The seas were calm as my wife and I made our way down to the dining room on board the largest cruise ship in the world. Shortly after the host seated us at our dining table for the next seven nights, we were joined by three other couples. We all took turns introducing ourselves to each other and sharing information about where everyone was from and what we all did in our various fields of employment.
Two of the gentlemen were in human resources (HR) departments at the companies they worked for, and the third was a senior corporate recruiter. I shared that my background was working with HR departments in providing employee refreshment programs for our customers.
I found out that both men were vice presidents in their respective HR departments and were also SHRMSCP (Society for Human Resource Management, Senior Certified Professional) certified, and the woman was the senior corporate recruiter for her company. The men were employed by companies that had 185 employees and 235 employees, respectively, and the woman’s company had 310 employees.
During our conversations I shared that the vending industry has a direct effect on employee morale and productivity. Boy, did that open up a can of worms with these three dining partners.
Airing of grievances
All three agreed that a professional employee refreshment program can have both positive and negative effects at their companies. Several questions and comments from our dinner mates included why a vending machine does not exist that will vend the user’s choice of product at least 99% of the time. I was told that they had more important issues to deal with than having to make sure that each employee gets a refund when their machines did not vend the product, and the amount of time that someone on their staff had to spend meeting with the vending company route person on this issue was concerning.
They wanted to know why vending companies never put anything on sale and if it were possible for their employees to have a say in which products go in the vending machines since the route drivers tell them that they put in what their boss tells them to. One of the HR managers said they had an employee purchase a pastry, and, after consuming several bites, the employee turned it over and discovered green mold. That employee had to go home and ended up missing two days of work.
They said that all vending companies come in and tell a good story about how their service is the best and make promises. But once the vending machines are installed, my dining companions said, they rarely hear from the salesperson or anyone from the management team who made these commitments and promises.
I began to think that maybe I should not have mentioned that I was in vending. Still, I agreed that their concerns and issues were valid and that a truly professional vendor would make every effort to resolve these and any other service issues that may arise with their vending company.
Problem-solving at sea
It dawned on me that this was the perfect opportunity to share information with these three professionals about how their concerns can be resolved. Many people in our industry do not share pertinent technical information with locations about the vending machines they will be installing or have already installed.
I informed our dining partners that most state-of-the-art electronic merchandisers manufactured in the last few years come equipped with guaranteed product delivery systems. This ensures that their employees will always get the product they have selected, or they will get their money refunded on the spot. Both HR vice presidents said that would be a solution, no doubt.
I hesitated to include what I am about to reveal, but I said to myself, “Go ahead.” One day, while I was up on the deck of the ship, one of the HR vice presidents asked if I’d be able to tell if his vending machines had a guaranteed product delivery system if he showed me a picture of it that one of his people had sent to him. Sure enough, it had a guaranteed product delivery system. His current vendor had never told him about it or how it works.
When I told them that professional vending companies now have access to vending management systems software that will periodically notify the company about product turns, product expiration dates, etc., they were amazed. I also shared that there are vending companies who do put items on sale, rotate various items in and out of their machines on a regular basis, and run seasonal promotions on Halloween, Christmas, Thanksgiving and Fourth of July products, just to mention a few.
I suggested that they contact their current vendor and schedule a meeting to discuss how they could partner together to make sure their employees are being taken care of. If their vendors do not offer those things, I told them they should contact other vending companies and change vendors.
A professional workplace refreshment program that offers features and benefits for your location’s employees that your competitors do not offer will set your vending company apart. Everyone wins when vending companies direct their marketing, advertising and sales programs toward assisting HR departments that make the workplace environment better. For example, we have given away free vend coupons, $2 bills and scratch-off lottery tickets. This has substantially increased our sales and profits. Their employees are happy when they win something for free. Our typical cost per location to do these types of promotions is about $8 - $10 per month.
When I informed them that the vending companies I have owned and operated over the last 25 years always attempted to involve locations’ HR departments in the decision-making process when we made a presentation, all three stated that was wise.
My experience reveals that it will always benefit your vending company if you make a concerted effort to get the HR departments at your locations involved to approve and endorse your employee refreshment program as part of their overall efforts to increase employee morale and productivity.
Hungry for solutions
All three of these HR-related individuals agreed when the subject of food products — and not just snacks — came up as a way to attract and retain employees at their companies. Each said that almost all vending companies they have dealt with were less than enthusiastic when they requested fresh and/or frozen food products be available via the vending machines in their break rooms or employee lounges.
If you’ve been hesitant to be aggressive when offering food products to your locations, consider that HR departments at an increasing number of companies are finding that food is a motivating factor in the recruitment of good, loyal employees. In addition to benefiting their corporate esprit de corps, it’s also a factor in retaining employees and contributes to their bottom line.
Facebook, Google, Twitter, Microsoft and numerous other companies not only offer food to their employees, but they give it to them for free. If these corporate giants realize how important having food in the workplace is for their employees, there’s a good chance that some — or all — of your current locations would like the option of having a workplace food program.
I know what some of you may be thinking: Food is not as profitable as cold drinks and snacks. I agree, it is more labor intensive and susceptible to spoilage, but if having a good food program will help you to get profitable, high-dollar vending locations, you should take a long, hard look at offering it. I guarantee that one day, you will lose good locations to a competitor who does offer a high-quality food program.