Task management is a core facet of field sales management. Learn how to create and manage tasks, utilize templates, add questions and more below.
Creating New Tasks
Many people dive straight into adding tasks and while that's ok, it pays to pause and reflect on what it is you're looking to accomplish. Ask yourself these two questions:
- Is this a task that my people are going to be doing over and over again?
- Am I going to be asking questions as part of the completion requirement?
- What information do I want to get back from the field and organize?
Ok, now if you have the answers in your head, here's an explanation of why you should ask them:
If the answer to question 1 is yes - then you're going to benefit from making a recurring task.
If the answer to question 2 involves aggregating the responses to these questions and its going to be recurring - you're going to want to make a template task.
What is a Task Template?
A task template is simply as it sounds - its a task model that you create once and can use to create real tasks which occur often without having to recreate the entire thing each time. The benefit of being organized is time savings over the long run. The other main benefit of making a task template is that any actual task made from a given template shares the same structure, so the results of many real tasks can be coalesced for reporting much more easily.
In our opinion - it nearly always benefits to make a task template, its just one extra step. So lets show it here:
When you're looking at your task list, note on the toolbar across the top that it says "Add New Task" and right next to it is "Add New Template" Click "Add New Template" and the screen below will pop up and is EXACTLY like the screen for creating an actual task. Fill it out as if you were making a task, then create the template.
Tips for writing a great task:
- A well written title is paramount. The title is the first thing your staff member will see, so you will want to think carefully about what is the critical information you want to relay to or receive from the field staff. A clear and concise title will make your request clear from the outset.
- Keep the description short. Remember, you want your team member to keep his or her momentum going with store visits. Don't drag your staff down with needlessly wordy descriptions. Consider what, if any, information you need to put into the task that isn't conveyed in the title, and add only anything that is necessary for clarity.
- Think carefully about the priority level. Many people seem to think that marking everything as "Urgent" is a great way to make sure staff stay on top of tasks, but it only leads to confusion and a fear on behalf of the team member that failure is impossible to avoid if all "Urgent" tasks are not gotten to quickly. That way, when a task is marked "Urgent," your team member will know how to prioritize his or her day efficiently.
- Make sure the end date is not open ended if it does not need to be. Help people clear off their plates, so to speak, by putting an appropriate end date in the task each and every time you assign a task.
- Make use of Custom Regions, as you're allowed to assign tasks to specific, custom regions. If you have not yet learned how to leverage the Custom Regions feature that Avantalytics provides, make sure you visit our documentation page on the topic. Quickly divide tasks along parameters of your choosing - certain clusters of states, stores under one field team member, clusters of zip codes. The list is endless, and allows you to truly tailor your questions.
- Make sure to use our other great features like - automatic emails when a task is updated, the ability to upload pictures, the ability to make the task a recurring one and more!
Creating Tasks from Templates
Now on the toolbar, instead of clicking "Manage Tasks" again, you will want to click on "Manage Templates" to view your templates. Note - you can also get here by filtering tasks and choosing "Template Parent" as the task type. The result will look as below:
To make a task from a template, right click on the template task name . When it the context menu opens you should see some options to perform, the one you're looking for is "Copy Task"
When you click on this a new task dialog will appear with all the features of the template filled in. You can change any of the values to suit your due date and other fields. There are options to copy questions and comments etc as well, but you can just hit the finish to create the task.
People often get confused with questions because, like tasks, they create new questions on the fly and add them to tasks without understanding the power of questions when you create and manage them independent of a task. Questions are like task templates, we recommend you always create a question and treat it as a separate building block that you can then add to any one or more tasks after the task is created. The benefit of this is time savings, but its also uniformity for your users as they answer them on their mobile devices in the field. For this reason we have buttons on the toolbar to add and manage questions independent of any task. Understanding this is critical.
