Online ordering is a popular phrase floating around the OCS industry these days. Some operators have been quick to add it to their tech stack, while others are a little more reluctant. The arguments for both are strong and valid. But whichever side you’re on right now, or even if you’re in the middle and unsure, online ordering for OCS isn’t a panacea for growing your business.

That might seem like a bold and perhaps strange statement coming from us. After all, we provide an online ordering platform for OCS operators. One would think we’d do anything to support every reason for using such a service.

But here’s the thing: the office coffee industry is highly nuanced. No two customers are exactly alike. The needs between accounts vary, sometimes a lot and sometimes they’re subtle…just enough to make how you serve them completely different from similar accounts. In other words, online ordering will work for great for some customers while for others it’s a nuisance.

Online Ordering Is Not A One-Size-Fits-All Approach

When it comes to office coffee services, there are different tiers of customers. Your top-tier ones represent those large accounts doing tens of thousands of dollars in sales each year, or more. These are your big customers with multiple break rooms and hundreds of employees. For them, the thought of having to do their own ordering would likely cause a mental breakdown. The reason they likey signed up for a full-service approach to their coffee needs in the first place is because they don’t have time to order everything themselves.

In an article by industry veteran Bob Tullio, this concept was addressed by Joe Simonovich of Corporate Essentials:

“I was working with a larger client recently that was ordering from six different places,” said Simonovich. “The first thing she wanted to do when we took over the account was to change that. I asked her how that ever happened, and she said that it worked when the company was small, but when the company grew, it was unmanageable.”

There comes a point where a customer is just too big for them to manage the ordering of all those items themselves. It’s too much of a burden. Judson Kleinman, CEO of Corporate Essentials, drives the point home:

“When you move primarily to online ordering you are on a slippery slope…If you burden the customer with all that work, why do they need to order from you?”

So for these top customers, a white-glove, full-service approach is likely best.

Where Online Ordering Does Excel

There are two types of customers who are best suited for an online ordering option: those who want to order more than the standard coffee order, and those whose service cost is too high to justify full-service.

For these smaller accounts, it’s often easier and more cost effective for them to order online. They’re not placing orders that are thousands of dollars and that take up a large portion of their time.

And where operators have an advantage over entities like Amazon or Boxed is “last foot.” Those other companies only drop items off at the door. You can still provide excellent service by getting the products set up inside their office, which further develops the relationships it takes for operators to be successful.

Moving Forward

As the industry progresses and new technologies enter the market, a business case needs to be made for deciding which products are right for you. The same is true of online ordering software. We’ve written about the factors operators need to consider when seeking an online ordering system in a previous article, but here’s a quick summary of what to look for:

  • Flexibility
  • VMS Intergrations
  • User-Friendly
  • Promotional Features
  • Strong Onboarding
  • Ongoing Support

In the end, it’s about flexibility. Online ordering should never replace an operator’s insight and commitment to their customers. It should simply make the buying experience easier when appropriate, and give operators the flexibility to meet customer needs in various but still efficient ways.