Finding The Coffee SERVICE Sweet Spot

Jan. 22, 2019

Gabriel, “Gabe,” Miller has been in coffee sales for years, but now customers are searching him out for better office coffee options. It’s a natural reaction to what’s been happening in his market.   

“For 10 years the economy went on a roller coaster ride, driving prices down along with value," said Miller, vice president of operations at Prestige Office Coffee Services (OCS) in Anaheim, CA. "This happened at home and in the work place. When I jumped back into coffee in 2013, after leaving it in 2008, I found that customers got used to paying low prices and getting low service. It became the norm as OCS got hit hard by the crash and big box retailers like Costco and Sams did not help.” People felt it at home, and those attitudes carried over into the workplace.  Profitability in most industries took a hit and cut backs started. Now that the economy is better, businesses want their service back and are willing to pay a bit more to get it. Prestige OCS has experienced year over year growth, often over 35 percent, since the founder Christopher Leonard brought Miller onboard 6 years ago.  

Armed forces to Big Coffee 

Miller served in the Navy for 10 years, the last few as a recruiter. His degree was in engineering, so when his service was up, he had a job lined up to be a technician for a large product manufacturer. However, he wasn’t sure that’s what he wanted. “I decided to give my sales resume a shot before I committed to turning wrenches the rest of my life, although I liked it, I felt it was time to hang up my coveralls” Miller said.  

Almost immediately he got a call from Aramark’s corporate recruiter. She had a brother who was an Army recruiter and knew first-hand the types of sales prowess recruiters had. She considered Miller a hidden gem, and indeed he did well at Aramark. It was there he met Prestige OCS founder Leonard, who was a very successful manager at the time and now president of Prestige OCS.  

After Aramark, Miller sold for a well-know family orientated janitorial company where his approach changed from simply opening accounts to one of managing accounts and building relationships with the people to which he sold services. He preferred that style and brought that type of account management with him when he came to work for Leonard in 2013. 

It was the right time to come to OCS as the market in Southern California was demanding more from their coffee service. “Currently, I’m seeing customers reaching out for bean-to-cup,” said Miller. “I hear espresso bean-to-cup from time to time, but coffee bean-to-cup is where it’s at. They want cappuccinos, French vanilla lattes and most are willing to pay for it too. I offer less expensive quality alternatives, but this is what they want.”   

Big bean-to-cup business  

Bean-to-cup brewers account for more than half Prestige’s coffee business and is a sought-after solution for many customers. “The market is dictating bean-to-cup, dictating convenience and dictating technology,” said Miller. “Everyone has a smartphone and companies want a coffee machine that mirrors that type of experience.” He notices this is especially true of places where the coffee is available to the location's customers in addition to its employees.  

“It’s about offering good solid service at a fair price and being there when they need you,” Miller added, “My competitors got used to providing low service. Anyone can drop off boxes, the customer wanted a change,” said Miller.   

Adjusting the price per cup 

The key to making the bean-to-cup program work is offering service at a fair price, Millers explains. “Not a low price, not a high price, but a fair price, this allows for a win-win situation for both Prestige and our customers,” he said.  

Each location has a contract that establishes certain usage expectations and the duration of the service agreement. This keeps both Prestige OCS and the company with the bean-to-cup service on the same page. Miller also manipulates the brewers to meet different price points and taste profiles, customizing each bean-to-cup machine he places from factory settings. Miller can offer this in part because of the excellent caliber of his employees.

“I have six guys who run my departments. Rick Ponce with 29 years in the coffee industry heading up sales, Eddie Santos the numbers guy who excels at the finance part of business, Rob Sarno with 20 years' experience in route management and routing technology, Elliot Russell who I call the “Mad Scientist” is a wiz with recipe management and development, his brother Ben who is our Master Technician runs a tight PMS (planned maintenance schedule) keeping our equipment up and running allowing us to respond to service calls faster.  No one goes 24 hours without service from the moment they pick up the phone to call us to when we show up. Finally, there isRichard Fonseca who partners with me to consistently find ways to improve customer service.  We love what we do, and we are good at it.” 

Miller’s secret weapons 

All of the route drivers that work for Prestige OCS are also technicians, so they are familiar with the bean-to-cup machines at each location and can do maintenance onsite. In fact, they will routinely open up a bean-to-cup machine while at a location for regular deliveries and look for scale, wear and tear, corrosion and other problems that could lead to a service issue. The regular maintenance also keeps the machines sanitary. Miller said several times a week the route drivers correct issues that would have resulted in a service call and is glad his team can get in front of problems. 

“[The fact that each driver can take the brewer completely apart and reassemble it] really impresses my customers,” said Miller, “as well as saves me a lot of overhead costs.”  

The technical training of the drivers also helps show the level of service Prestige OCS offers. Miller recounts the story of a location who told him of a broken coffee machine under another OCS provider. When the driver came to deliver the product, the company told him the machine wouldn’t make coffee, Miller recounted. It took two more days before a technician was able to come out and fix that machine, which wasn’t what the company wanted. Miller was able to get the account by offering better service. "I asked if the location would be willing to spend a dollar some more per pound of coffee, knowing that if a machine broke, that a technician would be out if not the same day next morning to fix it,” he said. The answer was an emphatic yes. "At the end of the day when a machine is down and the customer is getting hounded by their co-workers or customers about coffee, spending a hundred or two more a month is an easy decision to make in turn for better service,” said Miller. 

The time was right for better coffee brewers in California when Miller joined Prestige OCS in 2013. However, Miller has increased sales and accounts by a dedication to providing the right level of service, not just selling on being the low price leader, as well as meeting the demand for bean-to-cup. Quality employees and dedication to being the best drive further growth for Prestige OCS.