Customer Service Report: Keeping Coin-Op Route Locations Happy and Earning

When you are the owner of a company, you know that client satisfaction holds the key to success. Owners and managers of vending machine companies all agree that when it comes to keeping your route locations satisfied, it is a matter of service and appearance.  
“Service can really differentiate one vendor from another,” said Jerry Stevens, general manager of Frye Amusement Company, Inc. in Winchester, Va. Disabled machines require prompt attention, as it does not benefit anyone to have them sitting there not working. “We have a commitment to fix games within 24 hours,” said Stevens. “But clients should also be educated about what goes into fixing a machine. They need to know that if a part is needed, it may take up to two days to receive it. They should also be trained on how to look at a problematic machine themselves. We tell them to have their customers show them, for example, how they lost a coin in the machine.  Sometimes they can tape up an out-of-service coin shoot and then the machine is still usable. Slapping an out-of-order sign on a machine that only has one broken coin shoot is a mistake that can easily be avoided if they are educated.”
John Guthrie, owner of G&G Amusement in Commerce, Calif., also remarked that providing impeccable service is the key to a successful relationship with route locations.  “We make sure to keep our vehicles stocked with spare parts, so we can avoid the need to leave clients hanging. We also make every effort to arrive at a location within two hours of a service call,” Guthrie said.  
If the client is not making money, neither are the vendors and that is something that Kathey Rosenquist, owner of Gator Coin Machine Company in Jacksonville, Fla., constantly bears in mind. “We treat our clients as partners –  we are all in this together.  We make the game room the absolute best that it can be. When a game goes down, we get there when we say we will and we fix it as fast as possible. In addition to ensuring that machines are in working order, we also strive to keep all of our equipment as clean as possible to guarantee a happy client,” Rosenquist said.
In the last 10 years, the industry has noticed some changes, the biggest of which is the evolution of technology. With the development of technologically advanced home video games, many operations are finding that they just cannot compete with what people have at home. Often, locations are hoping that new games will mean more business, but that is not necessarily the case.  
Jerry Stevens, once again, responded that educating the client is the way to go.  “Let’s face it, these days, kids are spoiled. We help our clients understand that they are competing against the customers themselves, as all the latest and greatest games are at the customers’ homes.  We teach them not to have unrealistic expectations and that they can still bring in good revenues through what they have, such as the latest touch screen games and new golf games.”
Rosenquist finds that even though there are not many new games out there and the economy is slow, there are ways to still make a game room more exciting, by moving the games around the room to create a new look or rotating games through the various locations.  “When we move machines from one location to another, they may not be ‘new’ games, per se, but they appear new to the customers,” Rosenquist said.  This method of refreshing the floor does help it seem as if the machines are new, even if they are not.
“In this marketplace, a client cannot just demand particular equipment, although they may try. We are not going to buy a new piece just to try it out and they need to understand that.  A machine needs to be able to pay for itself and with the economy the way it is right now, bringing in a new, expensive machine is not necessarily the way to go,” said Charles H. Rowland II, owner of  Games People Play in Richmond, Va.
Another recent change in the industry has been on the side of commissions.  Steven Murphy, owner of Games Are Us, Inc. in Milwaukee, Wis., said that he has gained many new competitors in recent years. “A lot of the newer operators are offering higher commission splits and we have had to match them.  It used to be a 60/40 split, in our favor, but it has gone to 50/50 or even 60/40, favoring the client.  Unfortunately we have had to change our commission structure, in order to keep up,” Murphy said.  
The clients’ pursuit of a higher commission cut is something that John Guthrie has been running into, as well.  Guthrie said, “We have to stay firm and convince them that the commission cut just cannot be changed right now. We do not want to argue, but we do need to be firm.”
One thing is unanimous and that is how to deal with customer complaints. “You have to take customer complaints very seriously,” explained Rosenquist. “We listen without interruption and we act quickly to resolve their problems, no matter how ridiculous it may sound. Some people really are complaining just to complain and others do have serious matters, but no matter the issue, we take it seriously and try to resolve it as fast as possible.”
Again, Stevens suggested that education is key.  “We cover the bases up front about all of our policies. That way you can say to someone, ‘Remember when we talked about this.’  The customer is more understanding about things when you are up front with them, rather than changing things down the road,” said Stevens.  “Of course, sometimes issues arise that you do not see coming and those have to be addressed and resolved immediately.”
“Nobody is above dealing with a complaint,” said Guthrie.  “Act as quickly as possible to their needs – do not make them wait.  They should not have to call back a second time with the same issue.”  
Mike Griggs, owner of Gay’s Music Company in Idaho Falls, Idaho, also takes customer complaints to heart. “I, personally, deal with any complaints that may come our way. It has to be more than the customer just complaining to the route operator. I need to be involved and handle all complaints on a case-by-case basis. That being said, we, fortunately, have not had very many complaints.” –

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