For OCS, These Four Lessons Lead to a Crossroad

Aug. 17, 2020

I have not set foot in a grocery store since March 18, one day before the California “lockdown” kicked in. A grocer who I knew personally was in my face, loudly asking me if I thought “this whole virus thing was for real.” From that point on, I become a loyal Instacart user.

Prior to March, I had never used an online grocery shopping service. According to Instacart, I have saved 85 hours of shopping time. I also feel safer and less exposed to COIVD-19. Am I paying more? Absolutely! Is it worth every extra dollar? Without question.

Happily paying for safety and convenience

Here is the key point for OCS operators and anyone in business today: Because safety and convenience are important to me, I am willing to pay more for a quality experience that meets those needs.

More opportunity than ever

As OCS operators reposition themselves to serve clients, they need to awaken to the fact that the office environment has changed forever. The office is not going away, but there is a new mindset among your clients.

While there will certainly be less employees in the office for a while, there will be more opportunity than ever for OCS operators who are willing to reinvent their approach.

There are four lessons we can learn from emerging trends and the new client mindset.

Lesson #1 – Do not tolerate marginal accounts

The client that refused to invest in the happiness of their employees in the best of times will find themselves without a service, because the cost of doing business is going up. Operator pricing and minimum sales requirements will need to follow suit.

Marginal accounts require too much effort and energy. As optimistic as I was about small accounts that were “poised to grow,” most of the time they remained small, complained more and bought less until they finally disappeared.

Lesson #2 – More than ever before, do not sell on price

Quality OCS accounts are going to be sold (like my Instacart experience) based on three factors, not necessarily in this order:

·Employee safety

·Employee convenience

·Quality of the experience

Since price is not on the list, we will need to re-educate our salespeople. In “Selling Convenience Services,” the online course that I developed for NAMA, I addressed the difference between a “Sales Professional” and a “Presenter.”  “Lowballing, or selling on price alone is bad for a company and bad for the industry. In simply commoditizing our industry’s products without exploring alternatives, the Presenter reduces profit margins for their company and encourages prospective clients to order online from office supply and other internet retailers.”

If your sales reps can only sell on price, you have two choices: Train them properly or show them the door. The top locations that will drive your business are not focused on price. Actually, they never were, but many operators, selling from a position of fear, never realized that.

Lesson #3 – Take quality to another level

Talking to facility managers, we know one thing for sure: Our clients want operators to help keep their employees in the office as much as possible. It is a safety issue. So, how do we make it convenient for them to get the quality level that keeps them in the office?

Josh Rosenberg, an industry veteran who recently became Chairman of NAMA, urges OCS operators to focus on making our products something more than just “the available option” when a client cannot leave for a latte or forgets to order in. Rosenberg believes that operators need to explore the possibilities in offices, which could mean charging employees directly for a more elevated experience, or getting support from a client to cover the cost of a barista.

OCS operators must also be prepared to invest in touch-free, automated coffee and specialty drink solutions. Industry consultant Sandy Schoenthaler said her OCS clients are installing more high-quality bean-to-cup brewers than ever before. “Companies want to keep their employees in the office. Since it is now a top priority, some companies are now willing to pay more for the convenience and quality,” she added.

Lesson #4 – Reinvent to capitalize on opportunities

How can we deliver our products directly to the desk of the end user? It might look a little like the TV series Mad Men, but the coffee cart is making a comeback.

The coffee cart would serve as a “pantry service” on wheels – featuring coffee, specialty drinks, fresh food, snacks, cold beverages – all delivered by a staff member, paid for by your client. In fact, let’s call it the “Pantry Cart.” It could be the immediate savior of the pantry service business.

Farfetched? Not according to a recent article in Fast Company: “How it works: A nicely dressed hospitality concierge, wearing protective gear, pushes a cart stocked with coffee and all the accoutrements, plus healthy snacks throughout the office space, serving each person individually.” The article notes that some big companies are already on board, ordering their own carts.

OCS operators are at a crossroad

OCS operators have three choices:

1. Bury your head in the sand: Hope that when the offices repopulate, things will basically revert to the way it was in January. I can introduce you to a good business broker. 

2. Reinvest: Turn to technology to offer solutions that that will promote safety, convenience and quality. This approach will be enough in many locations. 

3. Reinvent: Instead of chasing the “Work at Home” market, invest your capital and energy on taking OCS and pantry service to another level. A barista? A “Pantry Cart?” A shared cost arrangement?

Option number three requires courage, innovation and the confidence to enlist your clients in a true partnership. The OCS operators who make this choice are the ones who will enjoy the best accounts and will truly benefit from the opportunities that exist in the new office landscape.

I always appreciate your feedback – [email protected] 

Industry consultant Bob Tullio ( is a content specialist who advises operators in the convenience services industry on how to build a successful business from the ground up. Tullio just launched a You Tube Channel, b2b Perspective, designed to “elevate your business in 2 minutes” and is currently developing an online course, “Leverage the power of LinkedIn to grow your business.”

As he is a recognized industry expert in business development and sales, NAMA hired him to write and narrate the new online course, “Selling Convenience Services,” which is now available. Use discount code B2B10 for an instant discount and for free access to upcoming Q & A Webinars from Tullio in the coming months. Here is a free sample of the course.


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