POU is a more efficient option for many locations. Additionally, POU is more convenient for an office of predominantly women, who can’t or don’t want to lift 50 pounds of water.
At most locations, aesthetics are important, although not at an additional cost. Most consumers preferred a sleek black or stainless steel unit to the old white or almond models. “The water cooler is the face of the product,” said Goade who sees customers choosing charcoal, black or platinum units.
Goade chooses a cooler style to fit into the environment. He is focused on the aesthetics of the entire break area. “We’re looking not just at coolers; we’re also working in designing break stations and cabinetry to incorporate our coffee brewers with coolers.” The idea is to create a space in the break area where Goade can merchandise all his products with an integrated presentation, including allied OCS products.
Goade is also brand conscious. When 5-gallon jugs were the norm, Goade recalled there were brands on the jugs. The logo represented quality and was important to the consumer, said Goade. Now there are no logos, but Goade is working to still make that quality connection with the integrated displays and merchandising tools he has to communicate the value of the product he’s delivering.
Past the glitter of CD players or radios in the stands, water coolers are pretty much the same inside, said Leeper, with little change to the cooler components. There was a thermo exchange model which cooled water without a compressor, but it didn’t work very well. If two people got 12 ounces of water each, the reservoir tank was empty and served room temperature water, he said.
Other things to consider
Owens doesn’t feel the look of the water cooler is all that important. His major concern is that there is no drain. Customers often mistake the drip tray under the faucet as a real drain and pour water into it or let the water run into it. For him, 99 out of 100 service calls for leaks are because clients are not emptying the tray and it begins to overflow. The machine looks like it’s leaking internally when in fact it is due to the overflow from the drip tray.
Owens would like to see an autofill technology on the equipment, like some fast food restaurants now have. A cup is placed underneath and the system starts dispensing liquid. There is a sensor that measures when the liquid gets near the lip of the cup and stops the flow. It works with any size and eliminates the overflow.
Andy Kartiganer, who operates Professional Vending Services in Coconut Beach, Fla., switched from a water cooler with a stationary bottle to a straight water cooler. He originally wanted the stationary bottle because he perceived customer interest in a bottle system.
He found that if the 5-gallon coolers were in direct sun light, the bottle would turn green. Even if the systems were not in sunlight, the gaskets often leaked and had to be replaced, requiring extra parts and labor. He switched to a POU system and has found there is no less customer demand for a cooler with no bottle and has far less service costs. They simply change the filter every six months.