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Feedback for Customer Satisfaction in Vending Machines

Feb 5, 2024 | Blog

Feedback for Customer Satisfaction in Vending Machines – Key Takeaways

  1. The vending machine market is large and competitive with slim margins: Customer satisfaction is critical for business success.
  2. Many issues cause customer dissatisafction: So need addressing
  3. Real-Time Feedback is Crucial: Utilizing cell phones for instant feedback allows a vending business to quickly identify and address issues, enhancing customer satisfaction.
  4. Engagement Through Feedback Technology: The integration of QR codes with vending machines simplifies the feedback process, making it easier for customers to communicate their experiences.
  5. Immediate Responsiveness Enhances Brand Image: Swift responses to customer feedback not only resolve issues but also improve the public perception of the supplier of vending machines
  6. Data-Driven Decision Making: Collecting and analyzing customer feedback helps in making informed decisions about product offerings, machine maintenance, and overall business strategies.
  7. Building Customer Loyalty: Regularly updating vending machine offerings based on customer feedback can lead to increased customer loyalty and repeat business.
  8. Operational Efficiency: Real-time feedback enables predictive maintenance, reducing downtime and associated costs.
  9. Its NOT just about smart technology: Having data on machine performance is NOT enough to improve the experience

Part 1: Understanding the Industry and Enhancing Vending Machine Customer Satisfaction

Key Vending Machines Facts and Why this Market is So Significant

The first vending machine is supposed to date back to the first century, and was invented by a man named Hero Alexandria. He was, a Greek engineer and mathematician, created a machine that accepted a coin, before dispensing holy water. At the temples where citizens worshipped, this device ensured that people were not taking more than their fair share of holy water. Fast forward to 1883, Percival Everett in the UK was the first man to introduce a modernised vending machine, which dispensed postcards. His vending machine became very popular and was soon after installed at railway stations and post offices. Percival Everett’s vending machines were able to offer customers notepaper, envelopes and postcards.

In 1888, Thomas Adams was the first person to build a vending machine that dispensed chewing gum. The gum, named Tutti-Frutti, was available around New York City subway stations. Since then, vending machines have taken hold. Lets consider some key facts and trends:

Market Size, Growth and Trends:

  • Huge and Growing: The US vending machine market is estimated to be worth $32.8 billion in 2023, and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 4.2% to reach $40.7 billion by 2028.
  • Millions Strong: There are around 5 million vending machines scattered across the US, generating revenue from various locations like offices, schools, hospitals, airports, and public spaces.
  • According to Franchise Direct, U.S. vending machines collect $22 billion in bills and coins each year.
  • Beyond Snacks and Drinks: While beverages and snacks remain dominant, the market is diversifying. Healthier options like fruit, salads, and yogurt are gaining traction, along with non-food items like electronics, personal care products, and even PPE.
  • Tech Time: Cashless payment options like credit cards, mobile wallets, and contactless payment systems are becoming increasingly popular, offering convenience and speed to customers.
  • Smart Vending Machines: Telemetry-enabled machines with real-time inventory tracking, remote monitoring, and automated restocking are optimizing operations and reducing costs.
  • The Robot Revolution: Automated vending robots with touch screens and advanced AI are emerging, offering a futuristic and interactive vending experience. But do they lead to customer success?

Vending Machine Customer Satisfaction – Why it’s Critical

In the ever-evolving world of retail, vending machines have carved a niche, offering convenience and quick service. However, the cornerstone of their success lies in satisfied customers. This pivotal aspect determines not just the frequency of repeat customers but also the overall reputation and growth of your vending machine business. Bear in mind that net margins are slim – between 20-40% and revenue per machine is not high:

  • High-traffic areas (airports, schools, malls): Can exceed $5,000 per year.
  • Moderate-traffic areas (office buildings, community centers): Around $3,000 – $4,000 per year.
  • Low-traffic areas: Less than $2,000 per year.

This means that understanding and enhancing customer satisfaction in this domain is not just beneficial; it’s essential.

Key Factors Influencing Customer Satisfaction – What Can Wrong with a Vending Interaction?

Vending machine that is not working

Several key issues can affect customer satisfaction when using a vending machine. Here are some of the most common negative experiences that drive business away and erode the customer base.

