Past articles have looked at the importance of selecting the best coffee machine for your specific requirements, but how do you select the best supplier? How do you ensure you'll get value? After all, value is about more than just price and you may already have shopped around, so how do you evaluate the other elements that add up to the value you are prepared to pay for?. For example, besides getting the best machine, you'll also need quality advice and pre- and post sale service. So here are some things to ask your proposed supplier of coffee machines and coffee vending machines:
1. How long have you been in business?
Sounds like THE most basic of questions, but you'd be surprised how trusting most of us are. A web site can be strung together in a few hours and appear in directories in a matter of weeks - so the mere presence of a flashy, good looking web site does not necessarily mean that there is any substance behind the company
So, this is THE most important question you can ask.
Companies that have been around for a long time are usually those that meet and exceed customer expectations. They are also more likely to have the experience needed to advise you on your requirements and will have tested many machine models before settling on their current offerings. They offer value and have good business models that will probably see them still being there when you need a spare part or a service. On that, should you find a cell phone only contact number, ask yourself if this indicates a well established company.
Then make sure you specify "coffee machine or coffee vending machine" sales/rental/services because some companies may have been trading for 15 years but may have just added on coffee machines to their range a year ago. You really do want expertise AND experience
2. How big is your business?
You want to ask this question to give yourself confidence that you are dealing with a company that can support you. There are many "one-man" coffee operations out there that will either provide anything from exceptionally personal service through to really poor service as their capacity is limited. They can't be solving your coffee machine problems when they have 10 others to deal with...and make sales...and do the accounting... and.. and..and! On the other hand, too big and you'll be just a number in an accounting package.
So how many company employees do they have? Forget agents and distributors... these are not direct employees...look at their core staffing. Then match the numbers with what you found out in Question 1 above and ask yourself "Is this company well established and well staffed?
3. How many machines have you sold?
Ask how many machines your proposed supplier has sold. Client lists can be useful, but saying they've sold to XYZ, ABC and DFG may be the ONLY companies/individuals they've sold to! So ask for both the total number of machines of the type you are interested in and some client names to see what type of clients they have.
If you are not convinced after getting this feedback, ask if you can contact one or two of them.
4. What are your technical and service capabilities?
Linked to the previous questions, you need to have a good understanding of what capabilities exist when things go wrong. How many technicians, vehicles and service centres do they have? Be specific - are these really company owned or are they sub-contracting repairs?
Has each technician been well trained and on the type of coffee machine or coffee vending machine? Do they know about grinding parameters to get a fit for purpose ground coffee ?
What are your service levels? How long after you call them, can you expect your coffee machine to be repaired?
If you are not convinced, ask for this in writing. It will certainly come in useful when, after two weeks, you still haven't got your coffee machine or coffee vending machine back!
Finally, get the guarantee conditions in writing. What is covered and what is not? Any reputable supplier will be happy to provide this.
5. The machine offering
Of course, have a good look at the machine range being offered. Does it meet your needs? (refer to previous articles if you are unsure about what to look for). Assuming you find a machine that suits your need, then check it comes from a reputable manufacturer and that the supplier is indeed authorised to sell the machines. Naturally, you need to ensure that the machines have reached appropriate standards such as having the "CE" mark.
These are just a few questions to ask your coffee machine supplier to make sure you do in fact choose the best one to look after your coffee passion!