actually spent working, to time spent travelling. Immediately, our customers reported that they were actually able to fit more customers into a day, as their staff naturally ended up covering off areas, rather than just trying to squeeze in additional jobs that meant the customers weren’t getting the service they deserved.
Another way we’ve encouraged our customers to improve the effectiveness of their staff, is to digitalise them more. Traditionally, field-based staff would have their worksheets passed around to them at the beginning of the day. They’d have no concept of what their co-workers were up to unless it was specifically discussed, and feedback would be dependent on them managing to retain all the paper, make the correct notes, and then hand it to the relevant staff member upon their return later that day, or the following day. This meant responsive working more difficult as nothing was being regularly updated, and relied on a lack of mistakes from all staff.
In our view, the way around that is to instead use an array of tablets to work from instead. When each job can be updated as soon as it’s finished, additional steps can be taken much more quickly – steps which themselves could potentially be linked to other arms of our Business Data Toolkit, such as ordering stock for a follow-up visit, or adding additional locations for a satisfied customer with more than one premises. Furthermore, human error occurrences, such as a piece of paper flying out of the open window of a van can become a thing of history. It also creates a much more professional image to visit a customer with a tablet than with a scrappy old clipboard and several sheets of odds and ends.
Another thing to mention is to follow up on the responsive working mentioned earlier. No system is foolproof, as it’s quite possible to turn up to a job and not quite realise the extent of an issue, or conversely, the ease with which something can be addressed. But with a system that everyone has access to, possibilities can open up for a member of staff who’s flying through their jobs to cover for one who has been stuck on the one job since the morning. Traditionally this would have involved you having to make calls around multiple staff, who may not even have been able to answer if they were on the road at the time.
There are doubtless, several more reasons why moving your field-based staff into a technological era could be key, but we think these are enough to whet your appetite with, and hopefully make you want to give us a call to see what we can do for you.
Until next time,