The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines management as “the act or art of managing: the conducting or supervising of something (as a business)”.
For organizations with employees who operate in the field on a daily basis, this definition only scratches the surface of what management means. Merchandising companies, organizations that perform routine services, businesses that perform marketing or sales functions—these are all groups that often have employees working away from a central location—groups we can refer to as field-based organizations.
Field Activity Management is the art of managing and reacting to all of the moving parts a business has operating outside of a central office. The specifics of an operation will differ from industry to industry and from business to business, but in general, Field Activity Management covers all of the operations of businesses who focus on data collection and analysis, but still work on acquiring new customers and maintaining existing relationships. In the past, a business unit that operated in this manner was forced to categorize itself as a Sales Force or a Field Service Organization. However, their position is as unique as the challenges that field activity managers and field representatives face every day.
To truly understand what Field Activity Management means to an organization, it is necessary to view in more detail the specifics of that organization, and what their primary function in the field is. These are some of the functions that help define what exactly Field Activity Management is.
Whether restocking consumer goods at a retail location or supplying a distributor, replenishment orders are a staple of Field Activity Management. Representatives in the field are often expected to do more than simply bring product to a specified location. Once reps are physically at a retailer or other customer location, they are expected to perform field research on the current situation surrounding said client.
Merchandising Products on Retail Shelves
While certain industries are more apt to utilize reps in the field as merchandisers, there is a place for merchandising in all aspects of Field Activity Management. Understanding the aesthetics and science behind proper product placement shows dedication to customers and to a brand, and can help to increase existing and new sales.
Marketing for Referrals
Field Activity Management is about consistency and growth, and referrals are one of the primary components involved in developing a larger customer base. Taking so small an action as having reps ask existing customers for the contact info of similar businesses can go a long way. This is one area where managers are often encouraged to incentivize field representatives.
A broad term in comparison to the others covered here, maintenance is the foundation of effective field management. Customer maintenance, product maintenance, supply chain maintenance…the list goes on and on. It is not enough to pursue new customers and ignore existing clients. Improving on existing practices should be on the agenda of every efficient Field Activity Manager. This includes leveraging new technology as it becomes available, meeting with or spending time with reps in the field, and asking for customer feedback. Understanding that the systems in place can always be improved upon is what elevates an average Field Management strategy to the next level.
Whether employees are setting up and maintaining promotional displays and events themselves or that duty is left up to retailers, it is vital for Field Activity Managers to monitor in-store promotions. Ensuring that existing promotions are being run as agreed upon helps to maintain brand consistency and stops customers from becoming confused or disillusioned.
Market Research & Data Collection
The ability to perform in-house market research is more realistic than ever before with the cornucopia of mobile devices and software available to field management business owners and representatives. Performing price and promotional audits while collecting information on competing brands and on product location is absolutely necessary in an age where data is king. Field Activity Management means being able to get the most efficiency out of representatives in the field, including asking them to perform routine market research in all customer locations.
A deep understanding of how teams are most effectively composed and maintained is the glue which keeps Field Activity Management together. The field team is literally the engine which keeps every other aspect of field operations running and striving for anything less than perfection in this area is a recipe for disappointment. Equipping employees working out in the field with the right hardware and software to perform their duties will mean more comprehensive data, and happier employees. Real-time communication from manager to employee and from employee to employee is par for the course with the affordable technology available to business owners today. It ensures higher levels of customer service and can help to curb the feelings of separation and company detachment that many reps in the field are prone to.
Understanding where field reps are at all times helps to prevent customer service faux pas where appointments are not met or the promised services are not provided. Monitoring field rep location allows field managers to resolve disputes with irrefutable evidence, eliminating the difficult dilemma that arises when the word of an employee goes against that of a customer.
Proof of Service
The final aspect of Field Activity Management is being able to instantly confirm the completion of services and duties in the field. Leveraging the correct technologies, such as mobile forms, allows reps to send data such as electronic signatures back to managers, giving businesses the documentation they need to avoid discrepancies in customer records.
Field Activity Management is incredibly unique when compared to other conventional areas of management. Field managers and their representatives need to be able to juggle many tasks and employees at once and prevent mistakes all while maintaining a superior level of customer service to existing clients and acquiring new customers. Detail-oriented field managers leveraging the correct technologies will be able to handle anything that their role can throw at them, just so long as they follow the principles described above. Field Activity Management is more than another form of field management, it’s a strategy which is more important now than ever before, and understanding its composition at a deeper level is the perfect way to gain a competitive edge over competitors in any industry.