After a lifetime of flying “Economy Plus,” I finally decided to bite the bullet and go Business Class on a recent flight to Europe. We took two different airlines – American Airlines to Europe and British Airways on the return.
My conclusion: Business Class is the only way to go – but not all Business Class programs are created equal, even though the exorbitant price was the same, coming and going.
Admittedly, I am addressing a real “First World” problem, but there is a lesson here that can be applied to every company offering a “distinguished service” program, like Pantry Service or Micro-Markets for example.
For an extra $800 per person one way, American Airlines offered comfortable, fully reclining seating, warm cashews, excellent food, premium beverages and a flight attendant who asked, “Should I wake you up for breakfast or would you like to sleep in?” I hated to get off the plane.
For that same $800 per person, British Airways had a certain Amtrak flair to it. The seating was so awkward, that you had to literally climb over your fellow passenger’s prone body if you wanted to use the restroom. The food was generally unrecognizable. The vodka was Smirnoff and to get a drink or dispose of trash, you had to hand it to a fellow passenger sitting in a pod between you and the flight attendant. There was almost a comedic value to the trip, if not for the price. Of course, it was British humor – not really that funny.
Two programs with the same name – same price, but vastly different.
“They offer the same program”
You have to restrain yourself when you hear a client or prospect say, “Your competitor offers the same program that you do.” How often do we hear this in the pantry service business, where clients rely on the operator to manage a program of beverages and snacks, free to their employees? Or in the micro market business, where clients expect beverages, snacks, fresh food and more, available at fair prices, using reliable, convenient, cashless, kiosk driven technology?
Use the Business Class example when your client comes to you and says that a competitor is willing to do exactly what you do, but will charge less or pay a commission. Take these critical steps to set your company apart so that when this conversation comes up, your superior level of service will be obvious.
Business Class for micro markets and pantry service
The Hot Trend – Décor and Fixtures
- Micro-Markets and Pantry Service
Competition is heating up. As a result, Sandy Schoenthaler, National Consultant and Trainer, says she is seeing more and more custom millwork and signage at locations.
Steve Orlando, co-founder of Fixturelite, and Robert Liva, owner of Graphics That Pop (GTP), both agree that the micro market/pantry design, lighting, signage and fixture business is booming.
Orlando says that design is the differentiator in the micro market and pantry business. He says that employers are not only investing in their own space, but are also relying upon the vendor to compliment what they have already done to create a welcoming work environment. “Our design tool provides a virtual tour of the space for a prospective client - a monumental sales tool,” Orlando added.
More and more, says Orlando, his company is hearing directly from site designers before a market or pantry is built. As a result, vendors are not only coming to him to provide market and pantry fixtures, design and décor – he is bringing active deals directly to vendors.
Robert Liva, owner of GTP, says his company has grown by 300 percent in 2017. Liva says that the industry trend is clearly toward micro market and pantry service locations being carefully customized to the workplace. He says his company focuses on lightweight products, promoting easy installation and ease of use for both the operator and the end user.
Liva is particularly enthusiastic about a new product, the “Automatic Delivery System” which combines a “hold down bar” and a “product pusher” to move the products in a column to the front. Liva says his new system, just two months old, will keep the micro market or pantry space looking showroom new and will cut operator spoilage.
Invest in reliable technology.
- Micro Markets: There are plenty of kiosk platform programs out there. Again, do your homework and choose carefully. Learn about the reliability and features of micro market technology. How will the kiosk platform provider deal with inevitable technology hiccups?
- Pantry Service: Not all gravity feed bulk snack dispensers are the same. You might balk at the price (thousands of dollars) for a ten selection bulk snack dispenser, but the initial order will ease much of the pain and the consumption levels will thrill you. Plus, the client’s happiness with the great selection and sleek look of the unit will make for a feel-good moment. We all need more of those. Fruit baskets are almost as important as the fruit itself. Use larger, multi-leveled baskets that will enhance the presentation of the product and your sales. Pay attention to ripeness issues. Those green or brown bananas are an endless challenge that I do not miss.
Think about demographics:
- Micro Markets and Pantry Service
If the goal is to satisfy the end users and generate more sales at the same time, then operators need to pay more attention to the location demographics.
Shoenthaler says that studying the demographics of the employee base is critical. “You have to customize the products to the demographics of the company,” said Shoenthaler. “A cookie cutter program does not work. This is the biggest mistake that operators make.” In addition to conferring with a company’s human resource department to understand the demographics of the employee base, Shoenthaler says she visits local convenience stores to see what type of products are selling.
Presentation is Everything
- Micro Markets and Pantry Service
When you are introducing micro market or pantry products to an “employee committee,” be sure to serve that sandwich on a plate and that salad, mixed in a bowl. Yes, they will ultimately buy the product when it is wrapped in cellophane or a plastic/paper container, but when a beautiful tuna salad sandwich is presented on a plate, it will look better and taste better. Shoenthaler concurs. “It’s all about presentation. People shop with their eyes.”
Communication is Critical (as always)
One of the biggest mistakes operators make is to do a wonderful job, but not let anyone know about it – specifically, your client.
Have your route drivers take pictures after they service each area of a micro market or a pantry. This allows management to evaluate their performance and if your client wants to see those pictures every day – you can make that happen. Total accountability.
Do not assume that your location contacts, who are wrapped up in their own issues, understand that your level of service is truly exceptional, not just a “distinguished service” program by name. Schedule regular meetings with your clients to solicit their feedback and outline the many special features of your micro market or pantry service program.
With effective communication on a regular basis, even with their short retention span, you can hammer home these three critical points to your clients and prospects that will help you retain and acquire great accounts:
- Our program is exceptional.
- We go above and beyond for you.
- My competition does not offer the same program.
Don’t Forget What Really Matters
Remember what matters the most? Food. Beverage. Service. As important as décor is, great food and beverage products are the key. Bringing in exciting new products and promoting them with a customer loyalty system; that really excites the end user.
While many new fixture related products will promote ease of use, operators must be committed to staffing and servicing market and pantry locations properly. Distinguished service occurs because of management and employee commitment.
I welcome your feedback - Cell 818 261-1758 - bob@tullioB2B.com
Visit the website - www.tullioB2B.com
Over the last 37 years, Bob has sold video games, cigarette machines, cranes and juke boxes to bars and amusement centers, full line vending to public locations and office environments, pay telephones to retailers, coffee service to thousands of office locations and of course, micro-markets. He has a very successful track record as key strategist, sales trainer and media manager under the title, "Director of Business Development" for World Wide Vending and Gourmet Coffee Service.