Loyalty is a word that I have heard used many times during my conversations with owners, technicians, and customers. Loyalty can play an important role in business. There is a return on investment to nurturing it. Let’s look at employee loyalty first. A loyal employee recognizes the needs of the company that he or she is employed by and what they can do to promote both the profit and growth of the company. One of the main issues that seems to surface during my conversations is: How can employees advance with the company and what is the future direction of the company?
Employer loyalty seems likely to affect the long-term commitment of employees. Do the company’s owners recognize employees for their contributions, such as long hours, the multiple skill level requirements, and continual training? I hear that companies seem to be reducing the continual training hours that employees need. In my opinion if the servicemen are not able to take advantage of continual training, the company will suffer. The companies’ techs will not be able to service the updated equipment that is changing almost as fast as cell phone providers change their models.
Also, how often do we hear that management or owners forget to offer words of encouragement and gratitude? In the future, I would hope that every loyal employee will become a stake holder in the company and share in a 401k or some type of profit-sharing plan.
I recently spoke with the owner of a full-service company who makes sure to acknowledge a job well done by his employees. He gave me an example of what he does for the employees when a job is completed within the labor and material cost estimate for specific installations. If the job is completed within the time allotted per the contract, the installers are given a Dunkin Donuts card along with a cash gift. He also has other rewards for employees throughout the company who have contributed to success and profits, often with work that tends to go unrecognized because it is done “behind the scenes.”
Customer loyalty is much-discussed in our industry. Everyone seems to have ideas and opinions on how to make this tie one that binds. First, to have a customer’s loyalty, we must earn it by being honest and fair and providing the best service and equipment the company can offer. We must also be able to assure the customer that the products that we offer are safe, clean, reliable, and efficient. The customer should also be given the choice of what equipment and products to purchase based on their needs when a replacement is necessary. Also keep in mind when talking to a customer that you have two ears and one mouth. In other words, do a lot of listening and less talking. This is another way to establish customer loyalty and help determine what the customer’s needs are.
Let customers know how important their input is when it comes to the selecting of new equipment. Offer equipment from the good, better, and best categories and be within the customer’s budget.
Also keep in mind that the customer will often use the internet to search for any information they want regarding the price of the products you may be offering. Remember the final choice must be the customer’s, based on the information and the list of items you will be providing for their specific equipment requirements.
It is important that they have a few options. After all, do you go into a restaurant and have a waiter tell you what to order? Currently with both oil and gas being the fuel choices, we need to be well-versed in the pluses and minuses of both when discussing conversions.
You will probably notice that the older generation of customers seem to be the most loyal because they already have a long-standing relationship with their fuel provider and have been treated with TLC for years. The key now is to try to gain the same loyalty with the new generation, who tend to spend more time reading online about new products and searching for their fuel price. Remember: Loyalty is earned, not bought, or sold!
Columnist Charles Bursey, Sr., began his career in the heating oil industry in 1963. He is a recipient of the Oil & Energy Service Professionals’ Hugh McKee Award for making an outstanding contribution to the fuel oil industry. He currently works with F.W. Webb, Warwick, R.I.