How to pick the best route optimization software for your sales team. Our seven essential features to look for before you buy.
Seven essential features to look for in the best route optimization software
Today's field sales teams, fleet managers and delivery drivers have a lot of technological options at their fingertips. From digital calendars and schedules to consumer navigation apps that provide turn-by-turn directions, it seems like the modern road warrior has everything they need.
But when it comes to route planning and optimization, failing to find the best software for your particular needs can really undermine your productivity.
Here are some common problems:
- Consumer GPS tracking apps weren't designed for sales teams or commercial drivers. There are quite a few key features and functionality that other routing apps don't provide, simply because they aren't needed by regular consumers. These sales team and fleet management focused features could represent game-changers for your team.
- Switching between apps takes time and focus. When commercial drivers and salespeople need to use multiple apps to access the data they need, it takes time and effort away from their driving schedule.
- Manual route optimization is archaic. While some organizations still optimize their routes manually, there are better solutions that can save this time and effort while still putting drivers on the best routes. It's time to put this kind of legacy process in the past.
The best route optimization software can help you overcome these challenges. But you need to make sure your chosen solution has all the right features if you're going to stay ahead of the competition.
Dedicated routing software solutions aren't just consumer-level navigation apps. These platforms provide so much more for you, your traveling sales reps, your field-based customer teams or your fleet of delivery drivers.
Let's take a closer look at this technology, including the essential features that the best route optimization software will provide.
First things first: What is route optimization software?
Although "route optimization" may sound a bit like a consumer navigation solution, it's very different.
A full-service route planner helps you and your sales reps or fleet drivers select the most efficient driving route, taking into account elements such as:
- Average drive time
- Delivery schedules
- Client locations
- Deliveries and routes of other sales reps or drivers
The best route optimization solutions are built with the needs of outside sales reps and fleet truck drivers in mind.
Users can share their routes and itineraries with their co-workers and/or support staff back at headquarters. This helps keep everyone – from the office, to the road – on the same page with scheduling, client meetings or deliveries.
The best route planning software also enables you to upload your own business data, including customer contact and company names, addresses and phone numbers. You can either transfer this information into a spreadsheet and upload it or connect your CRM directly to your route optimization software. This way, drivers can easily pull up the information of frequently visited destinations, and quickly add these to their driving routes.
More than driving directions
Overall, a key difference between route optimization software and other driving or scheduling apps is that route optimization is comprehensive software created just for sales teams and fleet managers. This software does more than tell drivers how to get from point A to point B. It automatically arranges stops in the most efficient manner and provides an optimized route and schedule.
With route planning software, drivers can also add multiple destinations to their route, and map out their entire day (or week or month) of driving. This comprehensive picture of each salesperson or driver, alongside information for the entire team or fleet, is a key advantage for today's traveling sales teams and supply chain fleets.
What does it mean when routes are optimized?
An optimized route for your sales reps or fleet drivers isn't just the most efficient path from one destination to another. Optimization for your vehicle routing also helps reduce fuel cost and decreases wear and tear on your fleet vehicles or sales reps' personal cars.
Through route planning and optimization, fleet or sales team managers can quickly and easily visualize the best way to split up client appointments or deliveries among drivers. This translates to better-balanced workloads, improved scheduling based on drivers' locations and drive time and the best customer service for sales performance.
Do these pain points sound familiar?
One of the greatest motivators for seeking out the best route planner for your business is that it can resolve so many of the biggest problems faced by sales teams and delivery fleets.
Inefficient routes and unnecessarily long drive times
Your salespeople or fleet drivers shouldn't have to weather more miles than necessary. Inefficient routes don't just make things harder on your traveling sales reps or fleet drivers — they're also harder on your vehicles. What's more, increased stress on your fleet or your employees' vehicles can add up to costly maintenance just to keep them on the road.
Route optimization, on the other hand, can help plot the most efficient driving route from destination to destination — even on a multi-stop route. This cuts down on drive time and unnecessary driving, while curbing high fuel and vehicle maintenance costs.
If one fleet driver or sales rep does significantly more driving, he or she can burn out quickly and lose motivation. Improving the workload balance among your available staff helps you better allocate your driving resources. You may even be able to reduce the number of drivers assigned to a particular route or territory for cost savings and driving efficiency.
