Recently, I was asked by a future graduate from a local technical college if he would be considered an oil burner technician or a plumber upon graduating. When I asked why, he replied that he had been given instruction in both areas and soon he would be applying for a job. This certainly made me think about what would be the appropriate answer.
The simple answer would be whatever the license he has applied for, but this is an apprentice who will be working towards a license. I know that there are times when we arrive on a job to perform a specific function, like an annual system tune-up, and find that there is no pressure on the boiler or perhaps a water drip from the relief valve.
You can bet that the customer wants it repaired or replaced while you’re there. I would also bet that the service technician isn’t going to say “call your plumber,” especially since most companies are scrambling to find work and after all we just came through the “winter that never came.” So we do the work, and why not—it brings in more profit dollars and keeps the customers happy.
The more I thought about the future graduate’s question, I thought about the articles that I have read and written myself about what it takes to stay in business today, which is diversification. Companies in our industry these days need to branch out into new markets, such as generators, LP gas, A/C, refrigeration, plumbing, energy auditing, and water conditioning, to name a few.
Additionally, I began to think more about what is required, and the answer is often new licensing and in some cases certification specific to the new area of business—
because that typical burner license just doesn’t make it. Today, the successful businesses have found that their customers want their oil company to model themselves after the big box store, where one can “get it all.”
In my travels, I am seeing more oil company service vans that once most likely just said “Burner Service” with a phone number now looking more like a highway billboard or a restaurant’s menu. The new vans’ messages include some of the diversified areas that I previously mentioned, along with a website. This is a must in order to stay in a very competitive market, especially now with oil prices reaching higher price levels.
Those once “oil-only” customers are now looking for other sources of energy or service, and if you don’t offer to meet their needs, they will go somewhere else to find it. I know of the old saying that we “can’t be everything to everybody all the time,” but we can at least try offering something that perhaps the competition doesn’t and that’s more services, which could be more than the customer expects.
So to that end, are we really just oil burner technicians? I’ll let the readers decide that!