By Nick Quaratiello
Blue Cow Software
We work in an unusual industry. Although the calendar tells us it is a new year, our season began long before the leaves fell from the trees several months ago. Still, the turn of the calendar page does give an owner or manager of a fuel oil or propane company an opportunity to look ahead and make some resolutions about your business for 2019. Here are four we think should be on the list.
- I will make my office more efficient this year. This is a perennial favorite among resolutions. Practically every office can be made to run more smoothly, to work more collaboratively, and to handle customers more speedily. The secret is improving the flow of information between staff members, service techs, delivery drivers, and managers. When everybody has instant access to the same information, communication improves, duplication of effort is avoided, and fewer missteps occur. The right management software – we know a good one – can tie everyone in your organization into a shared knowledge base that is fast and easy to access and use. Instant efficiency.
- I will be more responsive to customers. Admit it, when a customer calls or emails you tense up because you think it is a complaint or a problem that will need to be solved. The truth is, customers who complain are doing you a favor by offering you an opportunity to fix it and keep their business. The challenge is getting full and accurate details about the situation, and then developing a solution that will make the customer happy without a big disruption in operations. The more you know about each customer, the better able you will be to understand their history with your company. Are they loyal customers who seldom pop up with a problem? Or are they constant complainers whose demands are costly in terms of time and money? Your customer database should provide the background. Knowing who you are dealing with when you pick up the phone will give you a head start on dealing with the problem.
- I will drive down my cost per delivery. If you think your cost per delivery is just the cost of the fuel, think again. Factors such as driver salary, vehicle maintenance, insurance, vehicle fuel, depreciation of equipment, employee benefits and more also figure into the true cost of each delivery you make. If you can shave a few dollars off at each stop, the savings will be multiplied by the hundreds or thousands of deliveries your drivers make every year. Evaluate your current dispatch and scheduling process to see where efficiencies can be found. Invest in a routing system that automatically maximizes fleet efficiency. Look for ways to improve maintenance and vehicle inspection scheduling to minimize down time. All of these steps can help reduce delivery costs and enhance your bottom line.
- I will cross sell more services and products this year. The insurance industry calls it “account rounding” when your insurance agency insures your home, auto, boat, life and personal belongings. You should do the same with your customers. If you deliver fuel, make sure you also offer service. If you provide service, try to sell an upgrade for aging equipment. If you take care of a home’s comfort systems during the winter, it makes sense for you to install and service air conditioning systems when the hot weather arrives. The more you can do for your customers, the less likely it will be that they will leave for another dealer. But you need to keep track of which customers use which services, who has older heating or cooling systems, and how often you are getting service calls. Building and maintaining up-to-date customer files that are accessible to everyone from your sales team to your delivery drivers will help create an environment that encourages initiative in “rounding” each customer’s account.
Ready to make 2019 the best year yet for your fuel oil or propane business? Blue Cow Software can help. Discover how at www.bluecowsoftware.com, or schedule a demo by calling us at (888) 499-2583.