How retailers should prepare for the upcoming heating season

September 10, 2020 By    

Q: What should retailers do differently this year to prepare for the heating season?

A: Thus far, 2020 has brought challenges and uncertainty, requiring everyone to adjust. Preparing for the upcoming heating season is no exception. Retailers need to make normal preparations for the heating season like preventative maintenance on rolling stock. However, they should also consider additional preparations before the heating season begins this year.

Company policy: Create a company protocol that all employees acknowledge and sign as part of employment. That policy should outline employee behaviors with regard to COVID-19. Items should include when to wear a mask, specifically in the office, the field, vehicles, and customers’ homes or facilities. Outline protocol for disinfecting the office, surfaces and vehicles. The owner, manager and staff need to follow the same protocol and have a clear understanding of the company’s policy. All employees, management and owners should hold everyone accountable.

COVID-19 exposure: As an extension of the company policy, you should have an action plan ready to put into place in case one or multiple employees are exposed to COVID-19.

Customer receivables: It will be very important this heating season to keep a close eye on customer receivables. You may have many customers who have lost their jobs or have been furloughed and may struggle to pay their bills. Large accounts are no exception. Stay on top of the list of bills to be paid by using energy assistance programs or payment plans.

Energy assistance: Make sure your staff members are knowledgeable about how to help customers enroll in energy assistance programs. Staff should watch for customers who could qualify for the programs available in your area.

Budget payment plans: Encourage customers to join your budget plan. Starting this late in the season, create a budget program buy-in amount to catch them up to their regular payments – just as if they had signed up in May or June.

This heating season is going to be like learning a new dance. You have the same dance partner, but you need to learn new steps to navigate a different rhythm. 

Tamera Kovacs is a financial consultant and industry expert in business valuations and sales at Propane Resources.

Comments are currently closed.