The next critical piece of questions is to understand that there are response types which you will choose - numeric, multiple choice, yes/no, freeform text, and image. The response type you choose can weigh heavily on what you can do with the responses later. For example - discrete response types like yes/no can be summed to give you a percentage of each. multiple choice answers can also be aggregated to view the responses in total, numeric responses can be as well, but have no limitation on the number the user can choose.
Freeform is the worst because its highly likely nobody will respond to the question with same response, precluding any aggregation capability as well as making dependent follow up questions impossible due to the lack of discrete expected answers. See below for how a freeform question gets limited quickly:
With these key points in mind - here are some tips for creating good questions that will enable the best analysis in responses.
To write a great question:
- Make it as easy to answer as possible. Avantalytics allows you to ask questions in multiple formats: free form, multiple choice, y/n, upload a picture and more. Each type is better suited toward different types of information gathering. Use this to your advantage to make the questionnaire as streamlined and painless as possible. Your staff will complete more questions and you will receive more meaningful data. For example, if you want to know how tidy a flower display looked, you could have your field staff answer the question by typing their response in a free form text box, or you could phrase the question as "On a scale of 1-10, how tidy is the flower display?" with a multiple choice selection from 1-10. The second format will clearly be quicker and easier to aggregate once you want to begin exploring the data gathered from your surveys.
- Make sure you only ask what you need. Field staff visit different stores, and we all know that time is money. Make sure you keep your questionnaires dynamic, timely and concise.
Want to get more in depth? This training video will teach you everything you need to know about tasks and questions in under ten minutes:
Managing Questions (And Dependent Questions)
Below is a screenshot of a sample list of pre-made questions. This is what you'll see if you click the toolbar options "Manage Questions". The table of entries shows you the specifics of the question, its type, whether its contingent etc. Click on any question to gain access to its properties and add dependent questions.
Adding Dependent Questions
Once you click on a question you'll see something like below. In this example, we've chosen a Yes/No question. What is shown is called a "Dependency Tree" and will highlight which follow up ("child") questions are asked based on answers to the "parent" question.
To add dependent children questions - click on the green text "Add Dependent Question" for the given answer to the top level question. You'll see a popup like the following which allows you to use other pre-made questions or allows you to create a new question.
Note: It is possible to ask multiple questions based on a certain answer. This can be helpful if you want to gain multiple pieces of additional information based on an answer. Below is an example of a question which has two follow-up questions based on a "Yes" answer and no follow-ups on a "No" answer:
Once you've added all the dependent questions you're ready to "attach" the question(s) and their dependents to a task.
Adding Questions To A Task
People often get confused as they try to add questions to a task during task creation. Its not possible to do this. The process is 1.) create a task, 2.) create questions, 3.) add questions to task. Above you've seen steps 1 and 2, below is step 3 - the easiest part! The snippet below shows the example task we've been using that we created from a task template. You can see this because in the description it shows "Template Child". Click on this task in your list of tasks and it opens to show the task action buttons in blue as well as two questions below. Note the yellow arrow which is where you should click to add a question to this task. Below we've added the question we were working on in the example above - you can see the second blue arrow below. You can always see the dependency tree of each question by clicking on it here.
Note: If you've noticed the green "Add Dependent Question" in the tree above and realized it looks just like above when were adding questions, you are quick. You can add questions directly from here, however you need to know that once a question is added to a task it becomes separate from the question in the process above. Just like Task Templates, the questions here are children and not technically connected to the original question any more.
At this point we've walked you through the main process for creating and managing tasks and questions. It may seem like a lot at first, but after a little practice it will become like second nature. The key facets to remember are that Task Templates make task creation and management much more powerful over the long haul by allowing you to use aggregation in insight panels and reporting and generally to allow you to organize like/repetitive tasks. Also remember its better to create and manage questions independent of tasks and add them later. Lastly, its worth it to flow chart out your questions and think critically how to get the most organizable responses from your folks while making it fast for them to respond on their phones!