Circle Insights

Principle 6 of Effective Field Force Planning

David Jones

We’ve now covered:

  • Separating teams into generalists or specialists
  • Optimising the utilisation of field sales teams
  • Developing fair and balanced territories
  • The link between recruitment and commuting
  • Frequency patterns and travel times

Our penultimate piece of insight centres on the impact of calling on stores at completely fixed intervals compared with allowing an element of flexibility. When we talk to prospects about how they like to schedule their calls, the default answer is that they want calls to be rigidly phased. For example, if a call has to happen twice in a 4-week cycle and the first call is scheduled for Monday of Week 1, then the second call will inevitably fall on Monday of Week 3. The main reason for doing this seems to be to ensure store owners and managers know when the rep will call next.

However, is it really necessary for things to be that precise? How about, using the example above, if the calls were about, but not exactly, 2 weeks apart from each other?

Having totally rigid phasing of visits puts real constraint on the ability to be efficient. As anybody who has ever been involved in optimisation theory will tell you, constraints and efficiency don’t get along that well. This is especially true when you add in other diary events, such as holidays and team meetings. These can create an ‘echo effect’ through a person’s diary when coupled with rigid phasing of calls.

So, how about if we said that this second call could happen on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday of Week 3? We would still be about 2 weeks apart but we would have many more possible options for scheduling that call, and almost certainly a more efficient outcome. As the statistic shows, a bit of flexibility can cut driving by 14% – this could easily be an extra call each and every day!

Allowing visits to be scheduled 3 days out of phase create a 14% drivetime reduction

We’ll conclude this series with a look at routing and the comparison between a rep versus algorithm in producing the most optimised solution.

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David Jones