Do you manually manage recurring customer visits?

If your business relies on drivers and sales reps visiting your customers on a regular basis, you would know that managing driver or sales rep runs manually can be a time-consuming, laborious and error-prone process. Whatever industry you are in, effectively managing your field staff and their route plans can be critical to the success of your company. Here are 5 factors that may be affecting your business and costing you money.

1. Paperwork       

Although we have come so far with technology, docket books are still widely used today. Whilst there may be several 'logical' reasons why businesses choose this method, there are a number of challenges associated with it. Besides the problem of manually inputting the data into spreadsheets or the accounting system (see factor 2 - Data entry), the main issuewith this old fashioned way is its inefficiency. As well as utilising large amounts of administration hours, paperwork is constantly piled up somewhere or worse, lost. There is no doubt that some level of paperwork is required in business; however, reducing unnessary paperwork will have a positive effect on the run list process. Fewer mistakes and less paperwork means that in addition to saving administration hours, sales staff can spend more time in the field making sales.

2. Data entry

It is very common for companies to use spreadsheets to create run sheets which are then printed or emailed to drivers or sales reps on a daily basis. This process requires time and money being spent to manually input data, and entering data from run lists at the end of each day requires meticulous maintenance of spread sheets. Manual data entry consumes administration, driver, sales and management staff time - all of which could be spent growing the business or serving customer needs. How much money can you save automating this process?

3. Errors

Errors on runs can easily be circulated for weeks or months at a time. There is no doubt that human error plays a big part in this - we are human after all - whether errors appear in the manual data entry, run sheets, or order taking processes. Errors lead to frustrated office, sales and field staff, but worst of all it can result in customers not being visited when they should be or visited when they have specifically requested a new visit schedule. As a result, your drivers' or sales reps’ time is wasted and your customer is unsatisfied.

4. Time

So how much time do you actually spend across your business manually managing customer runs? Let's calculate it:

  • Imagine that you have five drivers/sales reps whose daily run sheets are administered by office staff, printed out at the end of each day and left out for the drivers/sales reps to collect in the morning. 
  • During the day, the drivers/sales reps make notes on the sheets and at the end of the day, return them to the office to be manually updated. 
  • Taking a conservative estimate, we can safely say that office staff spend 10 minutes doing these manual processes for each driver/sales rep run, and that each driver/sales rep spends 10 minutes in the office going through and amending their respective sheets. This works out to be 8.3 hours each week or 433 hours each year spent simply administering customer runs!
  • And if this estimate is closer to 20 minutes per driver/sales rep, the real number may be closer to 16.7 hours per week or 867 hours per year. 

And what if you have 10 sales reps? You know where this is heading...a lot of time wasted manually managing customer runs, and we all know that at the end of the day, time is money! So, you can see that a lot of time and money is spent on administration, but have you actually thought about how much time is spent calming down frustrated customers, placating annoyed staff and doing ad hoc runs to out of the way places - just to fix mistakes made in manual run list management?

5. Tracking and Reporting

How often has a sales rep or driver gone hours out of his/her way to visit a customer who was not on the run list when they should have been? It's common for driver routes to be unplanned and as a result create unnecessary travel. Missed calls equal missed sales opportunities. Therefore, tracking missed calls quickly in run reports is crucial for business. Automatically tracking site visits and time spent at sites will ensure your staff on the road are adequately spending time with your customers. In addition, improved reporting will help analyse patterns such as missed call opportunities to better serve your customers.

How can automation improve the management of customer visits?

Think of how much time would be saved if spreadsheets, printing and paper were removed and the updated run list was automatically in the driver/sales reps' hands at the beginning of each day? Imagine if the customer runs were updated in one central location by the office staff and sent to the drivers automatically without touching a spreadsheet or printing out a paper run sheet? Better yet, what if the driver received changes to the daily or weekly run at the click of a button – without even needing to contact the office?

Implementing the right automation software system that manages your customer visits can be the key to effectively managing your business. Automated run list management will reduce the amount of time your administration and field staff spend manually administering customer runs, printing run lists, correcting errors, and completing data entry, and will increase the time focused on your customers. It will keep your customer runs in a central location, where they are easily managed and distributed automatically to field staff, enabling the drivers/sales reps to complete more visits per day. More importantly, automating this process means that consistent data is collected and management staff have visibility of customer visits and whether orders/invoices are being raised from the visits. The benefits of switching to a fully featured automation software system are clear.

If you would like to find out more about automation software and customer visits, contact Anigo Systems on or +61 (0) 3 9548 9114.

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