Canadian Vending

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CAMA connection: Being Customer Focused


September 30, 2009
By Kim Lockie

In case no one noticed we are in the trough of a recession. That is to say, that while some economists have declared the recession over, nobody realistically believes we are back to a state of “business as usual.”

In case no one noticed we are in the trough of a recession. That is to say, that while some economists have declared the recession over, nobody realistically believes we are back to a state of “business as usual.”

Until we are all confident that the recession really is over, we can either sit around and complain about it or look at new opportunities to improve our businesses – both in the short term and for the future. As a part of this process, I suggest we consider service practices that need to be changed, added or deleted.

We need to focus on what is important, the “customer.” We are really a C-store without the friendly face. Or do we need to show our friendly face more and let everyone know there is a face to the machines. Perhaps we need to be more customer-focused, as we are nothing without them. Too often we think of customers as faceless people, and fail to proactively cater to their needs or someone else will.

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One way to improve customer service may be to view our businesses like a franchise. What I mean is putting systems in effect that make the job easy for someone to learn so that everyone will do it the same.

At McDonald’s, pickles are arranged in a certain way so that they don’t slip out and fall on your lap. Burgers are cooked precisely the same everywhere and left in a warming tray no longer than 20 minutes. This means anywhere in North America you will have the same experience at all restaurants.

There is no reason that we can’t adopt similar practices in vending. For example, having all chocolate bars facing the same way in the machine will make it easier to read the labels and will improve the visual presentation. Or, how about having chips and all other products in a uniform line.

I think this would “wow” everybody walking by our machines. How about our drivers, our front-line people, do they present themselves as being in the foodservice industry?

If we look at our training procedures and look at all the small things we do, and then initiate improvements to make them outstanding, I believe we, as operators can really be perceived as professional venders – vending anything, anytime, anywhere.

There is little doubt, that vending professionals can make a difference to our customers by just doing our jobs like any professional service. In fact, we can look and be better than a C-store. We have the means, but do we have the ambition?

I challenge all CVM readers that want to survive in this industry and be ahead of the competition to take advantage of educational and business resources and act like the big companies. There is no need to re-invent the wheel, there are many good ideas out there and all we have to do is ask.

My latest book suggestion for everyone is The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. Read this and I think it may open your eyes to a better world. Another awesome course is the “NAMA Certified Executive” course. We can never be too educated and we must never stop learning.

Wishing you every success, and I look forward to seeing you all at CAMA Expo 2010 in Calgary.


Kim Lockie,
President, Canadian Automatic Merchandising Association
Serving the professional vending & office coffee retailers of Canada


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