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Improve customer service with technology

January 31, 2020 By    

We all have great customer service. Just ask us, or better, look at our marketing materials.

When I entered the propane business after spending my career in other industries, I asked our team why consumers should buy propane from us instead of other retailers. The answer: great service and great prices.

Great service does not differentiate us from other retailers because nobody claims to provide crappy service. However, great service does impact customer retention.

We are using technology to renew our focus on customer retention and great service. Here’s our definition of great service and how we use technology to accomplish it.

Be reliable:

  • Complete deliveries within 10 business days, with an average of five business days. We measure this with customer software.
  • Don’t let auto-fills run out of gas. We deployed tank monitors to supplement our software’s K-factor system. Monitors and new routing software have increased our gallons per hour and gallons per delivery, which reduces delivery completion time and the risk of runout.
  • Show up on time for service appointments. We use mobile service technology to track arrival and departure times.
  • Don’t reschedule service appointments. We track this using an audit trail feature.
  • Low service callback rate. Again, we track this with our software.

Be available:

  • Provide multiple communication channels, including an email address. We also have live chat on our website during business hours.
  • Answer the phone in 20 seconds or less at least 80 percent of the time. We use a reporting feature in our telephone service to achieve this.
  • Don’t put callers on hold more than 10 percent of the time.
  • If you must put them on hold, try to keep it to a minute or less. Your abandon rate should be less than 3 percent.
  • Provide after-hours and weekend access. Non-emergency access includes web access and smartphone apps to check tank levels, place orders and pay the bill.
  • Offer after-hours live access. We always have somebody with our after-hours cellphone and a laptop to access our customer software.

Be consistent: We use a combination of recorded calls, checklists and reporting features built into our software to make sure that our business policies and rules are applied consistently.

Be transparent: Our standard terms, prices and price history are available on our website.

Be organized: We have a high first-call resolution rate due to digital document management. We can instantly pull up copies of signed agreements, gas checks, delivery tickets and even photographs of appliances and equipment from the customer record in our software or our cloud-based document file system.

Communicate: We use our software to provide written communications (digital, standard paper or both) to confirm customer requests and document that the confirmation was provided. When coupled with call recording, “he said, she said” disputes are reduced.

Have a customer-oriented website: We have a number of “why and how to” videos that explain our policies, service options, standard terms and price protection plans. We also have videos that explain the mundane, such as how to install and use our apps.

We recognize many of you, and many customers, define great service differently. Some retailers provide shorter delivery windows. Others have longer delivery windows but lower prices. For us, the most important goal of great service is a consistent, measurable experience.

Few foodies claim that McDonald’s has the best hamburger, but it sells more hamburgers than anybody else because you know that your regular burger will have a single dill chip and the same amount of mustard, ketchup and reconstituted onion no matter where you buy it. We’re betting our consistent, measurable experience will keep our customers coming back.

*Featured photo: 

Christopher Caywood is a co-owner of Caywood Propane Gas Inc. in Hudson, Michigan.

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