Canadian Vending

Features Consumer Behaviour Trends
Operator’s Perspective: Keeping Up Professional Appearances

Keeping Up Professional Appearances


June 17, 2008
By Lio Prataviera

Topics

Whether you advertise or not, your business has a billboard – an image
you display that advertises to the world the services you offer. This
billboard isn’t stuck out by the highway or fixed in place in the phone
book.
The billboard is you and your employees.

Whether you advertise or not, your business has a billboard – an image you display that advertises to the world the services you offer. This billboard isn’t stuck out by the highway or fixed in place in the phone book.
The billboard is you and your employees.

Being professional in dress and behaviour is your most effective advertising. Being well-groomed and appropriately dressed when you interact with clients is not only the best kind of advertising you can do on a day-to-day basis, it’s good advertising for the vending industry as a whole.
 
A professional appearance reinforces a stronger image of cleanliness, which is vital; clients and consumers want to be reassured that the food they purchase, even though it’s packaged and sealed, is handled with due care and acceptable levels of hygiene.

Because you and every one of your employees is a representative of the company, your image says quite a bit. One way to project a more professional image is to invest in company shirts or jackets, while something you can do this very minute is to create an effective dress code policy that standardizes everyone’s appearance to reinforce your clean and professional image.
 
Elevating your company’s professionalism goes well beyond what you wear, but also includes invoices, bills, and written messaging. Anyone with a home computer can create simple yet effective business forms that will portray your company as a professional operation that respects its clients and considers their business to be extremely important.
 
As many great chefs will tell you, people eat with their eyes first; presentation and display are the inviting characteristics that prepare the consumer for a delicious and satisfying experience. If consumers regard their nearest vending machine as a ‘choice of last resort,’ often it’s because they don’t perceive it as being ‘clean’ or the items are poorly organized and managed.
 
Your level of professionalism is often judged (rightly or wrongly) on the equipment you use, the type and cleanliness of your service vehicle or even the fact that you have multiple body piercings on display. All of this adds up to a message, one that consumers will use to make a simple decision on whether to use your services or not … the importance of all these factors cannot be understated.

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One more important area is communication, particularly on a personal level. While perhaps not offensive to you, foul and inappropriate language or jokes of questionable taste are often important clues to your client as to what sort of person you really are and, like all people, they will make important decisions based partly on this aspect of your character.
 
How you speak and relate to your customers purely in business matters has an enormous influence on their perceptions of you and your company.
 
Although it’s often difficult, try and take a step outside of yourself and view what you say and how you say it when dealing with customers. Chances are you will find areas where you could be more clear, better prepared or maybe even less talkative.
 
Joining a Toastmasters club or a business-support organization like OCVSA (Ontario Coffee and Vending Association) or CAMA (Canadian Automatic Merchandising Association) can help immensely in improving your presentation and message.
 
Practice and a little concentration can reveal all kinds of solutions that will pay-off quickly, because all of these points translate into better business for you and better service for your customers. For the vending industry as a whole, we all win.

Being in the ‘right’ mood for work just isn’t possible all the time. All of us have different personal issues to deal with, however, your customers have issues of their own and yours just aren’t any of their business so why feel the need to share with them? This is usually a case of ‘too much information’ and can lead them to form a negative view of you as a person and your business as an extension of you.
 
While it is human nature to seek people who are sympathetic to share with, your customers simply shouldn’t be on that list because it often makes them feel uncomfortable. If you think your personal issues are bad now, imagine how much more difficult they’ll be if you lose business because you’ve said too much!

One last piece of advice – don’t take what you do for granted and don’t assume that your employees couldn’t benefit from a friendly, informal discussion on the importance of appearance, presentation and behaviour in everything they do.
 
After all, your employees are your walking billboards and they are carrying your message to consumers … the health and long-term success of your business, not to mention everyone in the vending industry, is depending on you and your employees being as professional as possible.

Lio Prataviera is general manager of Real Refreshments, a full-service snack and refreshment vending company.