When your client meetings or deliveries are well divided among your workforce, employees are happier.
Complex scheduling and/or missed appointments
While drivers work incredibly hard to avoid delayed deliveries or missed appointments, these problems can creep up without a comprehensive route optimization solution.
The best route optimization software takes into account your own client delivery data, calendar scheduling and more. And when all of these elements are easily accessible and visual through a single route optimization platform, missed appointments or deliveries become a thing of the past.
Inability to adjust routes as schedules change
Drivers must have a way to adjust their routes based on their real-time schedules. For instance, if a meeting runs long or a delivery takes more time than planned, drivers and salespeople need to be able to push their scheduled routes accordingly.
Without this feature, teams consistently run behind schedule. What's more, managers and office support staff don't have insight into these delays. A route optimization solution can change all that.
Lack of customer service support
All of the problems discussed above can quickly spiral and impact not only your employees, but the customers they serve as well. Route optimization can help resolve these issues and eliminate barriers that hamper your team's ability to provide the best possible customer service.
If any of these sound familiar to you and your team, it's time to put in place route optimization software that can eliminate these problems and help you succeed.
Here's what you should look for.
Seven essential route optimization features
Not all route optimization software is created equal. Some solutions are little more than navigation software with calendar features – and we can do better than that for you and your team.
As you weigh your choices for your route optimization solution, there are a few critical features to look for. Finding a solution that incorporates all of these will help ensure the best return on investment for the software, as well as the highest satisfaction level among your drivers.
Ideal route optimization software will include:
1. Upload your customer destination information
As opposed to simply inputting address information, the best route optimization software will enable users to upload their own customer data. This includes company names, points of contact, addresses, and phone numbers. What's more, as managers and drivers plan their routes, their destinations will display according to these unique details, and not just a generic destination address.
2. Add multiple stops along the route
Route optimization software should support scheduling and route planning by allowing drivers to add all of their planned stops along the journey. Drivers and managers can see the comprehensive driving route, and not just individual legs of the trip from destination to destination.
3. Include start and end times for meetings or deliveries
You should ensure you have additional scheduling features, like the ability to add the planned beginning and end times for each appointment. This is incredibly helpful for drivers to keep their deliveries on track, as well as for sales reps who need to ensure they make every meeting on time.
4. Edit and adjust destinations, routes and schedules on the go
Should deliveries or meetings take longer than planned, your optimization software should allow you to adjust the route (and every destination along the way) in real-time. And if a sales rep is running ahead of schedule or has a cancellation, they should be able to look at other nearby customers that aren't on the current route schedule. This allows them to add new points and use their time effectively when things don't go according to plan.
5. Route planning efficiency
One of the main functions of your software should be identifying the most efficient route and eliminating unnecessary miles for drivers. Best-in-class route optimization software will take into consideration drive time, drivers' schedules and other elements to find the best possible driving directions.
6. Integration with top navigation apps
Speaking of driving directions, route optimization solutions should also be able to integrate, and open the identified efficient route in leading navigation apps. This provides drivers with simple turn-by-turn directions, alongside the data and details they can view directly through their route optimization solution.
7. Share routes with team members
Users should be able to seamlessly share their planned routes. This includes sharing with their managers to support the best workload visibility, as well as with office-based route planners and support staff. And should other drivers or salespeople need to know where their co-workers are and where they're headed, sharing the route should be just a click away.
What these features mean for you and your team
Selecting a solution with these powerful and intuitive capabilities means that your team is armed with in-depth visibility and detail far beyond what consumer-level apps can provide.
In addition to reducing unnecessarily long drives and saving fuel along the way, enterprise grade route optimization gets your people where they need to go, on time. This translates into cost savings, as well as improved customer service, more sales and higher revenues.
If you're ready to see these features in action for yourself, start a free trial of the best route optimization software today.
Manager Heather is eSpatial's Customer Communications Manager. With a background in journalism and communications, she specializes in making technical topics more approachable. Her articles dig deep into how businesses can use mapping software to achieve their goals.Read more from Heather McLean