What do route drivers know and contribute to the business of refreshment services? Quite a bit according to our recently completed research study about perceptions of OCS, vending, and micro markets route drivers. Even though only 126 route drivers participated, the results are insightful. Here is a peek into five things that route drivers know.
1. Drivers are committed to serving clients.
The highest score in our survey indicated that route drivers are committed to serving their clients and the people who push the buttons on their machines. Route drivers in our study take their jobs seriously. They have deeply held personal values such as attentiveness, courtesy, conscientiousness and responsiveness. Route drivers are most committed to serving clients when their organizations hold these same values to be true.
2. Drivers understand their organization's service culture.
Whether or not the owner has defined it in writing for all to understand, route drivers know the service culture. They see it in the ways that the owner and top management act when serving. The culture includes the behaviors, norms, practices and procedures. Route drivers observe the service of others.
3. Route drivers are loyal to their managers.
Route drivers have a stronger bond of loyalty to their managers compared to their organizations. The bond is based on trust built between the drivers and the managers. Trust is established and made stronger through regular communication.
4. Drivers like open and fair conversations.
Trust is the essential element of fairness. When managers are perceived as fair through open conversations with route drivers, the drivers appreciate the efforts and information. One way to have these conversations is during ride alongs with route drivers.
5. Drivers see themselves as route supervisors.
Our study participants submitted 26 suggestions for a new title. The most popular was "Route Supervisor." Drivers supervise themselves in the sense that most of their work day is out on the route working by themselves. They have flexibility in their route hours and oftentimes variety in their routes. They supervise themselves and a whole group of machines, their silent partners. They directly supervise the level of service quality that each client receives. They also supervise their contributions to the owner's return on investment.
What else did we learn about route drivers? They like all of us want to feel appreciated. Route drivers represent the organization's owner to the clients. When route drivers feel appreciated, their service quality goes up. When their ideas and opinions are valued, they take further initiative to implement improvements. Appreciated route drivers show their appreciation to clients by delivering service quality and show their appreciation to the organization’s owner by increasing the return on investment.
What to do now?
Now that the owner and general manager are aware of some of our research results, what is next? Realize that big or little, local or regional or national, regardless of the differences among organizations, there are some ideas here from route drivers that would work for your organization. Evaluate whether these results are applicable, adaptable and usable in your organization. Ask the route drivers what they see that could be improved. This regular feedback will help the organization continuously raise its bar in service delivery.
We invite you to check NAMA’s website in the coming months for the complete report.
About the Authors
Dr. Ronald F Cichy, O.M., NCE5
The School of Hospitality Business
Michigan State University
Dr. Praneet Randhawa
Merrick School of Business
University of Baltimore
Dan Matthews, NCE5, CCS
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
National Automatic Merchandising Association
This research funded by The NAMA Foundation and G&J Marketing.