The industry has strong roots in service. Vending machines served customers when a person could not. Office coffee service served businesses looking to add employee benefits. Micro markets serve both. Successful vendors talk about being quick to respond to the concerns of their customers and meeting special requests — all part of good service. When technology is added, it can provide advantages for the operator on the back end, but also a greater ability to offer top quality service.
Data collection technology and vending management systems can ensure that popular products don‘t sell out too fast, and using sales numbers, can create a custom selection of products that sell well at a specific customer location. Remote monitoring can alert operators of problems at a vending machine, micro market or connected coffee brewer before the customer is even aware of an issue. Technology on the payment side allows credit and debit card readers to be used on machines, as well as mobile wallets, increasing the number of people who can make a purchase regardless of how much cash they have.
The problems it creates
However, with all good things come some challenges. Operators started to embrace technology and found using different providers made integration of data and inventory troublesome. There have been some strides, but still more to know about data integration, what problems exist and how to solve (or prevent) as many of the headaches as possible. In our feature on page 28, How To Navigate Integrated Solutions, we asked experts to tell us about the issues and possible solutions.
Another issue that can arise with technology is security. As consumers, we have all heard about data breaches and been warned to regularly check our bank accounts and credit scores, all because there are thieves focused on this sort of data to sell.
While individual operators are not mega retailers housing millions of credit card holder information, they are still at risk. Are you doing your background research on your payment processors to ensure you aren’t liable for a data breach, and avoiding a breach as much as possible? Read about the steps to take on page 16.
Despite the negatives, let’s not forget that technology can be a powerful tool when harnessed to offer best practices across an operation. That is what Kevin Searcy, president of Golden Brew in Odessa, TX, did. On page 34 you can read about how he created a proprietary data management system, integrated it with Google glasses and grew revenue 35 percent without adding any additional staff — his drivers actually fill fewer machines per route. Customers are happy, and so are his employees. A true win-win.
Technology remains a double-edged sword. It allows us to do so much more than we could by hand; however it creates other problems that didn’t previously exist. However, with companies using ever more technology in their own businesses, I think it is more of a selling point in this era. Businesses want to partner with companies looking forward and who are innovative. It becomes a positive competitive advantage rather than a negative, with added service and operational efficiency benefits.