The first two letters in OCS are easy to understand for anyone: office and coffee. These nouns "office" (or workplace environments) and of course "coffee," the legal, habit-forming elixir many of us live on (in more ways than one).
The term service, though, is a pretty vague use of the word. One would assume that the term, as originally used in "OCS," was defined as "delivery service," as this was really the core of the industry. A coffee delivery service, then; but most office coffee companies have entire departments dedicated to installation, maintenance and repair service, usually referred to as the "service department."
A third service department within these organizations that's not to be confused with either of the others: the Customer Service.
As OCS operators all over the country struggle to compete for business, we're all too familiar with what the contenders are promising will be better -- or at least different -- should they be selected as the new refreshment services purveyor. There are only so many focal points that can be used as persuasion triggers to convince a location to choose your organization as their new vendor. These topics are generally confined to one or more of the following:
» We're going to upgrade all your equipment with the latest and greatest brewing technology; and of course,
» Better service.
Spending money on today's high-priced commercial brewing equipment and promising better service are easy. Not fulfilling this commitment by providing top-notch service will quickly result in that pricey equipment returning to your warehouse and looking for another new home.
When we promise "better service" to our potential customers, what is it exactly that we are promising? More importantly, what policies and procedures does your company have in place to ensure that these statements are not just empty promises but realistic, achievable, and deliverable?
The OCS industry moniker defines the term service as customer service, equipment service, and delivery service. All three generally operate independently from one another -- all too often, much more independently than they should.
When Vending Times asked me to contribute monthly articles on service-related topics as they relate to our industry, obviously I knew they meant technical service; but without providing customers with superior overall service, technical service means nothing.
As many differences as there are among smaller operators, what most all are likely to have in common is that they generally don't want to be considered "small" operators. However it is no secret that the smaller operators are the ones typically able to provide their locations with a service advantage. These are the operations that have no choice but to work closely together, communicating as a team, mastering the challenges of day-to-day service issues.
Larger operations that grow to a size at which they need to organize into separate departments often don't have the luxury of this type of clear, internal communication needed to excel in customer satisfaction.
Customer service, a function that every employee within every organization is involved with, is by far the most important aspect of customer retention. I think we've all read something that says "if we don't take care of our customers, someone else will."
Depending on how an operation is organized and run, the service department and the customer service department can be one and the same. Having these divisions working together as synchronized partners always will result in staying on top of both technical and, most likely, operational issues, too.
"The left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing." Though I think this is a very obtuse statement, it's unfortunately true in too many organizations. The lack of effective internal communications, procedures and guidelines seems to be epidemic in many organizations today. We're all trying to do more with less, and often we "cut off our nose to spite our face" -- another stupid statement but, again, not very far from the truth.
Listening to a customer service representative receive an incoming phone call from an account complaining of a problem with a machine, and then simply respond with: "What's wrong with the machine? Okay, we'll get someone right out there," is one of the most obvious signs that the operator needs to work on synchronizing the service departments.
I recently jumped into one of these calls while visiting a fairly decent-sized operation, and asked whether I could call the customer back to gather some additional details before my client had to incur the expense of sending a tech out. All I did was rephrase the questions. I asked: "Can you tell me what the machine is or isn't doing?"
She explained the low-profile brewer wasn't working at all. I asked her whether the unit was plugged in, which she confirmed. We quickly determined that the GFCI receptacle that the unit was plugged into had interrupted the circuit. We reset it over the phone, and the problem was solved. Customer service and technical service unite!
Though this scenario may seem outrageous, there are far more ridiculous, costly, and -- most importantly -- avoidable examples of how "tearing down the walls" and working as a company, rather than a dispersed group, will save any operator not only dollars, but also sanity.
Matt Greenwald's article is the third in a series about brewing and service procedures for OCS operators
MATT GREENWALD is the director of vending and OCS at Betson Enterprises (Carlstadt, NJ). Greenwald is a 20-year veteran of the commercial coffee equipment industry, where he's worked for roasters, distributors and manufacturers. Prior to joining Betson, he was vice-president of a national organization that provides installation, repair and maintenance services to some of the world's largest retailers, equipment manufacturers and coffee companies.