This morning I woke up to the sound of the alarm beeping on the cell phone next to my bed. Before arising I visited a weather app to determine how many layers of clothing I would need to be comfortable. I checked my email and scanned my daily calendar on my tablet, while warming up my car using a remote starter. On the way to work I used my cell phone’s virtual assistant to pre-order my “usual” at the coffee shop so I could pick it up without waiting in line. Then, prompted by a calendar reminder, I ordered the delivery of a dozen roses to my wife for our anniversary, and followed up by making an online reservation at her favorite restaurant.
All this was accomplished before I even arrived at my office.
This is life in a connected world. With few exceptions (and the numbers are shrinking every day) people of all ages are growing accustomed to getting things done more easily and efficiently through the use of technology. Which is a compelling reason for your fuel oil or propane business to more fully engage customers by embracing the tools they want to use.
Virtually every interaction between your customers and your company can be adapted to be handled, well… virtually. Customers want the convenience of being able to do business with you at the time and place of their choosing. That includes ordering a fuel delivery, paying a bill, scheduling service, getting a quote on new equipment, checking prices, etc.
An important part of the appeal of this virtual interaction, particularly for younger homeowners, is an aversion to one-to-one communication. We may not like it but rising generations simply do not want to talk to us. Are you going to risk losing a customer by restricting their access to a narrow window of time? Or by making them conform to your sense of how society should interact? If a competitor down the road offers an easier and more complete way for people to communicate, they are going to win the trust and the business of more customers.
One problem is that many companies have implemented only a partial selection of customer service applications and features, deploying them at different times without truly coordinating their use. A website-based fuel delivery request form might alert dispatch but fail to connect to inventory control. Or a service request made online might not be linked to a routing program, and thus separate service technicians could be sent to customers in the same neighborhood. Or customers might be able to pay their bill online but can’t schedule a service request without calling on the telephone.
Not only is a broad array of business functions available online appealing to customers, it makes good business sense to streamline your operations by having all parts of your company linked and functioning as one. Eliminating duplication of effort, avoiding mistakes made between departments, and reducing payroll and overhead are all benefits of implementing an enterprise-wide software system.
What is keeping you from engaging with customers in the way that is easiest for them and makes them most comfortable? All while making your business operate at a higher level of efficiency? For many fuel oil and propane dealers it can be dread of making the wrong choice of software, uncertainty about how it all works, or worries that they will be unable to recoup their investment through improved operations and better customer communication. But these fears have been proven to be groundless again and again by dealers who have successfully embraced and employed new technologies.
Want to see how a truly end-to-end suite of business management software for the energy industry works? Visit our website or call us at (888) 499-2583.