Sometimes in horse racing, trainers will put blinders on the horse's face to keep it from seeing anything but the finish line. The blinders keep the horse from looking around, peeking out of the corners of its eyes, or maybe even looking into the crowd. Even though the horse knows its job is to get from point A to point B as fast as it can, sometimes it can’t help but take a peek.
If you have been in the service industry for any amount of time, you’ve heard the analogy or something similar when it comes to the service contractor once they get into a home. With those blinders on, intent on one goal, your employee can be so focused on getting the job at hand completed that he or she walks right past an opportunity. This is the opportunity to do something more — something bigger than one repair, something bigger than the sale. Oh, wait! Did I just say something bigger than the sale?
Whatever could be bigger than the sale? That's our employees' livelihood, our company’s lifeline. Let's consider for a moment, though, the even bigger picture. How about the Earth itself? How many times have we walked past a leaky sprinkler or hose bib, or even a toilet running?
Sometimes we hurry through a service call, not taking time to educate home and business owners on how to protect precious resources, such as energy and water. It can be hard to imagine that the actions of even just one person can actually make an impact — especially when we start to add all of those individuals up.
The first and very simplest step you can take in assisting with resource conservation is education. Not only should you educate yourself about water and energy saving products and practices, but you should extend this education to include as many of your employees as possible. Once educated on how their trade affects the environment, service professionals can determine firsthand how they can help. In passing this information along to your customers, your company becomes recognized as a leader in the community by having well-educated and concerned servicemen and women.
Let’s face it: most customers cringe when it comes time to have a repair or service done in their home. The second step in creating a more sustainable business is to develop a relationship of trust with our customers. This goes hand-in-hand with having the education and knowledge to earn our clients' confidence. We can then look for other opportunities to assist each customer, so they not only get their repair done successfully, but they learn something else in the process.
Perhaps we suggested ways in which they could reduce their electric bill or water bill with a few simple habit changes, or possibly recommended an upgrade to fixtures or appliances based on rebates available through community municipalities. Don't stop with just customers who call in with a problem, though. Reach out to your community and offer educational workshops filled with resource-saving advice. This provides the dual service of providing useful information while getting your name out in the community as someone who cares enough to want to help.
Finally, one of the biggest steps you can take in greening your business is to look inward at your own company's practices. What changes can you make to help make a difference within your own life or the operation of your service company? Let’s start with the low hanging fruit — your service fleet. No, I am not asking you to trade in your entire fleet. What I am asking you to do is look at the impact that your service vehicles make on a daily basis.
Simple changes and careful planning on how we dispatch calls can make an effective impact on the amount of fuel we use while lowering the daily mileage placed on each vehicle. For example, you might consider dispatching the first call of the day from the technician’s home instead of bringing him into the shop first thing in the morning. Tire pressure can be checked each day to help improve gas mileage and decrease tire wear. When it is time to replace a truck or a service van, look for local and national programs that will help you with your purchase if you get a vehicle that makes less of a fossil fuel impact.
There are Clean City Programs all across the United State that look to help contractors reduce their carbon emissions. In some cases, there is grant money available to help make this happen. Another potential resource saver is to consider clean-burning natural gas conversion for your existing fleet. You can slowly make this change as budget sees fit and still be committed to the environment. Again, some state agencies still offer very large incentives to convert to natural gas, so such changes are often not as expensive as they initially might sound.
Another way to save resources directly at the workplace is to consider moving to a paperless system. It seems right now that the whole world is going this route, with technology changing every day to help the service industry reach the paperless goal. From dispatch programs to complete cloud-based inventory control systems. If you can think of it, you can do it without paper.
One advantage of a paperless system is the ability to have your complete archives and current history available to you at a moment's notice. Billing has become simple with point-of-sale technology available to anyone with a smartphone. Having technicians type in their comments also eliminates the time needed to decipher different handwriting styles, helping make inter-office communication clearer and more effective.
Even with all the simple changes suggested that also serve to upgrade a company’s daily operations, I still get the question of how one company can affect the planet. The goal here is that we, as the service industry, recognize that we are in hundreds of thousands of home every day.
If we take time to educate ourselves and our consumers, offer individuals and businesses environmentally friendly products and solutions, and lead by example, the service tradesmen of the world can shine as experts in the field of sustainability. If we take off our blinders, we can broaden our goals as we broaden our viewpoints. These steps will not only improve our business practices, but will serve to elevate us in the eyes of the community while contributing to the health of our planet.