Hallmark Vending: Building and Growing the Data-Driven Business – with Vendmanager

Précis

Trevor Bullock, MD at Hallmark Vending is very positive about the the SBS philosophy and deliverables:

 

“It is extremely rare to be able to work with a company that does as much as SB Software to help clients use more and more of their products/services better and better – to extract more and more benefit. You don’t just sell a system, you continue to work hard to increase the number of features that we use, the benefits we derive from each, and the hard commercial returns that we leverage for our own business.”

 

“At Hallmark we are building a people and customer centric data-driven business/culture where we have a true (informed) understanding of:

 

  • where we are strong and successful
  • where we need/want to improve (next) …

… and Vendmanager underpins every aspect of that.”

 

In this case study we visit Guildford to hear from six key members of Trevor’s team in their own words:

what “data-driven business” means for each of them on the ground, in their specific role, from their own perspective
why Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and the Company Scorecard (fed by Vendmanager) target their focus throughout the working week
how data and targets are fuelling ongoing improvement to commercial benefit
where Hallmark will be putting Vendmanager hard to work next – with the company “on the cusp” of implementing Single Walk to improve efficiency still further.

 

With the visit aligning with an on-site review by two Technical Account Managers (TAMs) from SBS, we also find out more about their key role helping SBS clients to achieve what they want (or need) to do next – sooner, better and easier.

 

Text and photos by Jed Fraser, Communications, SB Software.

Hallmark Vending: Building and Growing the Data-Driven Business – with Vendmanager

Visiting Hallmark Vending on-site in Guildford, I realise at once that it’s going to be an “intense” day. In the best sense. Trevor Bullock, Managing Director, has kindly lined up 5 key members of their team for interviews (one on one) to inform this case study personally “from 360 degrees”. He wants me to understand things from everyone’s own personal perspective. And we have also aligned the timing with the visit by two Technical Account Managers (TAMs) – Martin and James – from SB Software.

 

TAMs fulfil a key role at SBS. Each client is allocated their own dedicated TAM, who supplements ongoing remote contact with regular on-site visits, to monitor and accelerate continuous improvement. They don’t normally travel in pairs, but James has been in post just 10 weeks, and today he is shadowing Martin as the latest stage in his field induction.

Trevor Bullock, Managing Director

All SBS clients look forward to engagement with their TAM – and especially face to face – since it is a valuable chance to review progress, and discuss/agree next steps. And above all, in brief, because the TAMs are useful with each building and maintaining an ongoing understanding of the specific client’s priorities (as well as the real-world constraints which may influence the appropriate speed of progress). Their site visits – like today’s – are underpinned by an agreed agenda shared in advance, so that all participants are prepared to participate efficiently, confirming progress, identifying and removing/reducing barriers to success and agreeing then scheduling next steps.

Trevor Bullock, Managing Director

Trevor Bullock, Managing Director

Myself, I start alone with Trevor, and he is forthright in his appreciation (and endorsement) of the SBS approach: “It is extremely rare to be able to work with a company that does as much as SB Software to help clients use more and more of their products/services better and better – to extract more and more benefit. You don’t just sell a system, you continue to work hard to increase the number of features that we use, the benefits we derive from each, and the hard commercial returns that we leverage for our own business.”

 

“Two years ago I was afforded the opportunity to join Hallmark Vending and to work with the owners of the business, Tim Newberry and Charles Trace. The opportunity to work with Tim and Charles and to benefit from their decades of experience and expertise in our sector was and still is an exciting prospect for me. Since joining the business two years ago I have worked closely with Tim and Charles to develop our people, take care of our customers and to grow the business. But I have known SB Software and Vendmanager – and your team – for much longer than two years, in my previous role as Chief Operating Officer with another of your clients.”

 

“And the SBS philosophy/deliverables underpin what we are now building at Hallmark: a people and customer centric data-driven business/culture where we have a true (informed) understanding of:

 

  • where we are strong and successful
  • where we need/want to improve (next).

