Visibility Is A Must

Jan. 28, 2016

I have been to many break rooms and public areas where there is a vending machine, but no visible placard with the vendor’s name, address, etc. There often is a visible license sticker, but that is it. I have often wondered why. Is it because vending has historically been judged successful when its service is invisible? I have heard the industry talk about some locations preferring a route driver that goes in very early, fills and cleans the vending machine and then leaves. The bulk of the employees never see the driver, just that the machine is magically restocked and ready for the day. Or perhaps it’s because some people feel that if you put your name and number on a machine, you will get the complaints, comments and requests you would rather not deal with. I have heard that explanation as well. Well, as both a consumer of vending products and a student of the industry, I am here to argue this is not a good thing.

Visibility breeds relationships

One of the problems with remaining invisible is that the consumers, who do most of the complaining, don’t understand your business. I was recently told a story about someone’s son working at a large company in New York. The location had a micro market (which is how the subject came up), but instead of viewing it as a benefit, this young man felt like the company he worked for was just being cheap. Why? Because he thought the company was running the micro market and forcing employees to pay higher prices for their food instead of offering cafeteria style eating similar to other area companies. Arguably, some of that might be true, however, I was offended. Partly because I know the company is not running that micro market, but the hard working operator who was completely invisible at that location. The employee didn’t see that instead of vending machines or nothing, he was getting gourmet food and dozens of product options. He didn’t understand that there was a third party involved who was working to tailor the product selection to the employees at that location, keeping shelves faced and offering the convenience of cashless payments. And to me, the real problem is if this man doesn’t see it, he will complain to the HR manager. If enough people do it, it’s likely the HR manager will assume the operator isn’t doing a good job and go hunt for another. When in reality, it’s a misconception and a lack of education to the consumers. Perhaps a tasting event would help educate, and form an awareness that will drive a long term relationship.

Brand recognition

I would consider having your name proudly displayed on your vending equipment and micro markets as the first step of branding. This is an important aspect of business, even small businesses. A few days ago I read a great piece on branding on called 6 Reasons Why a Strong Brand is Important for Your Small Business. It really clarifies the value of the brand, and why it’s so important from inspiring your employees to work harder to increasing your operation’s financial value.

Opportunities to better service through complaints

How about negative feedback. Sure, it’s possible, but negative feedback can be an opportunity. We have a great article written by John Healy planned for our February/March edition of Automatic Merchandiser that talks about seeing complaints as a way to “…enhance overall brand loyalty and customer retention.” It’s specifically talking about social media, a place where consumers feel free to write more than they would ever tell you to your face, but the lessons can be taken offline as well and used for any complaint or negative comment.

And lastly, it can be quite frustrating for consumers. The vending provider at our office location was bought by another vending company, but the contact information and placards never changed. A vending machine bill validator stopped working and the number we called was disconnected. What a shock, since we knew a route driver had recently come to fill the machine. And sadly, I routinely get emails from micro market or vending patrons looking for service. Recently, I received one that said: “Hi, I work at [XXXXXX] in downtown Los Angeles and the Wheat Thin chips do not scan. I took a bag but I need to pay for them. Thanks, [XXXXX]” Clearly, the person does not know who her micro market provider is as she sent this email to me.