Every accomplished writer knows one of the cardinal sins of writing is to begin an article with a disclaimer. “They” say that such acclamations have a tendency to weaken any message or contribution you may want to give to the readership. With that in mind I will forthright commit this sin in saying that I am certainly not a hauler, I do not own a hauling operation, and have only been on the technology side of the waste industry for a year. So then, you may ask what gives me the right to write an article that is in any way prescriptive to life-long haulers; individuals that may have “grown up” in the business and have weathered the good times and bad?
I could try and convince you that my 28 years of operations and marketing experience might grant me the right to voice my opinion…but know that would not impress you. I could then throw out the fact that for over a year I have visited with and/or spoken with some of the best haulers in the country; seeing firsthand what makes a company great…but that would probably not impress you either.
That leads me to probably the only reason why haulers, small or large, should listen to me. I am, and have been, a customer (both residential and commercial) of waste services all my life. I am a garbage producer and will continue to do so the rest of my life. I am part of that segment in the U.S. that produces 25% of the world’s trash. Without individuals like me, haulers would be out of business.
Now that I have impressed everyone with my credentials, let’s get on with the four things every hauler must do to run a successful hauling operation.
Whether you are a small hauler or large, have a city franchise or compete in the open market, have one location or compete nationally, there are certain fundamentals that all successful hauling operations seem to have in common.
#1- Customers, Customers, Customers
20 years ago in a typical Business 101 class you would have certainly heard the magical ingredients to any successful business: location, location, location. While that may have been true then, such Professors overestimated the longevity of “brick and mortar” establishments, did not anticipate the internet revolution or foresee the absolute necessity to create and foster a “customer-centric” business model. What does customer-centric look like, you ask? Here a few questions to ask yourself as to whether or not you are that type of business:
- Do you make it easy for your customers to do business with you? Compare your business with other services you use in your daily life. Is it easy to make changes to their account or communicate with you? A quick look at your website or a call in to your company may reveal a lapse in communication, lack of information or a difficulty in connecting with a Customer Service Representative.
- Do you find yourself at odds with your customers instead of being “on their side”? Do gaps in your service leave the customers lacking in confidence that you have their best interest at stake? Maybe a disputed “extra” or “not out” has left the relationship strained?
- Have you developed a sense of community that encourages their feedback, good or bad? All good business people know that two-way communication is critical for success, but what channels have you provided to receive such communication? Are you proactive or reactive? Do you leverage Social Media and the technology tools available to you?
- Bottom line, do your customers feel cared for? In an age where loyalty is not cherished as it used to be, haulers must lead the way in developing a culture that encourages, even mandates, customer loyalty. Businesses should make themselves indispensable.
Create a loyal customer base
Customer care creates customer loyalty which, in turn, creates a consistent revenue stream for haulers. Do not underestimate the power of little conveniences like online bill pay, real-time communication with the drivers and waste management software that enables the CSR’s to respond to your customers quickly and accurately. Next week we will move to the second “must” for hauling operations: trash companies don’t have to look like trash to be successful in the trash industry.
Alpine Technology Corporation has been serving the waste industry for over 35 years with waste management software for both the office and the trucks. Their office software,Visual RAMS-Pro, provides billing, work orders, container inventory, route management, customer and account management and much, much more. Their industry-leading truck solution, Visual On-Route, is more than a mere routing software and allows the driver to be connected real-time to the office. Visual On-Route keeps the drivers accountable while allowing haulers the ability to generate additional revenue streams and cut expenses through efficiencies.