Automatic Merchandiser

OCT 2011

Automatic Merchandiser serves the business management, marketing, technology and product information needs of its readers including vending operators, coffee service operators, product brokers, and product and equipment distributors in print.

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C U S T OM E R R E L A T I ON S the decisions operators face regard- ing these tools have to do with mak- ing their businesses more customer relations focused. Hence, the very purpose of the service that automatic merchandis- ing provides gives focus to reor- ganizing an operation with new technologies. The proliferation of tools makes planning more necessary. Few operators have the resources to take advantage of every conceivable tool now available. STARTING POINT: WHO AND WHAT ARE YOU? The underlying question that an individual operator must ask is: What is the company mission? The operator who sees his or her mission as providing the larg- est assortment of products at the lowest possible price will be differ- ent than the one who defi nes the mission as creating a memorable refreshment experience. By understanding their mission, operators can develop more specifi c goals in the areas of service delivery and marketing. The operator who successfully introduces automated warehouse management will be able to serve more customers with fewer route drivers. How to make best use of the labor savings will depend on what the company's goals are in the area of customer satisfaction. The company interested in mini- mizing customer interaction will be more likely to assign the former route drivers to tasks having less direct impact on customer service. The company interested in maximizing customer interaction will be likely to promote a former driver to customer relations special- ist, a move which could require additional training. COMPANY MISSION DICTATES CHOICES Providers of some of the new technologies introduced in recent years, such as dynamic routing, have emphasized the opportunities for improved customer interaction (due to giving drivers more time to spend with customers). However, in conducting fi eld research, Auto- matic Merchandiser learned that some of the most technologically progressive operators believe the technology minimizes the need for customer interaction. This point of view is consis- tent with those who have long believed that the best vending service is the one that remains unseen and unheard. Operators who hold this view are those who were less likely to conduct customer surveys in the past and are least inclined to engage in social media in the future. Again, the purpose of this article is not to advocate one school of thought over another. The goal is to recognize that as new tools arrive on the scene, operators must know their objectives as service providers. This understanding will enable them to determine what tools to invest in and what roles to assign employees. An operator could, for instance, want to have a high level of inter- action with the account decision maker but keep his actions largely out of view of the end users. Such an operator would be likely to have a newsletter for the decision maker but not have a Facebook page inviting end users to participate in company sponsored contests. Another operator might take the opposite view and seek to infl u- ence the decision maker through the end users. STEP 1: WRITE THE MISSION STATEMENT The fi rst step is to write the com- pany mission in a few succinct sentences. Everything the company does should be covered by this mis- sion statement. STEP 2: LIST WHAT COMPANY PROVIDES The next step is to make a list of everything customers want from your service. There should be two lists: decision makers and end users. The decision makers may want the following: • Sales reports • Commissions • Statements documenting user satisfaction • Updates on new products available • Reports on machine inspections C ONT INUED ▶ October 2011 Automatic Merchandiser 11

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