Machine malfunction:
  • Out of stock/sold out items: This is a major frustration, especially if the customer specifically craved that item.
  • Product not dispensed: Getting charged for a product that doesn’t come out is a pain point, leading to feelings of being cheated and negative comments from customers.
  • Change jams or malfunctioning bill readers: Struggling with payment methods can be time-consuming and annoying.
  • Machine breakdowns or unclear error messages: When a machine is completely unusable, it’s a big inconvenience, and confusing error messages leave the customer feeling helpless.
Product quality and variety:
  • Limited or undesirable selection: Not having appealing options, especially for people with dietary restrictions, can leave customers feeling unsatisfied.
  • Expired or low-quality products: Stale food, flat drinks, or questionable freshness are unpleasant surprises that erode trust.
  • Inaccurate product descriptions or misleading images: When pictures don’t match reality, it creates disappointment and feels like false advertising.
Price and payment (this bad experience is big – FutureMarketInsights suggests breakdowns in payment systems occur in 1-2% of transactions, and stuck product issues appear in 0.5-1%.
  • Prices perceived as unfair: Feeling like you’re overpaying for a vending machine item can leave a bitter taste.
  • Limited payment options: Not having access to preferred payment methods (cash, card, mobile pay) can be a barrier for some customers.
  • Difficulty getting change: If the machine doesn’t provide proper change or require an exact amount, it can be inconvenient and leave the customer feeling shortchanged.
Cleanliness and maintenance – likewise produces dissatisfied customers:
  • Dirty machines or unsanitary conditions: This raises hygiene concerns and makes the entire experience unpleasant.
  • Frequent spills or leaks: Not only an eyesore, but also a potential safety hazard.
  • Unattended overflowing trash bins: Creates an unpleasant environment and can attract pests.
Additional factors:
  • Inconvenient location: Machines placed in hard-to-reach or poorly lit areas can be deterrents.
  • Poor lighting or unclear instructions: Makes using the machine difficult and creates confusion.
  • Lack of customer service: Not having anyone to report issues or ask for help is frustrating and shows no customer care.

Part 2: How to Improve the Vending Experience for Greater Customer Satisfaction

There are several strategies that can improve the happiness of customers:

Here are a few that we recommend:

a) Enhancing Customer Experience through Technology

  • Innovative Vending Solutions: Embracing technology is key to staying ahead in the vending machine business. From state-of-the-art payment options to advanced user interfaces, integrating modern technology enhances the overall user experience​​. The snack machine of today is a new breed.
  • Interactive and User-Friendly Interfaces: A machine that’s easy to use is a machine that sees more sales. Investing in user-friendly interfaces with interactive touchscreens and digital displays can significantly boost customer satisfaction​​.

A very old and very futuristic vending machine

b) Practical Steps for Improving Customer Satisfaction

  • Maintenance and Reliability: Keeping your vending machines in perfect working condition is non-negotiable. Frequent issues like a bill validator not accepting money can drive customers away. Regular maintenance and timely repairs are vital for keeping customers returning​​.
  • Personal Touch: Don’t underestimate the power of building relationships. Maintaining a positive relationship with the point of contact at vending locations can significantly enhance customer experience and, in turn, customer satisfaction​​.
  • Custom Vending Machines: Customization is a powerful tool. Tailoring your vending machines to cater to specific market needs or even vending services can make a significant difference. This could include customizing the product mix based on location or customer preferences.

c) Tracking and Analyzing Vending Machine Performance

  • Monitoring Sales and Customer Preferences: Sales data can provide valuable insights into customer preferences. Keeping track of which items are popular and which aren’t can help you adjust your inventory to better meet customer demands​​. This also means the ability to review and set a reasonable price.
  • Adapting Inventory: Stay attuned to changing trends and preferences. Regularly updating your inventory to align with these changes ensures that your vending machines always have what your customers are looking for​​.
  • Monitoring Sales and Customer Preferences: Using sales data to understand customer choices​​.
  • Adapting Inventory: Aligning product offerings with customer demands​​.


We hear a lot about smart technology – being incorporated in to the machines. We argue that this improves the offering, but, by itself, is not sufficient to dramatically increase customer satisfaction. Raed on:


Part 3: Smart Technology in Smart Vending Machines is Not Enough to Get Satisfied Customers

Smart technology has revolutionized various industries, and its incorporation into vending machines is no exception. These include, digital payment options, touch screens, remote monitoring, and personalized marketing. Their theoretical benefits are large and include – enhanced convenience, reduced downtime, and targeted product offerings. While these advancements have undeniably enhanced the vending machine experience, they are not a panacea for all customer satisfaction challenges. Specifically they solve the wrong problem, are always more expensive and may end up confusing the customer.

Lets look at some of the issues:

A vending machine with smart technology confusing a customer

Limitations of Smart Vending Machines

  1. Limited Product Variety:
    • Issue: Despite smart features, vending machines still have a finite capacity and limited product range.
    • Impact: This limits customer choices, potentially leading to dissatisfaction.
  2. Maintenance and Technical Issues:
    • Issue: Smart machines rely on technology that can malfunction or require regular updates.
    • Impact: Downtime or technical glitches can frustrate customers.
  3. Lack of Human Interaction:
    • Issue: Vending machines lack the personal touch that can be crucial in customer service.
    • Impact: This impersonality can detract from the customer experience, especially in scenarios requiring assistance or feedback.
  4. Data Privacy Concerns:
    • Issue: Smart machines often collect customer data for personalized experiences.
    • Impact: Customers may have concerns about how their data is used and stored, affecting trust and satisfaction.
  5. Accessibility and Usability Challenges:
    • Issue: Not all users are tech-savvy or able to easily navigate digital interfaces.
    • Impact: Difficulty in use can lead to a negative experience for certain customer segments.

