Field force automation is the use of mobile devices and networked computers to transmit real time information to and from the field so workers can communicate with headquarters and vice versa. It can significantly improve efficiency and provide a method for a company to track workers, keeping detailed logs on the projects they complete in the field and how long it takes. Mobile sales are also much easier with this method. Many companies offer field force automation software and tools companies can use with it.
In a simple example of field force automation, phone companies have crews of roaming technicians to respond to service complaints. With this software, the phone company can push updates to tell personnel where to go, including rescheduling and moving personnel as needed. For example, if a phone technician is repairing a line and a call comes in for a repair at a nearby location, the company can redirect the technician there after she is done, rather than sending out a new technician. The technician can in turn use the field force automation software to file a report on the problem and may include requests for parts, other service personnel, and so forth.
The software permits detailed scheduling and rapid responses to schedule changes. The field force automation software also allows companies to track efficiency, taking note of how long technicians take to respond to customer requests. The ability to request parts and services can also streamline the process of completing customer requests more quickly; another technician in the area could drop off a needed piece of equipment, for example, rather than forcing the original technician to go back to an office or storage depot.
This can also be useful for managing customer relations. With field force automation, staff members can take and update customer orders in the field, clinching a sale. Some software integrates credit card processing so customers can pay for their orders on the spot. This can be useful for door-to-door salespeople, such as produce sellers who want more payment mechanisms to better serve their customers. This also allows for data collection, where the salesperson takes information requests and notes the kind of information a customer wants.
Companies can use a variety of products for this purpose, many of which work with mobile phones and other mobile devices so companies do not need to purchase brand new equipment. The software needs to be able to communicate with headquarters or a home base, and also usually integrates with tools like mapping software to help personnel determine the best route to a location.