One area that many in OCS have ignored for years is the proper training of route drivers. Once the sale is made, those route drivers are the face of our companies, month after month, as they make their deliveries. They build strong relationships with our client's buyer, office manager or owner. Once credibility and trust have been established between a driver and your account's management, he or she can easily increase sales volume, if properly trained in how to sell additional products and services. This article will be in two parts, since training is not as simple as, "do this, do that."
Over the years, I have trained numerous route drivers to become "route sales drivers." It is harder to retrain a driver who has been hired, basically, just to be friendly to the customer and deliver the coffee and allied products; but it's definitely possible. So let's take a look at what you could do differently the next time you need to hire a driver. Then I will discuss some of the aspects of training to make your new driver (or your existing drivers) more valuable to your company, your customers and themselves.
Getting started is simple: just run an ad in your local newspaper or online for a sales-route driver: "Office Refreshment Company looking for a well-spoken, well groomed, sales-oriented driver to service and sell coffee and refreshment products to our established customers. Salary, commissions, bonuses, benefits and training. Call ABC Coffee at ... or email your resume to ..." Most people seeking a driving position are not trained salespeople, but when they see that you already have established customers, their resistance to "selling" will most likely drop. The offer of training also will inspire them to call, since most will feel unsure about going out and trying to sell without selling skills.
You will get many calls from applicants, so be ready to set up your interviews after looking at their resumes and at least speaking to them on the telephone. If you do not like what an applicant sounds like on the telephone, imagine how your customers will respond. Don't call them with the understanding that you are ready to set up the interview, but rather to inquire if they would like to comment on or ask questions about the job position. Tell them you will get back to them at a later date. But, if you like what you have read and the way they sound, then set up the interview immediately.
Don't be shocked if you get a call from your competition's route driver. Be cautious, because he or she may have been fired. But drivers are looking to make more money, and the fact you are offering a bonus, etc. could be a good incentive for both of you to talk. Let's be honest here, your competition's driver could have many relationships with potential customers for you. Keep in mind that if you hire him or her, and he or she establishes relationships with your accounts, you are opening your company up to a driver who could also expose your customer base to your competition in the future, if you let them go. Just as you would have a salesperson sign a "restrictive covenant," always have anyone who services your customers sign this document as well. Consult your attorney for advice.
Training begins first by explaining the philosophy of "whose customer is it?" Is it the company's customer? Is it the salesperson's customer? Or is it the driver's customer? Let the driver think for a moment and see what his/her answer is.
I think that the right answer is that the customer "belongs" to everyone in the company. If one team member fails and the customer is lost due to poor service, stale products, rudeness, etc., then the revenues lost over time affect the entire company. If you lose too many accounts, then a loss of job(s) also may occur.
On the other hand, the more profitable an account becomes, the more the company is able to give raises and additional benefits. The stability of the entire company rests on a sound and profitable account base. This concept must be totally understood by every employee in your company. The customer is king and pays all the salaries; someone else just signs your weekly check.
Next, have your driver answer in writing, "What is great service?" This should be a take-home assignment, since they will most likely ask friends and family to help them with the answer. The reinforcement of many opinions will be more productive than a quick answer in the office.
Great service is when your customer is completely satisfied: when you not only have met the customers' expectations, but also have gone beyond what they perceive as "good" customer service. It is easy to show great customer service, but the true test is when a problem arises and you demonstrate understanding, concern and a willingness and ability to act quickly to solve the customer's dilemma.
Great service also entails providing valuable information on new equipment, products and services that can solve clients' problems, save them money, enhance their image, build workforce morale, improve their companies' work environment and increase their productivity. Conferring all these benefits leads to happy clients and a more profitable operation for you and your employees.
Customers want to deal with a friendly driver who is prompt, honest, caring and shows a strong desire to meet their needs.
Next month, I will discuss in more detail the actual hands-on training of route sales drivers. I can be reached at (516) 241-4883 or by emailing OCSconsultant@aol.com concerning any training program or OCS topic.
LEN RASHKIN is a pioneer in office coffee service. He founded Coffee Sip in 1968 and after 22 years merged it with Dell Coffee, of which he became president in 1991. Sales at Dell topped $7 million dollars. Rashkin is also a founder and officer of Eastern Coffee Service Association and National Beverage Products Association. His industry honors include NCSA’s (now NAMA) Silver Service Award and NBPA’s Lifetime Achievement Award; he was inducted into NBPA’s Hall of Fame in 1996. His marketing excellence earned him NBPA’s Crystal Bean Award and three NCSA Java Awards. He is a frequent speaker at national and local trade conferences, consults on OCS sales and marketing and has is the author of two OCS training programs.