We are not “all the way there” (and I don’t subscribe to the idea that we ever will/should be: why would we want targeted progress ever to come to a halt?) but I am pleased with the advances we are making: you wouldn’t be here, and we wouldn’t be sharing these insights otherwise!” 

Everyone Has a Number. Or Several.

Core to the data-driven culture at Hallmark is their Company Scorecard which features front and centre at the Operations Review meeting, held every Friday at 07.30.

 

The scorecard tracks Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) over time and the meeting brings together core team members drawn from operations, technical, installations and engineering.

 

I am shown the current scorecard, which is referenced often over the rest of the day. But I don’t even ask for a copy, because this is the “heartbeat of the company” as Trevor calls it, including items such as:

 

  • # operators
  • # machines / operator
  • # visits completed
  • # visits / operator
  • % first time fix
  • £ total cash
  • £ average cash
  • £ spare parts …

 

… and many more, with each category progressing into ever finer granularity, showing both current actuals and trends over time.

 

Trevor highlights one that is clearly at the front of his mind at the moment: “# machines not DEXed” (so that they are set up technically for Datakey to extract data, and even check/update prices automatically):

 

“I am not happy with that figure. It’s better than it was but it needs to improve further. We want machines connected up. Otherwise we are missing the data that feeds into Vendmanager, and also informs this Scorecard. My first question – as (nearly) always – is “Why?” Why is this number lower than we want? Then we ask how we are going to fix it, and decide who is responsible.

 

Having the scorecard with its numbers is essential. But it only becomes meaningful when we then get ownership of the numbers – see how you get on with the people you’ll be meeting over the rest of the day.

 

Every one of them will have a number. Or several. And they know/understand both that they are responsible for improving that number, and that progress will be reviewed at the Operations Review meeting (if not more often).

 

Make sure that you ask them about their numbers when you meet them.

 

Now you better get started: David is your first meeting and he will need to be leaving shortly to be on time for our clients at London Heathrow …” 

The TAMs are Already in Action

Hallmark’s Ellie Hull (Commercial Manager) with Martin Olivant (SBS Technical Account Manager).

If you are wondering where the Technical Account Managers (TAMs) are during this time…

 

…they are with Ellie Hull, Hallmark’s Commercial Manager: they have a busy agenda to cover, remember? It includes using Vendmanager for the progression from Telemetry to Single Walk…

 

I will meet with Ellie after they have finished together … 

David Sturton, Operating Manager

David manages people and processes. With the support of Vendmanager. Visit Manager is the main part of the system that helps him day to day – and it’s even more useful when he is adjusting things for staff holidays. He also recognises concrete improvements provided by Van Stock Take, and values overall the shift away from paper.

 

Right now he is keen to set off for a wholesale delivery to London Heathrow just down the road. Imagining some kind of Mission Impossible van chase scene, accessing such a busy airport, I probe him for details, but that falls flat: “All our clients are important. They all require and deserve the best. But yes, it does help that now we can access all the site/machine info on our phones when needed. And using Vendmanager’s on-screen signatures both speeds things up and keeps records to hand in case they are needed at any point.” 

Before he goes he passes both tests I set him:

 

  • yes he “knows his number” (from the Company Scorecard) and quotes from memory both the current figure and the (improving) trend
  • and yes his Datakey is on hand for a photo (it always is – he loves the benefits that it brings in collecting data easily and efficiently, and still recalls the “lightbulb moment” in the SBS training when “all our people just got it”.)

 

“I have been with Hallmark for ten years. I have always believed that technology, underpinned by good data, is the best way. And Vendmanager is now helping us to progress further – that’s good for our employees, our customers, their users and our shareholders alike.”

Ella Watts, Accounts Officer

Ella has been with Hallmark 18 months, making her the only “Trevor Native” I meet during my visit – she joined after he was already in post.

 

During that time she has worked intensively with/on Vendmanager, including moving all the billing onto Sage 50 Cloud, with full integration into the vending management system. This is a major transition for the company, and I can tell that she is not just happy with the increased visibility and performance, she rightly takes pride/satisfaction personally in her own role in how well it works: “Vendmanager is now the heart of our invoicing function (and Sage is the support). Now we can see what’s going on clearly. It’s more efficient. And we’re saving time.”

