FRISCO, TX -- What began as a friendly wager between father and son turned out to prove the father's point. Scot Clayborn of On the Ball Vending (Frisco, TX) explained that he is a staunch believer in what he calls "pre-service" visits. These are regular supplementary stops at locations in between the scheduled monthly service calls. These brief spot-checks typically do not include filling and collecting.
Dusty Clayborn Curtis
Using his son Dusty's route as the test market, the pair divided it into 100 locations that received standard service calls on the usual 30-day frequency and 100 locations that received additional in-between visits.
All the accounts were local stores, less than 60 miles from the company's shop, Clayborn explained. "Obviously, if your route is spread out over different states, you can't do that," he pointed out.
Those additional visits, he added, were very brief, and included only turning the coin mechs to make sure they were in good working order and checking the vender lids. He would also give the machines a quick wipedown with a paper towel and "top off" any machines that were low on product.
These quick inspections took just a few minutes, but the earning results were dramatic, he reported. "The difference was a 50% increase in revenue at the locations that received the extra attention. It really helped to drive up the revenue in bulk vending locations," Clayborn said.
Although many bulk vending operators make spot-checks like this on an ad hoc basis, integrating them into a service schedule or route protocol is a somewhat new concept. The question for operators always has been whether it is worth the time and effort to make additional location visits. Although fixing problems at a location quickly has always been a priority for operators, the cost-benefit analysis has remained difficult. Even for actual service calls to deal with broken coin mechs or empty machines, it has not been easy to find a definitive answer to the question: is preventing a week or two's lost sales worth the effort of laying on a visit to fix the problem immediately?
The Clayborns' experiment demonstrated just how costly small problems can be in terms of lost revenue. There also are the intangibles, such as that a clean, well-stocked machine is likely to attract more customers, and the way in which additional visits serve to cement the relationship between operator and location management.
For the elder Clayborn, the outcome of the month-long experiment was hardly a surprise. "It's like my grandpa always said," he recalled. "You can't feed hogs from an empty trough."
Clayborn started On The Ball Vending in 1973 with just 40 machines. Today, the operation provides bulk vending services in 14 states; it's headquartered in a 20,000-sq.ft. plant outside of Dallas. The business focuses on merchandising 50¢ novelties in 1" capsules.