Fuel Oil News

Fuel Oil News June 2014

The home heating oil industry has a long and proud history, and Fuel Oil News has been there supporting it since 1935. It is an industry that has faced many challenges during that time. In its 77th year, Fuel Oil News is doing more than just holding

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www.fueloilnews.com | FUEL OIL NEWS | JUNE 2014 29 AREE in Review Some of the Highlights from the Atlantic Regional Energy Expo T he Atlantic Regional Energy Expo recently wrapped up its 2014 event, having been held April 29 - May 1 at the Atlantic City Convention Center. In addition to a trade show featuring over 250 exhibitors there were a range of networking opportunities. Below, FON Contributor Stephen Bennett highlights several of the educational sessions that were presented at the show, and some of the products on the trade show floor. The ArT of fielding CusTomers' CAlls Randi Busse didn't beat around the bush at the beginning of "Convert the Cancellation Call," in her Wed., April 30 presenta- tion. How many in the audience of fuel oil dealers, Busse asked, would get out of the business if they could walk away with some money? "Who wants to leave the business?" she asked, and when not one person in the nearly full room raised a hand, she exclaimed, "I find that shocking. Are you all being serious? Or did someone say, 'Don't answer that in a positive way?'" Laughter rippled through the audience, and after it died down, she questioned the attendees—almost all of whom identified themselves as full-ser- vice fuel oil dealers—about the main reasons they lose custom- ers. Competition from price-based dealers was among the top reasons, as was poor customer service, the dealers indicated. Customers can be lured by a "come-on price" from a price- oriented dealer, though some end up coming back to their origi- nal full-service dealer, said a member of the audience. Busse reported seeing a "come-on price" at a mall on Long Island, N.Y., where there was a promotion this past heating sea- son for fuel oil at $3.39 per gallon. That price caught her atten- tion, she said, describing her own experience as a customer: "The only reason I know you came is that there's a bill in my mailbox," she said, miming finding the bill, and then acting out her reac- tion: "Holy crap! Seven hundred and ninety dollars!" A dealer suggested that a customer receiving such a bill "should feel comfortable" because they can rest assured they will have heat. Busse compared price-based competitors to airlines of the past that offered low, low fares: "Where are they today?" she asked. Busse, a customer service consultant who is president of Workforce Development Group in Melville, N.Y., said poor cus- tomer service is sometimes an indicator of lack of "engagement" on the part of an employee. "Some of them quit," Busse said. "They quit—but they still come to work every day." Busse showed a slide that listed actual promises that she had collected from fuel oil dealers' advertising and marketing materials: "reputation for exceptional service… unmatched service… quality… reliability… integrity… total customer sat- isfaction…." Busse said she had done test calls to fuel oil dealers and that all she learned from each call was the price of the fuel oil. Then she showed a slide of actual customer feedback that she said she had solicited: "incompetent… spilled oil… hung up…." A number of dealers indicated that they themselves could do better at customer service than many of their employees. But customer service employees aren't always empowered to do things such as commit to a delivery, sometimes because they don't have the information to know whether it is possible to ful- fill a customer's request, a number of the dealers agreed. Busse asked how many dealers in the audience conduct train- ing for their customer service employees, asking for a show of hands. About a quarter of the people in the room indicated they Trent Van Doren of Van Doren Oil, Whitehouse, N.J., chairman of the AREE Committee, makes introductory remarks at the opening of the Atlantic Region Energy Expo in Atlantic City, N.J. BUSINESS OPERATIONS

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