From the days when vending machines first appeared in cafeterias, the route driver has played a key role in the success of the vending company. The driver established the relationship with the customer and represented the service provider to the account. It was the driver who made sure the customers got what they wanted, made change, provided refunds, and kept the machines clean, filled and working.
The driver, in essence, was the vending company’s back bone. A good driver was more than worth his or her weight in gold.
Technology changes things
But as technology has created new efficiencies, everything about the vending operation is changing. Including that seemingly unchanging truth.
When DEX technology first came on the scene, it was hard to say exactly how things were going to change.
In the beginning, only a small number of operators were committed to DEX. Given the problems these early adapters faced, there was even uncertainty whether the new tools were going to survive.
Today, the hard part is over, and it’s safe to say that DEX is here to stay. Every employee is affected. So much, we cannot help but acknowledge vending is being “reinvented,” as explained in our article on page 20.
The question of how this affects the route driver is particularly important because many operators have a hard time changing how they view that key position.
Drivers won’t select products
Pre-kitting routes and dynamic scheduling are two of the most significant improvements that DEX technology offers. In using these tools, the task of selecting what goes on the trucks moves from the driver to the office. There is no getting around the fact that the driver no longer has the same amount of control over what goes in the machines.
Some say the driver has more time to be a goodwill ambassador to the customer. Others think the driver should focus on cleaning machines and maintaining the condition of the break area.
Still others think the driver should focus on executing his deliveries and leave the goodwill to dedicated client relations specialists. In delivering orders based on machine par levels, the driver must follow instructions accurately and pay attention to what they are doing.
The driver may not be the company’s back bone any more. But he or she does remain the company’s goodwill ambassador.
Client relations specialists make sense for many companies, but they do not visit the accounts as regularly as the route person, and they don’t have the same opportunity to interact with the people at the account. The client relations specialist focuses more on the decision maker than the end user.
How the driver represents the company to the customer remains as important as ever. And given the fact that deliveries are less frequent with dynamic scheduling, the driver takes on even more importance.
Vending needs a human face
Human communication skills make all the difference in the world to customers.
The need for human interaction is especially important for a service where the customer primarily interacts with machines and not people.
Technology has created new and better ways of operating a vending business. It should be used to empower an operation’s efforts to provide a rewarding customer experience. That experience will still require the physical presence of a human being.