 

“The beauty of how things are now is the easy/open access to all the information – and it’s all integrated in one place. We don’t get mis-posts nowadays, but I have set up alerts to warn us just in case of vend, selection or duplication errors.

With Vendmanager, we have also reduced risk and increased cover. If I am away, others can now follow simple steps to raise/send monthly invoices (for example).

 

Vendmanager has massively changed things for the better already. Now the challenge for the future is confirming whether we are using everything we can/should, and where relevant to confirm then implement the right processes for doing more still.” 

Claire Miller, Operations Support Officer

Claire has been with Hallmark for four years, and in her role she is a frontline user of Vendmanager. She is hardcore: switching it on first thing and only logging off when she leaves the office: “I am in it all day. I have eyes over the whole system. That includes onboarding new customers, setting up new machines by creating machine records, then planning installs before David takes over on the op.s side. Now I run the service desk, but in the past I covered wholesale, so I have seen how Vendmanager works brilliantly across the board – as long as you have the right data.”

 

“I also value the Operations Review meeting, which is fuelled by data, because it gives us all a voice, and for me measuring is the same as knowing. Early on Friday morning is a good time because it gives us the opportunity to schedule things in advance for the working week ahead.“

 

“You want to know my numbers? Well, I started on service call response times, then it was numbers of filters fitted, and recently it’s been warranty returns which I have been able to improve by an enormous 1500%! This makes me feel good: like I said, measuring is the same as knowing.”

 

“Using data gives us true visibility, and it also allows Trevor and the whole team to be driving proactively rather than responding reactively. And when “things crop up”, we also have the tools now to quantify and investigate – for example it feels like we are getting more problems with chocolate blockages than we used to: so we’ll be assessing that, then investigating the root causes.”

Pawel Kicinski, Route Merchandiser (Operator)

Pawel is clear and direct in his evaluation of Datakey. “I like it. Datakey is simple to use. It is accurate, and it is fast. So it saves me time, while collecting all the data that our company needs. There’s nothing more to say!”

Ellie Hull, Commercial Manager

Once her session with the TAMs is over, I catch up with Ellie. She confirms that it has “been a good meeting and hence a good day”.

 

“Like every company we need to take things step by step, and advance at the right speed. And SB Software has been with us at every stage to support that progress, including (so far):

 

  • Telemetry integration
  • Datakey rollout
  • Accounts integration (as Ella has explained)
  • Deploying greater depth and detail of data
  • Reporting (our sales reports for example have been transformed)
  • Switching to the SBS hosting platform (it’s great that we no longer have to listen to our old office server clunking in the background, and my access from home is really fast too!)

And right now we are “on the cusp” of switching to Single Walk (using data to streamline operator visits by pre-informing them of what machines need, so they can minimise trips between van and machine).

 

In all of this, the TAM is pivotal, but he is not alone. Every member of the SBS support team goes out of their way to be helpful, solving challenges if necessary, or even better pre-empting problems altogether.

 

Because of his ongoing engagement with us, Martin, our TAM, understands thoroughly what aspects of Vendmanager we use already, and advises/prepares us for what could/will come next (both soon and longer term). We discuss the options together – and agree who will do what when: that’s the major part of what we have been doing today.”

 

Note: SBS keep track of how much each client is using of the whole of Vendmanager, via our Functional Priority List (FPL) – and in today’s review, Hallmark have gone up 8% to X% (totals are client-confidential). But the FPL is not just a numerical %. It registers which specific elements clients are deploying already as well as what might/should come next. Vendmanager is feature rich and very powerful, so clients are sometimes surprised at first that their own X is smaller than they expected. It is also good to explain that 100% is not the target for everyone (or anyone?) – it’s really about achieving the right mix for each specific company. So, two companies could both be on X% but with each X comprising different elements: the ones that add most value right now for their individual business. And what really matters is growth: seeing your own X increase, because that means that you are putting technology and data harder to work over time.

