The policy of most vending companies is that the only reasons an account is lost is if the account moves, goes out of business, or is not profitable. This is simply an incorrect assumption, seeing that studies have found that only 6 percent of dissatisfied customers will complain.
Do you take ownership?
Customer service must be proactive. And a proactive program will only succeed if there is a person at your company who has “ownership” of the program. Many companies have already designated customer retention specialists. These are individuals whose sole responsibility is to communicate personally with accounts. The companies that do this tend to be large since they have the resources.
But companies do not have to be large to have an aggressive and effective customer relations program. Especially with opportunities offered through email and social media.
Medium-size vending companies can even consider a part-time employee operating from their home.
In most companies, there are lots of things that have the potential to excite existing customers if they are presented in the right way (or presented at all).
If your company has item-level sales data, share this information with your accounts. You can email the sales reports showing the product changes you will be making to improve customer satisfaction and sales.
Customers want to know you better
Even if you do not have item-level data, every operator should establish a seasonal program of product changes based on the number of machines and annual sales of each account.
If you are planning on making technological changes to your machines, such as adding a $5-bill acceptor or recycler, highlight the new premium products you will be vending at $2.50 and more in these machines.
There should be special seasonal products for Halloween, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Spring and Summer. Speak to your product manufacturers and coordinate such promotions with their programs. When was the last time you reviewed your beverage selections and emailed your accounts about the new products now available in your machines?
Coffee is a hot button with consumers today, so promote both the quality and value of your coffee. Set your coffee vending machines for free vends one day each quarter.
Bring extra value directly to your customers! Buy sets of tickets for local sporting events, college and professional, entertainment events, local theater and movies, and iTunes downloads. Place notices on your machines informing customers that have a chance to win such tickets by purchasing products from the machines. Randomly affix “You Have Won!” labels on certain products in the machines informing the customer how to redeem the tickets.
Steve Danzig, a veteran operator and beverage distributor, wrote an extensive article on how to do vending promotions in the April 2008 Automatic Merchandiser. This article can be viewed in the magazine’s archives on its Website, www.VendingMarketWatch.com.
Pay sales people to retain accounts
It is also important to involve and compensate your sales personnel in such a customer relations program. Sales personnel are often only paid for new accounts, not renewing contracts and increasing sales with current accounts. This makes no sense when you consider it is more expensive to acquire new accounts than to retain and develop current accounts.
In his above mentioned article, consultant Jerry McVety quantified such approaches by stating that “for every piece of business you lose, it takes approximately three new accounts to cover the financial loss.”
Sales personnel should be compensated for account retention, for example:
- Renewal of a contract with price increases; and
- Re-surveying current accounts, resulting in either placement of additional machines, removal of non-profitable machines and sale of new services, e.g., OCS.
The Internet has created new ways to reach out to customers. This is how accounts communicate; the investment is minimum; the benefits are only limited by your creativity.
Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can launch promotional emails for a fee. All you need to do is provide the content about your promotions, news about your company and other information you want to share, and the ISP can send this to your email list.