Schwans Schwans


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From A Schwan's Route Manager

Nov 28, 2003 (Updated Nov 29, 2003)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Personal service, quality, convenience. Employees care about seeing you happy!

Cons:Somewhat pricey, outdated practices, may become a dinosaur if they don't step up.

The Bottom Line: Customers are, by and large, treated very well. However, if you are considering employment, think long and hard.

I am a route manager with Schwan's, and have been a customer for several years.

As with any major food seller, Schwan's has a variety of products. Some are more popular than others, some seem to be overpriced, and some are discontinued due to a lack of interest. Overall, I would say the food quality is high to mid-range. If you want a "true taste" of Schwan's, you might want to try the #502 chicken breasts or #410 porkchops as a meat/poultry item; the #780 herb garlic blend or the #773 sweet corn as a vegetable; the #101 vanilla ice cream or the #90 cheesecake as a desert. The appetizers are, comparatively speaking, spendy, but the portions are often larger than what is available retail. The good news is that no matter what you try, Schwans has a liberal return policy! Simply save the unused portion for your RM's next visit.

Route managers work on a commission of 11%, and only new route managers have this supplemented with a base salary. We receive no holiday or sick pay. We work long hours, and we are outside no matter what the weather. We are often given mandatory meetings to attend, lengthening our day, and we have quotas to meet--which increase quite often. Our performance is judged by how many of our customers buy in a day; how many new customers we get; our ticket average; and the number of stops we make in a day. We are expected to sell a minimum of $1200, although the $1500-2000 range is preferred.

We must pay for our own cell phones -- even though they are a necessary customer service tool. (My sales manager will not reimburse me for any pay phone call, no matter how critical it is that I contact the customer!). MOST route managers bite the bullet and pay the cost -- some can't afford to. Ask your RM if he's reachable by cell. Otherwise, you may have to call his pager and wait for a return call if you are not scheduled that route day. A return call may not happen until the next morning, when he has access to the company phone.

Some of us work for less than sterling sales managers. It's likely that most sales managers have had no formal business training outside of Schwan's classes, which can lead to shoddy employment practices. It's to Schwans credit that they promote from within--most SM's are former RM's-- but left unchecked in "their own depot", and largely untrained in employee relations or lawful practices, some SM's exhibit less than professional behavior. Schwan's claims to have an "open door policy" but in fact, the door ends with the sales manager. District and regional managers seem to support the sales managers unconditionally on the topic of employees. There is no formal or effective grievance procedure, and Schwans has an extremely high turnover rate.

Medical insurance is excellent, but dental is limited to $1000/yr, and there is no vision plan except a 10% discount at some retailers. We receive a 20% discount on food. There is a profit sharing plan after one year of employment. Sales bonuses are given through a debit card, but the bonuses are not significant unless the RM is in the Chairmans' or Presidents' Club -- the very top sellers.

WHY do some route managers stay? Simple--we LOVE our customers! We like getting to know your family, and getting to see your kids grow up! We like the ability to help determine our own paycheck. We like being outside; we like having a job that is social in nature; and we like the challenge of sales. We like building loyal relationships! And given the importance of sales and new customers, MOST route managers work very hard to make their customers happy. We want you to be repeat customers!

If you would like to see your route manager very, very happy I can give the following tips for being a SUPER customer:

*Please have your order ready, or nearly ready. The average driver has about 100 stops to make in his fifteen hour day.

*Please be home at the scheduled time, or call your driver's cell phone and let him know when a better time would be. Each "no home" takes three minutes out of your driver's day. Also, be sure to let your driver know if you will be on vacation, or otherwise unavailable for service. I've spent three months going to "not homes" only to find out the customers were wintering in Florida!

*If you're not home when the driver comes, and he leaves his pager # on your door, and you would like to order some items, page him!! Many customers hesitate to do this...but route managers LOVE to get paged! It means they have an order. An order means they will be getting paid! Most drivers respond to pages within 1/2 hour.

*Please respect your driver's safety decisions. If they say they cannot park in your uphill driveway, or in the no-parking zone, believe them! Driver's are held solely responsible for any tickets or accidents, and also for the theft of product from their truck if they leave their freezer doors unlocked. Please respect their limits, and don't ask them (or customer service!) for a special exception to safety rules.

*If you live in a high-rise apartment building and are not handicapped or otherwise disabled, please agree to meet your driver in the lobby. Please don't ask him to park in a far-away parking lot, lock up his truck, and climb three or more flights of stairs to deliver your order, especially when the order is small. Commission on a $15.00 order is $1.65. Please don't ask your route manager to work for ten to fifteen minutes to earn that. We want to make you happy, but we also need to earn a living!

*If you have an issue with your route manager, please call him directly! Don't make a mountain out of a molehill by calling everyone from the customer service line to the CEO. I've had customers do this over a $3.99 bag of vegetables, or because I wouldn't park in a no-parking zone, and even because they weren't home at the scheduled time and felt I should have automatically known they would be back in two hours. Don't be a PITA! Be kind to your RM, and they will be kind to you! We're all just people!

*Conversely, if you have a compliment for your RM, call customer service and let them know! Route managers are practically whipped over every complaint -- yet their sales managers rarely hear about the good they do.

*Please understand priorities. I care about ALL of my customers, from the 1/2 gallon ice cream buyer to the family that places a $100 order. But I earn .53 on one half-gallon of ice cream and $11 on a $100 order. I will get to both customers -- but the larger order will have priority.

*If you find yourself purchasing once-a-month and your driver comes every two weeks, ask him to change your schedule to monthly. If you plan on purchasing less frequently, ask to become a "will-call" (we come only when you call). Otherwise, a history of no purchases might inactivate your account. A sparse purchase history, and inactivations, hurt your route manager's "numbers."

*If you have a friend or neighbor who would like Schwan's, give your route manager a referral! Referrals for new customers are like gold to us! We also have many specials to offer new customers.

*Don't rely on customer service to tell you when the driver will arrive--the operators in Marshall, MN do not know the driver's schedule. Whenever possible, speak to the route manager directly.

Recommend this product? Yes

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