By Nick Quaratiello
Blue Cow Software
Fuel oil and propane dealers do not always follow a traditional calendar. The industry’s “year” begins when the leaves fall and temperatures drop and runs through the spring thaw. Still, turning the page on 2019 presents the opportunity to assess and evaluate what is working for your business and to look at ways to improve it. Here are four resolutions you should consider making for 2020.
- Improve communication with customers – Is receiving an invoice the only time a customer hears from you? Keeping up regular contact with customers can help to “build a fence” around them to help build loyalty. Technology makes this easier than ever, with customer relationship management (CRM) components built into many management software programs. Use email, text or traditional “snail mail” to deliver positive and helpful information like energy saving tips, scheduled deliveries, and news items to help them better manage their home comfort. As a bonus, an established channel of communication can be invaluable if and when the time comes to deliver news that is not as positive, such as price increases or supply issues that may arise.
- Improve communication with employees – Just as important as opening channels with customers is communicating regularly with the people who work for you. This encompasses both day-to-day operations and team building contact. Again, use available technology to make employees’ jobs easier and more efficient by integrating and sharing information across operations. But don’t ignore personal communications that will make your staff feel more like a family. Sharing promotions, birthdays, special events, and individual successes will help knit your employees into an integrated team.
- Manage your cash flow – Even if your company is growing it is important to make sure you control spending and sustain your profit margin. But it can be difficult to look ahead to prepare a budget that includes revenue and cash flow projections. It helps to use historical data to help you look into the future. Dig into financial trends in your business over the past three to five years to find an indicator of what might lie ahead. The numbers don’t lie. Identify weaknesses by pinpointing operational areas where costs are eating up more than their share of revenues, then take steps to improve efficiency. Establish a rolling 12-month budget to gain more control over your cash flow and to maintain a clearer picture of your company’s financial health.
- Commit to digital – Every business should have a responsive, mobile-friendly website by now. Giving your customers the option of doing business with your through their many electronic devices is essential, since an estimated 70 percent of them are using their smart phones on a regular basis. Boost your level of digital functionality by offering online fuel ordering, payment and service scheduling. Your marketing, too, should include a strong digital component, including social media like Facebook, online video advertising, and local pay-per-click campaigns. Your customers are online – you should be, too.
Making these commitments will almost certainly help you gain more control over your business and improve operations and profitability. Our Ignite® fuel management software suite can help you take these important steps to improve your business. Find out how by visiting our website or calling us at (888) 499-2583.