Automatic Merchandiser

AUG 2015

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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explained Scott. He has continued this innovation by always analyzing opportunities, especially as it relates to customer needs and providing high-quality service. Relatively small but impactful changes can produce a huge advan- tage. This is especially true for smaller operations, which can be nimble and tailor products or service to ever-changing consumer trends and adapt more easily than large, more corporation-type competitors. It's all about what you can provide, says Scott. "No matter how big you are, you have to have other things to offer the customer," he said. Offer- ing more to the customer leads into the second way to develop a business action plan based on other operators. Innovate by looking at competitors "You probably aren't the only game in town," said Jeff Deitchler, gen- eral manager at Prairie Fire Coffee Roasters, headquartered in Wichita, KS. "You need to fnd out what other service providers are doing." Some- times sales staff can ask questions about services when prospecting or receiving a rejected proposal. Loyal, long-time clients approached by other operators will often share the propos- als they are given. No matter how an operator goes about fnding out about the competition, Deitchler recom- mends doing one of two things — top them or exploit their weaknesses. "Beat them at their own game," said Deitchler. "Do what they are doing, but be committed to being bet- ter than they are." Whether it's the product offerings or customer service guarantees, a commitment to excel will pay off with loyal customers. The other option is to analyze competitors' service and identify the weaknesses. Once identifed, operators can take advantage of those weaknesses. "If they don't have regularly scheduled route days for example, you should have them. If they are slow to respond to equipment breakdowns, you should implement a service timeframe guar- antee," suggested Deitchler. This technique also works in reverse, where an operator can analyze what a competitor might say about his or her operation. This leads us to the third place operators can look for inspiration to innovate — within. Innovate by looking at yourself & your operation "In my opinion, competitive advantage comes from people and passion," said Paul Tul- lio, O.C. branch manager for Gour- met Coffee Service out of Van Nuys, CA. People drive a business forward, so having the correct people in place is a key aspect of success and hav- ing an advantage in business. Look for hard workers who have passion. The people servicing customers, from drivers and technicians to the recep- tionist and client representatives, will determine if an operator can gain a competitive advantage or if they are just another service provider. "Pas- sion is what makes people go above and beyond to create an experience for your customers," said Tullio. In fact, he believes it is an essential aspect of a successful operation. If passion is waning, Tullio sug- gests stepping back and remember- ing what inspired the business in the beginning — get back to the soul of the organization. Then channel that passion forward and it will be catching to the others in the company and beyond. "Never be afraid to show your people and your customers how much passion you have for your busi- ness," he said. "People will see how much you care about your customers, your employees, your business and the industry you represent. They can be inspired if you are truly passionate about your work," he added. Whether business is good or bad, it's tempting to be complacent. Change involves uncertainty and risk, but it's an important part of driving a busi- ness forward. Operators should look to customer wants, competing service offerings and even within their own organization for opportunities to innovate. Even small changes in the way a company does business can lead to substantial growth. '' Being able to offer customers the chance to customize their service at the product level gave us a leg up. '' Jonathan Scott, CEO, Capitol Coffee Systems '' Do what they are doing, but be committed to being better than they are. '' Jeff Deitchler, general manager, Prairie Fire Coffee Roasters August 2015 Automatic Merchandiser 41 B U S I N E S S B A S I C S

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