One account Lawlor was pitching had just asked its utility company to send a specialist out and see if they could reduce their energy consumption. They immediately responded to Lawlor's offer for a VendingMiser®.
The VendingMiser® has a motion detector that automatically shuts off the machine power when there is no one in the vicinity. It can reduce a machine's energy consumption by as much as 50 percent.
In his brochure, Lawlor notes the device saves customers an average $240 per year in electrical costs, although savings will vary by location based on the number of machines and hours of operation.
Lawlor places a VendingMiser? on his beverage machines at no extra cost to the customer.
Another account he was pitched was having a problem with its existing vending machines not taking dollar coins. When Lawlor offered a credit card reader in addition to dollar coin acceptance, the account manager was sold. This account has two glassfront beverage machines and a snack machine with a slave frozen food machine. The prices are higher than average and there is no commission.
Next step: back-end software
Lawlor has not set up a "back-end" software system yet. His first step has been to offer technology that directly benefits the customer. The next phase is setting up internal operating systems that will allow his company to grow. This will include management software, including the implementation of DEX handhelds.
Once the "back-end" software is set up, Lawlor will also begin monitoring machines via telemetry, which will allow him to poll line-item sales and machine malfunctions in real time from a remote computer. Lawlor believes that his company will download information from its machines using both remote monitoring and handheld computers.
Remote data retrieval coming soon
One of the most important customer benefits that remote monitoring has offered to date has been the ability to allow customers to view the sales information themselves over a password protected website. In his brochure, Lawlor cites sales data retrieval via remote networking as one of his company's benefits.
In the meantime, Lawlor's business partner, Gayla Stevens, has handled the office administration and bookkeeping portions of the business.
By placing only new equipment, Lawlor has been able to minimize service calls. With 65 machines on location, he has not had to hire a dedicated service tech. He has made ample use of manufacturer financing and bottler-loaned beverage machines.
In exchange for offering new equipment, cashless payment and in some cases, energy reduction, Lawlor asks customers to sign a 1-year contract. Most of them have no problem with this, as they realize Lawlor is investing more than most vending operators in the location.
"If you're going to invest in your customer, the customer has to give you a commitment," he said. "They understand we all have to make money. I don't sell on price."
Technology gives leverage with clients
He also has little problem getting customers to agree to higher-than-average prices. Most of his 20-ounce beverages, for instance are $1.10 to $1.50. His premium ice cream bars are $2.25, and frozen food entr?es $3.50, all in line with area convenience stores.
Lawlor has noticed that credit and bank debit card purchases often start out slowly. The customers are leery since they've never seen a card reader on a vending machine before. But once they realize there is no extra charge for using it, sales pick up.
A preference for land lines
To enable card readers, Lawlor asks most of his accounts to run a land line to the machine card reader. Most accommodate him. The card reader is hardwired to the land line. Lawlor uses wireless connections in some cases, but he prefers to use land lines.
After a cashless purchase is completed, the modem in the e-Port® dials the information to USA Technologies' server, and USA Technologies authorizes the purchases after the fact and electronically credits Apex Vending Services.
Because the authorizations are done in the evening, there is no need for a dedicated phone line for the vending machine. The connection only requires an extension line.