So while smart technology in vending machines offers substantial improvements in efficiency and convenience, it represents only one component of customer satisfaction. A holistic approach, addressing both technological and human-centric aspects, is essential to fully enhance the customer experience in this evolving sector.

More specifically we think that incorporating simple, low cost customer feedback at the point of transaction is a more effective strategy.


Part 4: The Importance of Real-Time Customer Feedback via Cell Phone for Vending Operators

In the dynamic world of vending operations, real-time customer feedback is a game-changer. With the proliferation of cell phones, vending machine operators have an unprecedented opportunity to gather instant feedback, directly impacting their business strategies and customer satisfaction levels. So rather than having to call an obscure phone number – only answered during daytime – let the customer contact the vending operator 24/7:

How to harness instant feedback?:

  • Immediate Insights: Utilizing cell phones for feedback allows vending operators to receive instant input from customers. This immediate response can be crucial for addressing issues such as machine malfunctions, stock shortages, or payment problems.
  • Enhanced Responsiveness: Real-time feedback empowers operators to respond swiftly to customer needs or complaints. This responsiveness not only resolves issues quickly but also demonstrates to customers that their opinions are valued and taken seriously.

Leveraging Technology for Engagement

  • Mobile QR Codes: Integrating QR codes with vending machines makes it easy for customers to provide feedback. This can include rating their experience, reporting issues, or suggesting product additions. Note that QR codes are not the only mechanisms that can be used, but provide a good start. Note that an app for a vending machine is absolutely not needed.

A vending machine with feedback signage

In fact if you have an audience who you know will only use QR codes then an alternative feedback system might look like this:

Vending machine with feedback signage through QR codes

Improving Customer Experience

  • Tailoring Offerings: Real-time feedback helps operators understand customer preferences and tailor their offerings accordingly. This could mean stocking more of a popular product or introducing new items based on customer suggestions.
  • Building a Loyal Customer: A vending machine that regularly updates its offerings based on customer feedback is likely to see increased customer loyalty. Customers appreciate when their input leads to tangible changes or improvements. Moreover they leave positive reviews. Moreover they leave positive reviews for potential customers.

Operational Efficiency and Excellent Service

  • Predictive Maintenance: Immediate feedback on machine issues allows for predictive maintenance. Operators can address minor issues before they escalate into major problems, reducing downtime and maintenance costs.
  • Data-Driven Decisions: Collecting and analyzing feedback data over time can inform broader business decisions, such as identifying profitable locations, optimizing product mix – for example including more healthy snacks, or even adjusting pricing strategies.

Enhancing Brand Image

  • Positive Public Perception: Responsiveness to customer feedback can significantly enhance a brand’s image. A vending operator known for valuing customer input is likely to be seen as customer-centric and forward-thinking.
  • Social Media Integration: Encouraging customers to share their positive vending experiences on social media can amplify a brand’s reach and attract new customers.

Vending machine alerts. Real time conversation with an unhappy customer


Vending machines deliver exceptional shopping convenience and are here to stay. They are more complex that they would first appear and way too many issues can arise that impacts the customer experience. Smart technology can help but this, by itself is not enough.

Leveraging real-time customer feedback via cell phones for vending machine customer satisfaction measurement is not just a convenience; it’s a strategic necessity for vending operators in today’s tech-savvy world. It leads to improved customer satisfaction, operational efficiency, and a stronger brand presence in the competitive vending market.

Using the phone and various feedback methods decreases the cost of customer support. Customer complaints can be captured, but are diverted from complaints online. Contact info is obtained so the business owner can intervene and recover the customer and understand any issues with the current machine.

For more informtion on how this is done, the ROI and the uses cases – contact us now



Q: How can vending machine operators collect real-time feedback from customers? A: Operators can integrate mobile apps or QR codes with their vending machines, enabling customers to easily provide feedback directly from their cell phones. Additionally, push notifications can be used to remind customers to give feedback after their vending experience.

Q: Why is real-time feedback important for vending machine operators? A: Real-time feedback allows operators to immediately address issues like machine malfunctions or stock shortages. It also helps in understanding customer preferences and tailoring the vending machine offerings accordingly.

Q: How does real-time feedback improve customer satisfaction? A: By responding quickly to customer feedback, operators show that they value customer input, leading to improved customer satisfaction. It also ensures that the vending machines are well-maintained and stocked according to customer preferences.

Q: Can real-time feedback impact the operational efficiency of vending machines? A: Yes, real-time feedback can lead to predictive maintenance, allowing operators to address small issues before they become major problems. This reduces machine downtime and maintenance costs.

Q: How does real-time feedback through cell phones benefit the brand image of a vending operator? A: Responsiveness to feedback enhances the brand’s image as being customer-focused. A positive customer review shared on social media can also improve the brand’s public perception and attract new customers.


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