UK vending specialist Coinadrink has stayed strong in a competitive and changing industry by embracing the latest trends while maintaining its renowned customer service experience.
The Walsall company with more than 50 years’ experience has leveraged all its knowledge to launch its own brand range, CaféCasa, which provides high quality hot drinks at an attractive price-point.
Managing Director Roger Williams said: “When the recession hit, we started our own label, taking a good look at what supermarkets are doing. We started to develop tea, coffee, chocolate and skimmed milk. Now 20 percent of our business is our own label.”
The ‘supermarket approach’ gives customers the best of both worlds, offering recognised brands and also the option of a lower-priced alternative with the quality they would expect from the big names.
This strategy is apt in a market of squeezed disposable income where customers look for value everywhere, and just another example of the adaptability that has kept Coinadrink successful.
Founded in 1962 the company has ridden out the changes in an industry that has faced its share of challenges. The demise of large-scale UK manufacturing workforces in the 1980s and the more recent recession led to businesses removing vending machines with savings in mind. But Williams believes his company’s openness to change has seen it emerge from such tough years in a relatively strong position.
Moves have been made to replicate the coffee shop phenomena of recent times in the workplace to a degree of success, and another trend is a blurring of the line between the vending and Horeca (HOtelREstaurantCAfe) sectors.
Williams said: “We now supply the Horeca sector, and that’s something we didn’t do a lot of five years ago. People want the two side-by-side, and that’s what’s happening here now. The equipment is quite different to vending, so you need slightly different skill-sets like Barista training, and slightly different engineering as well.”
Coinadrink has also gained, he says, from the mistakes of its rivals, whose new owners have neglected the customer-service side post acquisition.
“We really stuck to our guns and never cut the service, and that’s paid off. It’s not like it used to be; the price is more competitive, you have to run the business far more efficiently than ever before, so you’ve got to invest a lot more in IT systems and employing quality staff. Maintaining this quality has enabled us to come out the recession in better shape than we went in,” he explained.
Coinadrink boasts 24-seven customer service and a guaranteed response time 363 days a year, including a full site survey followed by fast installation, regular visits by operators to ensure machines are running smoothly and well-stocked, and rapid reaction to any equipment issues that arise.
“We’ve stayed at what you might call the premium end,” explained Williams. “We said ‘this is the level of service we’re going to give‘ and that’s what it will cost us to do it.”
It is an approach valued by customers prepared to pay a little more for this consistent level of professionalism and the expertise of experienced staff and engineers.
As the first UK vending company to gain the Investors in People Gold award, Coinadrink creates a great working environment for its 75 staff, and an atmosphere that promotes long-termism.
“It comes down to keeping the staff together,” said Williams. “We pay people the most we can afford, not the least we can get away with.
“Everybody has a training plan for the year. You really have to look at everybody and see what you do to improve their skills and what new ones they may need, with our online business and also our move into the micro-market business. We have a five-strong IT department now that five years ago we didn’t have.”
This investment in people is an approach geared towards keeping the most skilled and experienced team together while also encouraging new blood.
Williams continued: “We bring people in from school or university and they tend to stay. The investment we have made in IT essentially means you have to bring in young people. That’s the area where the growth has been in staff recruitment and they’ve helped the business become more efficient. We see that as an ongoing process.”
Streamlining and IT
The shift to IT has allowed Coinadrink to streamline the business with a focus on providing better value for customers. Cutting admin staff by half through the automation of admin tasks freed up finance for investment into front-line services.
Williams said: “We have to make things more efficient but at the same time improve the service you give the customer and give them the things they appreciate rather than what you may be proud of but the crowd places zero value on. This enabled us to take quite a bit of cost out. We look twice a year and ask what we would do differently if we had a blank piece of paper.”
The money saved has gone into switching some suppliers to enable greater reliability of machinery, with Coinadrink looking overseas to guarantee the best. Premium, reliable equipment has been sourced in the US, and the IT investment has built up large quantities of supplier data, allowing the company to easily identify issues and act accordingly.
Further technological investment was made with a recent upgrade of handheld devices used in stock control and for servicing machines. The new machines, from Spirit Data Capture, are yet another example of a boost to efficiency, saving time for engineers.
As Coinadrink has modernised, it has remained true to its values, and for this reason, it has emerged from the recession as a stronger company, with its core ethos intact.
“We’ve maintained the integrity of what we do, haven’t been tempted to cut corners like others have, and we want this to continue,” Williams concluded.