Using technology can boost heating-season efficiencies

May 28, 2018 By    

Photo: iStock.com/merznatalia

Winter heating season is when efficiency matters most, so propane retailers should strive to find technology that’ll help them quickly meet the demands of customers.

It’s not always easy, though, as there are several considerations to make along the way. Choosing what technology to use can be overwhelming. It’s important retailers establish goals and determine what technology investment to make based off of those goals.

“I just want to improve my business, from the ordering and delivery of propane to the end – billing and when I get my payment,” says Dave Barrett, president of Barrett Propane Inc. “The whole goal is to improve the process and smooth out the process to make it more efficient.”

Some popular types of technology propane retailers incorporated to boost efficiencies during the winter season include tank monitoring and back-end software.

“Over the last several years, our company began to implement [tank] monitoring on a broad basis, and we’re seeing some great improvements in our efficiency, as well as our customer service experience,” says Mark Delehanty, owner of Independence Propane and an LP Gas Rising Leader.

Since the company implemented the monitors, its customers worry less about running out of propane and checking their gauges, Delehanty adds.

Real-time truck-tracking software is another growing technology. With bobtails on the road, it’s imperative to know your trucks are staying on track and that orders are filled correctly and efficiently.

“The next piece of technology we’d like to incorporate is more real-time tracking of the trucks so we know where they are throughout the day and so when we get calls in, we can be a little bit more proactive with the customer and be able to let them know if they’re [the drivers] able to swing by the same day,” says Josh Severson, vice president of Severson Oil.

Next, propane retailers have to establish a plan to integrate the technology. Training is critical – you’ll need to notify your employees about the technology change and set up training sessions. If the technology is used incorrectly, it won’t help improve your business.

Train your employees in the summer months, and entice them to attend the training sessions with a free lunch or company-wide raffle. You’ll get a much higher return on investment (ROI) if your employees are properly trained.

Once the technology is implemented, keep track of your customer calls, vehicle miles and deliveries. Compare those numbers with results prior to the technology integration.

Keep in mind that some technologies work for certain companies and some don’t – company size, training tactics, weather and more can factor in to the technology’s ROI. Technology is more than a monetary investment: It’s an investment in your business, employees and customers.

About the Author:

Allison Barwacz is the digital media content producer for LP Gas magazine. Contact her at abarwacz@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3796.

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