Wayne Biggs Boasts 99% Retention Rate With Better Customization

Sept. 20, 2017

When Wayne Biggs started Azalea Coffee Service in May 1987, he had no customers and practically no money. What he did have was a working knowledge of the coffee service business, some great partners, and a determination to be the best service provider in his hometown of Mobile, AL.

Perfect fit solutions

What sets Azalea Coffee Service apart is its mission to customize service to the specific needs of its customers. "When talking to a prospective client, we always stress that we are small enough to customize our service to their specific needs, and large enough to meet those needs,” said president and CEO Wayne Biggs. To him nothing expresses how well Azalea Coffee Service provides perfect-fit quality products, service and satisfaction in an effort to make customer workplaces more efficient than long-term customers. "It's reflected in our customer retention numbers, which show a better than 99 percent customer retention rate annually," said Biggs.

Customizing his service was something Biggs started doing from day one, having learned its importance in the field. "I learned the coffee business while serving a route in Mobile, AL before moving to Knoxville, TN, as a district manager for a regional coffee service company based there," said Biggs. "In May 1987 I decided to return to my hometown and start a company."

He and his partners, Jack and Susan Gatlin, started the business that month and began acquiring a small, but solid customer base upon which to build. "We operated out of a 10x20 storage unit and made deliveries out of the back of a pickup truck," said Biggs. The company incorporated in 1988. In 1992, it expanded into vending services and more recently, in 2000, into water filtration service as well as 5-gallon-bottle water delivery.

Azalea Coffee Service continued to grow due to its reputation for listening to the customer, and in 2010 Biggs bought out his partners, becoming the sole stockholder of the C-Corp company. Today Azalea Coffee Service operates one coffee route and two vending routes out of a 4,000-square-foot facility.

Riding the trends

In the beginning, Biggs remembers selling only national branded coffee. "In 1990, we added a private-label line to our product list. K-cups are now a growing segment of our business," said Biggs. Revenues increased moderately over the last 4 years with increases of 9.7 percent in 2015, 3.2 percent in 2016, and an estimated 9.7 percent increase in 2017. A lot of the growth was due to price increases.

While coffee represents most of the company's revenue, vending is a fast-growing area for Azalea Coffee Service. Biggs hopes to use vending, the strong coffee market, and his water service to grow 10 percent per year for the next 5 years. "I believe that to be a very attainable goal," said Biggs. He feels that the economy will continue to rebound and that growth in all areas of commerce will benefit the entire refreshment industry.