Brad Ellis, second from left, addresses SEVA, flanked at left by Marc Whitener, Tom Barlow and Dennis Hogan.
Most industry observers recognize new technology can make vending more exciting and appreciated. There are three schools of thought on what is needed to allow this to happen: 1) a more favorable business environment; 2) a new way of thinking among operators; 3) a combination of the two.
Option 1 we have no control over. Option 3 depends in part on option 1, leaving option 2 as the only scenario the industry can fully control.
The scenario was described in the form of a personal story by Brad Ellis, president of Crane Merchandising Systems, during the Southeastern Vending Association (SEVA) Convention in Destin, Fla. last month. Ellis spoke on a panel discussion on the future of vending along with Dennis Hogan, CEO of Canteen Vending Services Inc.; Tom Barlow, senior vice president of vending and wholesale for Coca-Cola Refreshments North America; and Marc Whitener, a Louisiana operator.
Ellis wasted no time getting to the heart of the matter. He said many vending operators provide good service. But customers have a hard time measuring vending service. As a result, vending operators end up differentiating themselves on the basis of price and commission.
Ellis provided a real life story from a large vending customer he happened to visit. The account admitted that their selection of a vending operator was ultimately based on commission.
The account manager told Ellis they were never told about new vending technology and how it might improve their service.
At the end of the day, it was about commission, even though they said they were surprised they were entitled to a commission in the first place.
That a high profile account was not served in the best way possible, given the capabilities today’s machines can provide, reflects the degree to which the industry is hamstrung by regressive practices and thinking.
The SEVA panelists agreed that new technology, while promising, is not fully understood as cost justifiable.
One thing that vending operators can change, however, is the way they think about the service they provide.
Operators, by changing their way of thinking, can change their customers’. The challenge is not insurmountable.