by Richard Rutigliano, President, PriMedia, Inc.
Getting your team behind Bioheat® Fuel
There’s little question that Bioheat® fuel is the future for the renewable liquid heating fuels industry. It is the green option that can provide solutions to businesses, consumers and legislators looking to reduce carbon emissions quickly, effectively and inexpensively. These adjectives cannot be used to describe electrification.
As a company owner you are “all in.” You proudly sell Bioheat fuel, participate in industry-wide roundtables and symposia, and regale friends, family members, customers, politicians and even strangers about the benefits of Bioheat fuel and its path to a net-zero future. But what about your staff?
I have heard from many business owners that their employees don’t “get” the fuss about Bioheat fuel. Drivers don’t think about it, sales reps and technicians don’t explain it to customers, and CSRs can’t tell you any of its benefits. If this sounds at all familiar, make 2021 the year you turn your team green.
We recommend starting by finding out what employees really think. Casual conversations are a beginning, but employees often tell “the boss” what they think you want to hear, so you won’t know that they really have concerns about cold weather use, system fouling or other myths.
Anonymous surveys offer more insight into your staff’s thoughts. Anonymity frees employees from fears of backlash, and simple online assessments can be set up where you receive results and responses without identification.
If your phone system is set up to do so, you should also make time to play back a recent sampling of recorded customer service calls. This is a good way to actually hear what your CSRs are telling customers who ask about the fuel.
Training, Training, Training
You will need to educate your staff about Bioheat fuel with a series of training sessions to fully get their acceptance. Repetition is the best way to get the message to “stick,” so a single training webinar, Zoom meeting or (safety permitting) onsite class is not going to deliver the long-term results you want. At least two of each “class” should be scheduled so everyone on your payroll can attend.
The training programs should include Bioheat fuel basics as well as tackle any closely held myths your survey discovered. If you chose not to conduct a survey, the initial training “class” should include time to assess your team’s knowledge, biases and misconceptions.
Training your staff can be like teaching your child to drive: you could do it, but your relationships will remain unscathed if someone else handles it. Training professionals are better prepared to manage the flow of information for diverse audiences. If you were among the thousands of participants at any of the industry seminars on Bioheat fuel held virtually and in-person over the past few years, then you have seen firsthand the excitement and clarity a professional can bring to complex topics.
Tools & Talking Points
During and after the training programs, your staff should be given the tools they need to properly share your Bioheat fuel message. Your trainer can provide worksheets, sample scripts and talking points; you can expect that your employees will use them.
Role playing exercises can be conducted even during remote sessions, and can be integral to reinforcing each lesson. This type of training is especially helpful for those who most frequently interact with customers, but will make everyone more comfortable referencing the talking points when answering questions about your fuels and carbon emissions.
New Employee or “Lifer”
A new employee is going to have different training needs than someone who has been with you for years. Long-term staffers can be set in their ways, and their thoughts about Bioheat fuel may be based on outdated information and experiences. Your trainer needs to show these valued employees that the fuel is safe and reliable even at higher blends and lower temperatures. Some may require ongoing supervision and reinforcement before they consistently respond to customer inquiries with the messaging you have set out.
A new hire may be unfamiliar with Bioheat fuel in general and will need to be taught the basics (“what does the B number stand for?”) as well as more advanced concepts such as feedstocks, pour points and lifecycle emissions. Many will pick up the information quickly, but others may require additional training. In addition, when you bring on new staff in the weeks, months and years after the initial training sessions, they will need access to educational materials such as presentation videos or training decks, and someone to answer their questions.
These situations demonstrate that employee training – on Bioheat fuel or any other topic – should, optimally, be a matter of continuing education. Educational programs have been developed to support initial training sessions with regularly scheduled management reviews that identify knowledge gaps, followed by full-staff webinars and video meetings to address these concerns or provide other information. One-on-one training should also be available when needed. We’ve seen this type of training result in fewer customer complaints, better overall morale, and a greater acceptance of Bioheat fuel within the company.
A Parting Thought
As you look for ways to get your employees to embrace Bioheat fuel more fully, take a look at your company culture and branding. Do you undercut your own support of Bioheat fuel by putting forward marketing and sales materials that reference heating oil? Does your website display the Bioheat fuel logo? Do your trucks and vans? Do managers and owners describe your product as Oilheat or Bioheat fuel? And lastly, are you distributing only a minimum blend of Bioheat fuel?
If any of these are true for your company, do what you can as quickly as possible to turn your company culture to Bioheat fuel. The faster you do, the faster your employees will follow!
I wish you a happy, healthy, successful, and green New Year!
Richard Rutigliano is President of integrated marketing and communications firm PriMedia, Inc. He can be reached at 516-222-2041 or firstname.lastname@example.org.