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Improve business performance with the right resolutions

January 11, 2024 By    

New Year’s resolutions fail for the same reason most business strategies fail: They are too heavy on goals and too light on process.

You’re not going to lose weight unless you have a plan (e.g., nutrition and exercise) and track it (e.g., smart watches with integrated food, exercise, sleep and health apps). Are business strategies, like New Year’s resolutions, heavy on goals and light on plans and process?

Increasing sustainable EBITDA is a strategy that illustrates the challenge of striking the right balance. Retaining customers and getting new customers who will stick around for a while by definition increases sustainable EBITDA. Sounds good and, with the right graphics, will look great on a PowerPoint slide, but all we’ve done so far is identify goals. There’s no plan and no process.

Retaining customers might include reducing runouts; answering the phone when it rings; first-call resolution; chat, email and text communication for customers who don’t like to answer their phones; and 24/7 access to information. Getting new customers who will stick around for a while might include marketing messages to target customers who want to lease tanks or to customers who want auto-fill service regardless of who owns the tank. Great details, but still just a list of goals without plan or process.

Our resolution this year

How about this: We are going to improve sustainable EBITDA by retaining customers and getting new customers who will stick around with:

Our team: Using a third-party web portal, applicants will complete two brief diagnostic tests to determine whether they have a customer-oriented, continuous improvement mindset. We will provide constant training and coaching using the PERC training portal, our internal digital training solutions and good, old-fashioned, guided hands-on experience. We currently are evaluating AI-assisted tools that will help our team provide higher quality, more timely and more consistent support to our customers and prospective customers and will roll them out before the start of the 2024-25 delivery season.

Monitors: We will reduce runouts, plan more efficient routes and provide up-to-date tank levels to customers on our app and portal using monitors deployed on every company tank and every auto-fill tank regardless of ownership. We will do this every business day. We will encourage our monitor provider and propane software provider to improve their tools to provide more frequent monitor updates and fill information.

Call-center phone system: We use our current VOIP phone service with an auto-attendant feature that records calls, provides detailed performance statistics (e.g., hold times, dropped calls, time to answer) and accommodates live monitoring. We review basic performance statistics at least once per month, review recorded calls for coaching purposes and make sure we are staffed with enough CSRs to answer the phones. We will evaluate new, AI-supported tools that will provide live feedback to our CSRs during phone calls to improve both the quality and consistency of our customer phone calls. We plan to make a decision on these tools during Q1 2024.

Chat, text and email tools: We will evaluate new, AI-supported chat and text tools that may be integrated into our existing processes and tools, and we are on the lookout for a propane software that more fully integrates these tools. We plan to make a decision on the tools during Q1 2024.

Website and digital marketing: We will continue to use digital marketing and streaming video tools with targeted marketing messages to find new customers. We will establish and stick with customer criteria that are consistent with our strategic goal (i.e., residential, high-usage, home heating customers; restrict customer-owned tank business to auto-fill customers who make a two-year commitment with a deposit). We will evaluate AI-assisted tools that will produce content and more efficiently manage our digital marketing efforts. We will make a decision on these tools during Q1 2024.

We think this strategy has a chance for success. It identifies a goal, defines a process and timelines for strategic and operational performance, and uses specific supporting technology tools. We might even try our luck to chase our personal resolutions too.


Christopher Caywood is a co-owner of Caywood Propane Gas Inc. Contact him at chris@caywoodpropane.com.

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