Behind the Scenes: ECRM’s Scheduling Team 7/26/2017
When the winter storms hit the Northeast earlier this year, more than 75 buyers had their flights cancelled as they headed toward ECRM’s Retail Pharmacy - Branded Rx & Vaccine EPPS, at Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and its Vitamin, Diet & Sports Nutrition EPPS, Hilton Head Island, SC.
The ECRM travel team worked round-the-clock to reschedule these buyers’ flights to get them to the sessions, while at the same time the schedulers on site at each EPPS were in close contact with them to adjust these buyers schedules so that even with their late arrivals, no meetings were missed and they received the maximum benefit possible from each session.
The scheduling team, led by Lesley Seele and including Jess Beharry, Tiffany Crump, Katie Hasson, Carson Smith, and Marisa Wilt, are the ECRM staffers behind-the-scenes who ensure that the right buyers and sellers are matched and that each participant receives the best possible set of appointments during an EPPS. You rarely see them, and when they do their jobs well – which they always do – you don’t even know they are there. But what they do is absolutely essential to ECRM’s mission of helping retailers efficiently discover new products and plan their categories. Without the tight schedule control developed by this team, it all falls apart.
This is no easy task. The schedulers have to take many factors into account, such as buyer and seller EPPS focus, the hotel layout, arrivals and departures of each session participant. And that’s just the beginning. Plus, any adjustments they make to a single attendee’s schedule can reverberate across many others, and if there are crossover EPPS meetings – in which buyers are having meetings across several related EPPS sessions, like Sun Care and Personal Care, for example – this coordination can be exceedingly complex. Indeed, maintaining the scheduling system is a real balancing act. Here’s a glimpse at how they accomplish this feat.
Prior to an EPPS
Months in advance of an EPPS, the scheduler receives the contract that lists out the rooms contracted for the EPPS, and then develops a rooming spreadsheet that will be filled out during a call with the category lead and Senior Account Manager. Based on this rooming information, the scheduler puts together the flow of the meetings. This includes the hotel flow as well as grouping vendors of like categories together, so that buyers don’t have to go back and forth across the hotel to get from meeting to meeting.
Next, they input the vendor flow in ECRM’s proprietary scheduling application and then slot the buyers in the most optimum slots. From there, the system generates a preliminary generic working schedule to be adjusted based on input from buyers and sellers. The account managers then review these schedules with buyers and sellers, and then any additions or removals are indicated and then the schedules are revised. This takes several rounds of updates as new buyers and vendors register.
Based on this input, the scheduling application creates a grid based on the slotting, and the scheduler tweaks each schedule to both maximize buyers’ time at the EPPS, but to also ensure that they have an adequate amount of breaks throughout their day. Adjustments may also be made based on specific scheduling notes – for instance, if two buyers from the same company can split their schedules in order to see more sellers. There will be several such rounds of schedule updates before a final schedule is locked in a few days prior to the EPPS and sent to participants.
During an EPPS
During an EPPS, the schedulers are on-hand to handle any last-minute adjustments; for example, if a buyer would like to add a vendor to his or her schedule, or has a flight delay and arrives late, or must leave due to an emergency -- things that can come up at the last-minute no matter how much is prepared in advance. This is where the scheduling team really excels, keeping cool heads while reworking the schedule grids to get the changes made without a hitch.