Coffee Service Corner
YOUR ROUTE PROFESSIONAL – WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD
ne’s shopping experience, home appliance installation and/or residential service event can easily be enhanced or ruined by the demeanor, ability level and communication skills of the person whom you encounter during any one of these events. (Does a memorable experience quickly come to mind?) As an example, I would much prefer a dining experience where I was provided acceptable quality food delivered by a superb, engaging waiter than having a great meal delivered by a surly malcontent who would obviously rather be anywhere than table side with my party. I suspect that at least some of you share these sentiments. A route delivery business is much the same. Route persons are an operator’s primary customer touch point once a new piece of business is written. Their performance will impact how your coffee, vending, or water service is perceived and a primary determinant as to how long you will retain an account. Having been in businesses that provided OCS, Water and Vending route services, my belief is that Coffee Service route professionals are by intent much more customer interactive than Bottled Water or Vending route persons. For this article, my focus is on the OCS route pro (full service, not pre-call), where one of the primary responsibilities is interaction with the decision makers. I work on this article having just departed the NAMA show in Las Vegas and having a very fresh perspective on many topics having interacted with a number of operator friends. Hire For Attitude - Everything begins with a proper hire. You can’t teach “nice”. An effective route person needs to be visible to his/her customer, interacting with decision makers on every visit if possible. Effective communication skills allow for up-selling while meeting and exceeding client needs. It is also critical for the route professional to understand their value to the organization, feel that they are part of the team and to be recognized for their importance. Once you have the solid foundation of a great employee and a productive, supportive environment, then one can establish the job parameters in order to optimize performance. Document Service Expectations – While Coffee Service is not a complex undertaking, to ensure that the customer is not lured away by internet fulfillment options, the service must be thorough as well as visible. This should not be left to chance. A sound, basic outline of route service protocol could look like this: • Begin with a seamless set up for each new account – You have one chance to make a great first impression. • Create a schedule and follow the schedule – Inconsistent service that result in out of stocks is a retention killer. • Establish inventory par levels – Par level maintenance must be dynamic.
by Ken Shea
Consumption patterns change. • Replenish inventory and rotate stock – Often times, fractional pack coffee bags are dumped into pantry drawers. Pay attention to all areas where inventory is stored. • Brew system check – Look for performance issues such as short fills over fills. Check temperature out of the brew head and confirm that it is up to manufacturer specifications. • Clean the brew site – The brewer, serving vessels and serving area all need attention. • Merchandise the brew site – Besides being clean, product caddies, tea racks should all be full and tidy. Signage should be fresh and replaced if necessary. This is like your own grocery shelf. Optimize the real estate! • Engage the decision maker – Coffee service is a tremendous value, providing a brewer that delivers beverages much less costly than a coffee shop or even a C-store or drive through location. But the competition is out there. Let your client know of other options and upgrades that you have. Many accounts have been lost because they did not know that the incumbent provider had other options and the route person did not have a relationship with the decision maker. • Seek water opportunities – If you do not have the water business where you have coffee, you are inviting the water provider to solicit your OCS business. • Ask for leads – Great service and engagement should lead to new business. Consider incentivizing your route professionals for lead generation. While it is imperative that a route person have a great relationship with the customer, remember it is also important for your company to have multiple touch points with the decision makers. Route persons come and go, often going to your competition. Having multiple touch points will help minimize account attrition should you experience turnover, hostile or otherwise. Route rides with their manager creates important relationships. Properly done, these work-withs can demonstrate an account’s perception of their value, rather than seeming like a disciplinary activity. Internal sales representatives can also be a very efficient complement to your route professional, often times becoming very close to the decision makers. A lot of coverage can be generated by an internal sales professional. In summary, good service is the ante in the poker game of Coffee Service. Great service provided by a world-class route pro will separate the really good companies from the average. Do all that you can to ensure that you have a winning hand. Until next time - Ken
16 May/June 2019
Ken is President of Ken Shea and Associates and also serves as V.P. of Coffee Service for G&J Marketing and Sales