ProTips

The E-newsletter for Waste Industry Professionals

(No. 7, June 2004)

 

A guide to this month’s edition

1. Welcome

2. ProTips for Professional Development

3. ProTips for Operational Profitability

4. Topic of the Month: Make your Call Center Shine

5. Quote of the Month

6. Ramblings

7. Announcements

 

Welcome

Welcome to Issue No.7 of “ProTips, the E-newsletter for Waste Industry Professionals.”

 

This month’s newsletter is filled with tips and thoughts to help with your professional development and to manage your business more profitably. My purpose is to stimulate your thinking; the industry benefits most when we all do our best.

 

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If you would like more information about any of the topics discussed in this newsletter, or have any thoughts you would like to share, call me at 510.881.9440, or send an e-mail to ron@protoconsulting.com.

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2. ProTips for Professional Development

 

Keep in touch with your customers, colleagues, friends, and relatives. Business is built on relationships, and you never know when you’re going to need someone’s help to achieve your objectives. Set up a schedule--with a computer, it’s easy--and make only a couple of calls every day. Two calls a day will get you forty contacts in a month. Just imagine how many calls you can make in one year! Keep in touch; it’s good for your career and your relationships.

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Update your resume often. I’m not suggesting you’re going to need it, but it keeps you aware of your goals and serves as a record of how well you’re meeting them. Your resume shouldn’t just list your job duties; it’s a record of your accomplishments. These accomplishments are where your value to any employer rests. As you stay aware, you can also use this information to communicate with your boss and coworkers on a regular basis about your progress. And…in the event you get that ill-fated notice stating, “Your services are no longer needed,” you won’t have much work to do to prepare your resume for distribution.

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Make yourself invaluable. You are the best job security you have. Employers need people who can contribute to their mission, goals, and bottom line. How do you do this? Find out, in no uncertain terms, what your boss expects of you--and deliver it in trumps! Be clear about his/her goals and objectives, and make your boss’s success one of your top priorities. Don’t forget…you are your own best job security.

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3. ProTips for Operational Profitability

 

Fuel prices are rising faster than a speeding bullet. In times like this, fuel has a way of mysteriously disappearing. Protect yourself. If you have a manual fueling system, change the locks on your fuel pumps. Put on heavy-duty locks and control the keys, the fewer keys given out, the better. If you have a computerized fueling system, check out who has access to fuel. Go over your records; make sure the trucks listed are still active, and the drivers listed are still working for you. Particularly…if you haven’t done this in a long time, don’t be surprised at what you find.

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Make sure you get all the fuel you pay for. If you don’t have controls in place to check the level of fuel in your fuel storage tanks before and after delivery; this would be a good time to put them in place. Talk to your fuel supplier and work out a procedure that protects both of you. Going back to building relationships, this will go a long way toward building a good relationship with a vendor who is tough to replace in times of need.

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Ask your drivers to turn off their truck engines when not in use. Newer trucks have computerized adjustments to shut down the engine if it idles longer than a preset number of minutes. The time is right to recheck the idle time; if you can, lower the number of minutes. Don’t reduce idle time so much that it inhibits productivity, but make sure your trucks aren’t idling when there’s no need.

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4. Topic of the Month: Make your Call Center Shine

 

The call center, or customer service center, is important in many organizations, but in a garbage company, it’s of paramount importance, because we provide a personal service, which requires person-to-person communications. You can’t get much more personal than visiting your customer’s home or business at least once a week.

 

The call center is the first point of contact customers have with your company. It’s your chance to make a good first (and hopefully, not last) impression on your customers, so don’t squander the opportunity. Take advantage of every call from your customers by making your company shine using the following three suggestions:

 

1. If you have an automated attendant, I suggest you get rid of it. It portrays your company as being impersonal, which often breeds contempt in your customers. I have yet to talk with anyone who likes to be greeted with an automated answering system, especially if the call is about something important (and what call isn’t?). The last thing you want to do is alienate customers before they even have a chance to talk with you.

 

Automated attendants are usually installed as a cost-cutting measure rather than for customer convenience. Therefore, if your goal is customer convenience and acceptance, staff your company’s first point of contact with a person, not a machine. Keep in mind that the garbage industry provides a personal service, and personal service requires a pleasant, interactive human being on the other end of the telephone line.

 

2. Provide a pleasant working environment for your customer service representatives (CSRs). See that their environment is freshly painted, clean, and well appointed. The furniture should be ergonomically designed, functional, and, by all means, comfortable. CSRs will be sitting at their desks for long periods. If they are not comfortable, you can bet it will be reflected in their performance. A few extra dollars for the chairs will go a long way toward saying that you care about your customers and your employees.

 

Also take into consideration the noise level in your call center. Give each CSR an individual cubicle, and use sound-suppressing materials for partitions. You may even want to make the partitions higher than normal; the customer and the CSR will appreciate it. Noise can be distracting if you are trying concentrate on a difficult issue--especially if you can’t hear or clearly understand the other person. It is also annoying from the customer’s perspective. Keep the noise down, keep your CSRs focused, and keep your customers happy.

