Preparing for another season

As the summer passes by and we approach September, we instinctively feel the urge to start preparing for the upcoming season. Vacations end, new-hires and seasonal employees come on board, all gearing up for a great season, a better one than the last. You’ve gone through this process many times and you’re probably good at it; however, I strongly suggest adding a few items that could yield stress-relieving and profitable results to your season. A few years ago, the Angus Energy team put together a “Timing is Everything” seminar that many marketers found worthwhile. I begin with the premise that you know very well what happens within your operation every fall/winter season and that things could actually run smoother if you were to be more proactive than reactive in certain instances. I felt, with the timing of this newsletter, it might be worthwhile sharing a brief checklist of suggestions from this seminar for your consideration. It’s stuff that never gets old:

  • Training – Who needs training and what type of training do they require? There is job-specific training, cross-training, ridealong introductions, back-office system training, performance measurements training and perhaps other vendor-specific training to consider. Your environment continues to be going in the direction of less clerical and increasingly more knowledge-based. Appreciate the fact that your customer service group and those in the field are your front-line representation. Ensure that they are versed in all aspects of your company and its offerings at all times and can perform to the best of their abilities.
  • Set seasonal goals – Both financial and non-financial goals should be in place for the entire year. Your prime season for making money is limited and recovery from poor performance is often non-existent. Knowing what your desired results are and keeping variances front and center every day, allows you to make the necessary and timely course corrections effectively so as to arrive at month-end predictably. The goals to set at a minimum per period would include volumes, extended gross margins, service revenues, expenses (especially payroll), payroll hours, # of stops, # of service calls and gains/losses. Know your desired performance numbers in each category of operation; sales, delivery and service. Formally communicate these goals with management, making sure that they are aligned with the measurements and you have their buy-in. Set expectations with your staff and make sure that they are aware of how their performance is being measured and WHY. Every BRITE widget displays your desired goals and color coding to indicate meeting or missing them on a MTD basis.
  • Sales – Sales staff has been versed and incented on the defi niti on of your ideal customer. Customer gain and loss data is being input completely and accurately in order to facilitate meaningful gain/ loss reporting. New price agreement signings have been input and gallons have been covered. Gains & Loss reporting by customer as well as by tank within BRITE keeps you informed of quantity and quality as the month progresses.
  • Delivery – Customer consumption rates (k-factors and daily usage) have been reviewed and maintained. The fall is historically our worst ti me for run-outs due to the spanning of seasons since last delivery. Be cognizant of late winter/early spring last delivery tanks. Tank monitors have been installed and tested, paying particular attention to problematic customers, dispatch-controlled tanks and new customers. Other technologies you have elected to purchase have been installed and tested, in support of higher delivery efficiency. Delivery Performance and Efficiency reporting in BRITE provides you with the tools and the information you need to analyze the outliers that will eventually cause you trouble in the near future.
  • Service – By now you have tactically taken care of your poor performing service customers from last season (Excess Calls Widget), hopefully through their preventive maintenance, upgrades or service contract adjustments. You are aware of the types of customers who call during the first cold snap, have identified repeat offenders and have taken proactive steps, on straight ti me, to resolve their recurring issues before they normally would call. Review your service history (vs. DD Log) to analyze what happens and what can be done now to reduce the load. For those of you who require that their technicians sell additional services, the sales programs and any fl at rate programs have been established and taught. Customer and equipment master files have been properly reviewed and updated as needed. Quick performance ratios with which to measure technician performance have been established. Service Revenue Reporting by Technician is available in BRITE to keep an eye of performance, along with valuable Callback reporting.
  • Credit – Credit worthy customers and those that may not be have been segmented. Action has been taken to improve those customer relationships through program offerings such as energy assistance, budgeting and perhaps specific price agreements.

I am sure you are aware of how important these tasks are and how much stress and inefficiencies can be prevented with solid planning. Delegate these responsibilities to front line staff who are great at what they do, collaborate with each other. Ask what can be done now to make life easier when the transaction counts are high. Most importantly, take action on the items above that will yield the best results for your customers and company.