 

It’s good to see that Ellie is pleased with progress to date, so I ask her what she likes best about Vendmanager. Ellie being Ellie (she has a reputation at SBS for being ever well-prepared in advance), she is fore-armed and hands over not not just one ready made list but two: 

Ellie’s first list:

 

Vendmanager:

  • Drives innovation
  • Creates internal and operational efficiencies
  • Product functionality and performance
  • Enhances decision making
  • Reduces costs
  • Ease of use for various skill levels
  • Scalability.

 

Ellie’s other list:

 

Vendmanager:

  • User-friendly data platform with great support
  • Highly integrated platform linking to/from all aspects of data processing and presentation
  • Any problem raised with SB Software is driven to a solution
  • Ability to integrate data into analysis and workflow is great for any business transformation
  • Truly allows business to analyse data from day 1 with rich features and intuitive user experience
  • Support and product teams have mindset of learning and growing together, making our data journey more reliable since we will be backed by SB Software’s quality service. 

Giving Back (In the “Clubhouse” – with Trevor)

For my final session with Trevor before we head down to take his photo with the TAMs, he asks me to meet for a review in a room that spans the very top of the building.

 

Whereas the rest of the Hallmark site is akin to a giant machine, with modernist glass-walled offices overlooking a large state-of-the-art warehouse from on-high, the decor in this area is very different – with strong bright colours and antique fixtures more reminiscent of a clubhouse.

This is inspired by the work that the company continues to prioritise – helping others who are less fortunate. In 2021 Hallmark’s own Coffee Company, Caffe Praego were the Vendies winner for corporate social responsibility.

Trevor Reprise: The Bigger Picture

Trevor is keen to find out what I have learned with/from his team during the day. He listens carefully without taking written notes (but you know from his eyes that everything is being logged). And content with what he hears, he chooses to opens up (just a bit more) about his objectives and the results (so far).

 

I do not have his in-depth knowledge of Hallmark and the vending sector, but we are able to use data/numbers as a Lingua Franca – a shared language, or common currency:

 

“You have heard/seen component elements today from individual key members of our team. And I am pleased with what they have told you and how they have shared information on the aspects where each of them can and does make a difference every day. Every one of them (plus others) has a vital role to fulfil.

 

The bigger picture is that we are now 6 months into the very challenging budget that we set for this current calendar year. We are halfway. And we are not “just” hitting the component targets, we are beating the whole plan overall. It’s working: remember I said it was “challenging” and we are delivering the results targeted/required.

 

That’s because each of the team is playing their part ever better, with the power of data (managed by Vendmanager) to inform and empower them.

 

But it’s not yet job-done (and personally, in my professional opinion, it never will be – it never should be). It’s successful in the sense that we are moving in the right direction at the right pace.

 

And now the key challenge is to sustain or accelerate that trend.

 

We have the tools, of which data is the most important. Vital even. But people are the ones who put numbers to work. Without the team fully informed, motivated and empowered to make the numbers work for us, numbers are “just” entries on a spreadsheet.

 

You recall that I started today with an emphasis on “Why”? You’ll find nowadays that I am asking ever more “Who, when, and how …. “ And a particular favourite of mine is “Where Next” – that’s where your Functional Priority List (FPL) comes in – on whatever time horizon; short, medium or long term!

 

Now let’s go and get that photo done with Martin and James – I’ve got some hamburgers to burn, so going home is my next priority target” (it’s now Friday evening and Trevor is shortly on BBQ duty with the family). 

In Trevor’s office overlooking the state-of-the-art warehouse below. L to R: James, Trevor and Martin.

Martin: “I have known Trevor for 20 years – he used to be my line manager at another company before I joined SB Software – so I know that when he wants something, he gets it – he’s very persuasive.”

 

This case study illustrates that what Trevor “wants” now for Hallmark is a people and customer-centric data-driven culture, with each member of the team motivated and empowered to put “their own numbers” hard to work.

And yes, they are getting there. Adding meaning to that logo they all wear with pride. Hallmark Vending are building and growing the data-driven business – with Vendmanager.