Homework can add to bottom line

February 1, 2004 By    

This winter is shaping up to be the kind of cold season we in the propane industry always wish for. With bitter cold temperatures blanketing much of the country, this winter will undoubtedly prove a profitable one for marketers.

To many customers, however, colder temperatures mean difficulty paying utility bills.

Instead of simply reacting to the financial challenges your customers may face (increased energy use, unemployment, elderly, disabled or low-income struggling to meet higher costs) there are several proactive alternatives marketers should consider to help alleviate potential problems and create good will among customers. Doing so will tune up operations and increase the bottom line.

Marketers must create awareness among customers about the helpful programs and policies they offer. This eliminates customer confusion and procrastination and improves unwise operational procedures that carve away at gross margins.

For example, if your customers are aware that an after-hours delivery charge is $100, they may become motivated to call for a delivery before they let their gauge read 1 percent. You’ve educated customers and improved safety as well as your bottom line.

For instance, it would be advantageous to you to ensure there was no confusion among customers that out-of-gas calls are expensive and potentially dangerous. This is an opportunity to make a connection with your customers, improve relations and increase gross margin.

Are you efficiently scheduling will- call deliveries? Do you need to inform customers that 72 hours notice is needed before a delivery can be scheduled? Do you have a minimum will-call drop size? Do you see an opportunity to increase drop size, decrease out-of-gas or after-hours calls, or more effectively schedule will-call deliveries?

Analyzing these questions and implementing a subsequent awareness campaign can help improve your bottom line and educate customers of any new policies you deem imperative to good business practice.

People realize you can’t give away your time or products. Customers will accept that you must charge for an out-of-gas call, leak tests, after-hours delivery or insufficient notice on will-call deliveries. If customers have an awareness of your policies, they are much more likely to be understanding and work with the policy framework.

Look at your operation and do your homework. Make changes that will help your customers and improve your bottom line, then reach out to educate your customers.

Good customer relations depend upon communication and education.

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