This winter is like none that we have seen in many years! The record cold and snow are making it difficult to keep ahead of the service calls. And now with the snow melt, how many calls are you getting for water leaks, when it is really snow melt seeping in, say, around the chimney base? Probably a good few and each one cuts into your bottom line, if you do the call for free. When a water leak call comes in and you suspect water coming in around the chimney, look back in your service calls to see if the same thing has happened in the past.
This is not the first time we have had snow melt around chimneys. If you see that this has happened before to this customer, explain to the customer that it has and inform them that there will be a service charge if you find the same situation again. You may get some of your customers annoyed, but in my opinion these are the ones who want you to service them just because you sell them product be it oil, propane, coal, gas, or whatever.
You will get some who say not to come out and you may get some that say to come and check it out. No matter what the outcome, you win. If they say not to come out, you save the expense of a technician going on a wild goose chase and if they want you to come out, and it is not a mechanical failure, you can collect your service fee. It may be a legitimate call but you are limiting your chances of going on that wild goose chase.
All those calls for “insufficient heat” when the temperature was down below freezing cost you money as well. Explaining to the customer that the heating plant was working at peak efficiency and properly didn’t go over well, did it? Well, now may be a good time to start keeping a list of those calls so you can address them come spring.
When you start to slow down, look back at your list and contact the customer to set up an appointment to see if there in anything you can do to help them with the cold weather. Consider this a sales lead, while the cold winter is still on their mind, the amount of money they spent on heating product is now in your favor. This is the best time to get them to upgrade their system.
Let’s get back to melting snow for a minute. After the melting has ended and there are no more puddles covering the oil fill pipe (not only on buried tanks), you should have the tank checked for water contamination. This contaminated water is expensive to get rid of and the cost should be passed on to the customer. Again, your best defense is to check back in your records to see if this has occurred before.
We all know that water is fuel oil’s no. 1 enemy, or we should! Water left in the tank will cause you and your customer major problems, if left alone. If you find water in the tank, just removing it will solve the immediate problem, BUT you need to discover the path the water took to wind up in the tank. Many times it will be the vent pipe!
We have talked about this before, but, in my opinion, the “rotted vent pipe” is the biggest cause. The vent pipe will rot out just below the ground level and will not be visible to the eye. Removing just a small shovel full of dirt may show you where the problem lies. Many tanks located inside buildings also get water in them. It is much tougher to discover the cause of this but you need to investigate. All of these repairs, unless you own the tank, are the responsibility of the owner. You are working for them and you deserve to be paid for your work. If you want to work for free, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org; I can get you all the work you need.
As always, drop me a line and let’s share some war stories. Who knows, your story may wind up on these pages.