 

3. If you provide service in a metropolitan area, chances are that your customers speak a variety of languages. One of the most frustrating experiences for the customer and the CSR is to have a language barrier. One solution to this problem is to hire bilingual representatives. This is a step in the right direction; however, it can take its toll on the CSRs who translate and it only accommodates some of the most common languages.

 

A better solution is to subscribe to a translation service. I don’t usually recommend specific companies, but I’ll make an exception in this case. AT&T has an excellent translation service, which is simple and easy to use, and the best part is that they can translate 140 languages.

 

Can you imagine your customers’ surprise to find out they can communicate with your company in their native tongue? They‘ll not only be relieved, but I’ll bet they’ll be your customers for life.

 

Again, if you want to make your call center shine, I suggest you ditch your automated attendant, improve the environment, and add a translation service for your customers; you are bound to make a good first--and last-- impression.

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5. Quote of the Month

 

“The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”

Dorothy Nevill, writer

 

The first amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives us the right of free speech, but with free speech comes responsibility—the responsibility for what you say. I know there are a few things I’ve said that I’d like to take back. But once you’ve rung the bell, there is no taking it back. A good admonishment I once read stated, “Put skid chains on your tongue." It’s good advice for that tempting moment.

 

Correction: In the last issue, Peter Vagadori was spelled incorrectly.

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6. Ramblings

 

The annual WasteExpo, which was showcased in Dallas, Texas this year, was wonderful. The National Solid Waste Association (NSWMA) and Primedia put on a terrific show. In addition to the many educational programs, there were the fabulous exhibits of equipment, as well as supporting supplies and services for the waste industry. If you have never been to a WasteExpo, you need to seize the opportunity and attend. Next year the show will be in Las Vegas, Nevada, which is about as close as it gets for the West Coast folks.

 

WasteExpo is the garbage collectors’ Mecca. When you walk into the exhibit hall for the first time, it’s difficult not to get a rush of excitement. The sight of all that equipment can be overwhelming! Where do you start? Every truck and body manufacturer is represented. All the cart manufacturers have their wares on display. Then, there is the really big equipment: landfill compactors, grinders and conveyors for composting, shredders and balers for paper and plastic…and the list goes on. To do the show justice, you need at least two full days, if not three, to see and attend everything the show has to offer.

 

As much as I love the show itself, I love to see it operate—and by that I mean watching the people who are involved. You can tell that the big companies spend a lot of time teaching their representatives how to work a show. The representatives are all well dressed and prepared to assist anyone who walks by their booth. They have smiles on their faces, and they greet all the passers-by with a friendly hello. You never see them sitting down, or with their hands folded in front of them. They know the right way to work a trade show.

 

As you move through the exhibits, it doesn’t take long to identify the folks who don’t want to be there. They’re the ones who were told it was their turn to work the show. They are sitting in their booth, either looking at the computer screen or standing with their arms folded in front of them and looking at the ceiling. The last thing they want to do is make eye contact. They might actually have to work. What a waste (no pun intended) for all concerned.

 

I really feel sorry for the small-business people who don’t know how to work a show. They stand and pace in front of their booth like it’s a prison cell. Up five paces, turn, and back five paces. They never seem to make contact with the people walking in front of their booth. That’s a shame; you never know who’s going to place that big order, do you?

 

This year, my biggest surprise came from the woman staffing the U.S. Department of Commerce booth. The Department of Commerce helps companies do business overseas. Atypical of what I described above, she was sitting at a table with all her literature neatly laid out in front of her. As I walked by her booth, gazing nonchalantly at the information on her table, she said to me, “May I help you?" as she stood up. She immediately grabbed my attention. I was duly impressed. We chatted for a while; she couldn’t convince me to go to Timbuktu and do business, but she certainly knew how to work a show.

 

Attending WasteExpo was a terrific experience. I enjoyed watching the people as much as I enjoyed climbing over and under the equipment.

 

To wrap it up, Dallas was a great place to visit, but there is no place like home, sweet home. The one thing I didn’t get to do was eat Texas barbeque. That’s okay…I had a great time at Gilley’s, Thanks, Russ, for the invite.

 

Adios. See y’all later.

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7. Announcements

 

“ProTips, the E-newsletter For Waste Industry Professionals” is produced and distributed monthly by R.J. Proto Consulting Group, Inc. I encourage you to share it with your colleagues and friends. You may reproduce this electronic newsletter in whole or in part, as long as you include the correct copyright notice (at the end of this newsletter), with a link to my website, http://www.protoconsulting.com.

 

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If you would like more information on any of the above topics, call me at 510.881.9440 or send an e-mail to ron@protoconsulting.com. Please visit my website at http://www.protoconsulting.com for more ideas on professional development and operational improvements.

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Your submissions are always welcome. Send them to ron@protoconsulting.com. If I use your submission, I’ll give you credit, unless you wish to remain anonymous. All submissions become the property of R.J. Proto Consulting Group, Inc., unless otherwise requested by the writer. (Sorry, that’s my lawyer friend).

 

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© Copyright 2004 Ronald J. Proto. All rights reserved.