The company interested in maximizing customer interaction will be likely to promote a former driver to customer relations specialist, a move which could require additional training.
Company mission dictates choices
Providers of some of the new technologies introduced in recent years, such as dynamic routing, have emphasized the opportunities for improved customer interaction (due to giving drivers more time to spend with customers). However, in conducting field research, Automatic Merchandiser learned that some of the most technologically progressive operators believe the technology minimizes the need for customer interaction.
This point of view is consistent with those who have long believed that the best vending service is the one that remains unseen and unheard.
Operators who hold this view are those who were less likely to conduct customer surveys in the past and are least inclined to engage in social media in the future.
Again, the purpose of this article is not to advocate one school of thought over another. The goal is to recognize that as new tools arrive on the scene, operators must know their objectives as service providers. This understanding will enable them to determine what tools to invest in and what roles to assign employees.
An operator could, for instance, want to have a high level of interaction with the account decision maker but keep his actions largely out of view of the end users.
Such an operator would be likely to have a newsletter for the decision maker but not have a Facebook page inviting end users to participate in company sponsored contests.
Another operator might take the opposite view and seek to influence the decision maker through the end users.
Step 1: write the Mission statement
The first step is to write the company mission in a few succinct sentences. Everything the company does should be covered by this mission statement.
Step 2: List what company provides
The next step is to make a list of everything customers want from your service. There should be two lists: decision makers and end users. The decision makers may want the following:
- Sales reports
- Statements documenting user satisfaction
- Updates on new products available
- Reports on machine inspections
The end users will want the following:
- Good value for their money
- Clean and attractive machines
- Convenient payment options
- New products on a regular basis
Step 3: List company activities
The next step is to list every ongoing activity the company conducts: Training, record keeping, phone followup, filling bins in the warehouse, etc.
Step 4: Match company activities to customer experience
Then list how each activity relates to the account decision maker and how it relates to the end user.
This will be a long list. It will allow every employee to see how their task affects the customer.
Step 5: how roles impact customers
The next step is to list all the positions in the company and how each position impacts customer satisfaction. This step has taken on new importance in companies that have introduced technology tools since new technology has changed some employees’ tasks.
Pre-kitting and dynamic scheduling, for example, allow drivers to service more stops. In some cases, it results in fewer visits to locations.
If the company believes maintaining contact with customers is important, management must determine how this contact will be provided. With today’s communication tools, there are more options for providing this than ever.
Item-level reporting at the machine level allows the operator to provide customers more detailed information about location product preferences. Remote machine monitoring gives operators a tool to make transaction information accessible to account decision makers without leaving their desks.
Management must decide if providing this information is beneficial to its customer relations and if so, develop processes for gathering it and providing it.
In interviewing operators, Automatic Merchandiser found varying opinions about how much information to share with customers. Providing unwanted information can hurt more than help customer relations.
Many operators noted that it is important to decide what information to gather since every task costs valuable employee time.