All operators promise quality customer service. This may mean quickly responding to service calls, always having a friendly, likeable demeanor, or having products that fit customer requests.
But being committed to good service isn’t enough. Operators must know if customers are satisfied with the service they are providing. This is the only way to ensure the account will stay with the current vending provider.
There are many ways to measure satisfaction, from a phone call to a written survey, but benefiting from it depends on how well the measurement quantifies the customer’s perceptions and how well the operator responds.
A powerful Web-based survey was presented at the NAMA 2003 Spring Expo by Proydne, Inc. designed to help operators understand client satisfaction with company representatives, products, equipment cleanliness, response time and more. It was used by a few operators, but many were unresponsive.
Could it be that many operators didn’t understand the value of measuring their customer satisfaction, such as how it could increase their profits?
SATISFACTION = GROWTH
Consultant Jim Proebstle, president of Prodyne, Inc. and a NAMA knowledge source partner, encourages operators to measure customer satisfaction. “Customer satisfaction is a proactive, offensive strategy in every business,” he said.
Because vending is an entrepreneurial business, many operators start small, where they know every customer on the route and the customers’ wants. Due to this understanding, indicates Proebstle, their business is successful and their company grows until it is beyond the operator’s ability to know every customer. This is where measuring customer satisfaction is invaluable. It provides a systematic understanding of what the customer thinks — not what someone believes the customer thinks. “It’s a great tool for growth and profitability,” said Proebstle.
MEASURING END USER PREFERENCES
Dr. Bonnie Knutson, professor of strategic marketing at Michigan State University, argues that to maintain long-term profitability, vendors must measure the attitudes and perceptions of the end users.
Many things go into the buying experience for the end user which leads to how satisfied they are with their purchase. Some things are out of the vendor’s control, such as the temperature of the break room or mood of the patron. But Knutson indicates a customer’s satisfaction can be identified and therefore measured with a two-pronged approach: expectation versus perception.
Common consumer expectations of vending machines might be convenience, product for reasonable price, freshness, undamaged product, and a clean machine. The perception is the consumer’s actual experience. Was the machine in a convenient location? Were the prices about what the consumer expected or higher, or lower? Were the chips reasonably whole and crunchy, or broken into bits? And so forth.
“If perception meets expectation, that equals satisfaction,” said Knutson. Logically, if the expectation is higher than the perception, the consumer is angry, and if the perception exceeded the expectation, the consumer is happy.
When incorporating expectation and perception into a survey, expectation becomes a benchmark and perception is the user’s experience. Knutson recommends surveys, such as the NAMA “At-Location Survey of Customer Reactions,” that measure both of these elements.
Knutson offers the following sample survey questions:
* How important is it that the vending company provide product conveniently, provide healthy alternatives, provide brand name products, etc.? Rate on a scale of 1 to 7