We recently had a conversation with Bennett Guerette of Winthrop Fuel in Winthrop Maine, a family-owned and operated fuel delivery and heating services company. Bennett talked about the company’s success in utilizing Blue Cow Software’s Ignite® Mobile solution, which is designed to automate fuel drivers and service technicians through the use of real-time communication. With Ignite® Mobile each member of the team has direct access to schedules and updates right from their trucks.
Recognizing the Need
Winthrop Fuel is a multi-generational family company. The company was started in 1936 by Bennett’s grandfather’s uncle, with two locations. His grandfather later purchased the Winthrop branch in the early 1970s and his dad, Richard Guerette, bought that location in the late 1980s. Bennett and his brother, Doug, learned the business by working every summer until they graduated from college. They have been there full-time ever since, along with their dad and mom Susan.
For a company providing fuel delivery services throughout Maine for the past 80 years, change comes slowly. But when Bennett had a chance to look into a new software program in 2008, he saw that it had the power to change Winthrop Fuel for the better.
Bennett knew Winthrop Fuel’s management system was antiquated, stuck in the early 1990s. As the business grew this was taking a toll on the operational and management side. Bennett attended a convention where Blue Cow Software was being showcased and was intrigued. “I felt the Ignite® software suite had far more operational capabilities than other software solutions in the industry,” he says.
Looking back, Bennett realizes the first six months with Ignite® were not easy. “Like anything else, there were growing pains in incorporating Ignite® into our business,” he says. “Some of our people wanted to give up on it at the beginning. But we stayed the course and pushed through, eventually coming out the other side stronger and better for it.”
What got them through was the relentless attention to detail from Blue Cow Software, who were just as dedicated as Bennett to making it work. The people at Blue Cow Software took the time to troubleshoot, fix, adjust, tweak and listen to suggestions. Bennett and his team would keep a running tally on a whiteboard of all the issues they were having. On-site training helped them understand the nuances and help them adjust the software to their needs.
Bennett liked Ignite® Mobile’s ability to evolve with the technology, allowing drivers to finally go paperless. “Now we can do more work in a much shorter amount of time because drivers and technicians don’t have to fill out tedious paperwork once back in the office,” says Bennett. “They can simply use the app to log all information, eliminating that cumbersome middle step.”
In the past, Winthrop Fuel would have to wait till the end of the week for the drivers and techs to fill out paperwork and submit it. Now information can be tallied daily, streamlining the entire process and making the administrative side of the operation go much more smoothly.
Incidentally, the reduction in filing was one of the selling points for Bennett’s mom Susan, who used to print out every delivery ticket and sort 300 of them by hand every week. With the promise of a drastic reduction in office work, she happily got on board with the new software.
“Another strength of Ignite® Mobile is that it will work even if a driver or tech loses wireless connectivity, which was a huge selling point for me,” says Bennett. “Another advantage of the Mobile technology is being able to see where a driver or tech is anytime during the day. This allows the office to use real-time information to make better operation decisions during the day. Plus, we are now proactive as opposed to reactive.”
Transparency in daily work is perhaps one of the best parts of the Mobile app, allowing Bennett to see everything that’s going on out in the field, whether he’s at home, in the office or on the go. He can pull tickets, see what drivers are doing and how productive they’re being. “It provides a seamless transition and the usability is great, with less training time for employees on this platform,” says Bennett.
As with anything else, there was a transitional period in training employees with the Ignite software. But Bennett is happy to say that the learning curve went smoothly. With Ignite® Enterprise and Ignite® Mobile in place, he can more readily grow and improve Winthrop Fuel. Speaking of growth, Bennett sees Ignite scaling up to meet his company’s needs as expansion continues. “Blue Cow Software is continuously updating their software platforms to meet the needs of their customer base and the energy industry,” notes Bennett.
Convenience for Customers
Bennet says the last thing most customers want to do is come into the office and pay their bill. They’re looking for the same convenience they have been experiencing for years with paying their mortgage and phone bills online. Ignite® Mobile can capture cash and check payment transactions in the field and automatically post these payments to customers’ accounts in Ignite.
Benefits at a Glance
Bennett reports that with the adoption of Ignite, Winthrop Fuel is able to get more done in a day, saving a lot of aggravation, resources, time and headaches. The key takeaways from using Ignite® Enterprise and Ignite® Mobile products include:
- Ability to work with a loss of a wireless signal.
- Boost in efficiency.
- Paperless functionality.
- Drivers can make more deliveries in same amount of time.
- Immediately send drivers and technicians new orders during the day.
Bennet says owners of fuel oil and propane companies who choose Blue Cow Software get peace of mind that comes with working with a company that, despite its exponential growth over the last decade, still acts like a small company. “The people are easy to talk to, they take suggestions and they truly listen to your concerns,” points out Bennett, who says he’s happy he will never have to buy another software again. Ignite® will grow with his company today, tomorrow and for years to come.
Bennett Guerette advises fuel oil and propane companies to make the switch to Ignite to become more efficient. “This will be your last software purchase,” Bennett says. “You buy it once, you buy it for life.”