COVID Impact on Propane Delivery

For propane marketers, 2020 has been a confusing blur of uncertainty and change, and not all businesses were equally affected.

Here are One-Tank’s top tips on how to prepare for the future, starting with laying the groundwork for what could happen.

  • The first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent quarantine could be a harbinger of things to come. We aren’t saying it’s a guarantee that there will be a second wave (or more) but we are saying that just in case there is one, marketers ought to prepare.
  • As a vendor in the industry, One-Tank is privy to a wide range of feedback from our customers who operate with different business models. For our customers who have the bulk of their business tied up in commercial accounts, they are at the mercy of their customers staying open. Some of those customers are now in dire financial straits after weeks or months-long shutdowns. For others, there was little change at all from the norm. For others still, who were in the colder climates and whose majority business is in residential propane, the COVID crisis was actually a windfall which helped alleviate the financial pains of a slow ‘19-20 winter.
  • Right now, average Joe customers and businesses alike crave and thrive on stability. Propane is an essential infrastructure industry, and in these times of turmoil, reliability means more than ever. For marketers, that means he who blinks first loses. Customers have far less patience for run-outs than they used to, and they mean business.

That said, the NPGA has been a sterling example of steadfastness in their communication on legislation as it moves through the system, advice on best practices for social distancing in providing propane service, and general knowledge on how to prepare and mitigate risk at a fundamental level. Weathering the coming storm, should it come, is easier when one has an accurate accounting of what their business’s strengths and weaknesses are. Here’s how tank monitoring can help:

  • To prepare for another possible shutdown and the coming winter, you need accurate data. If this sounds like a no-brainer, we don’t disagree, but we wouldn’t be penning this if it didn’t need to be said. Tank monitors – any reliable brand – can help you learn just how much product is in your customers’ tanks at all times. Wielding visibility into tank levels is the top priority for any propane marketer who has intentions of minimizing cost and maximizing profitability and reliability this autumn and winter.
  • Business automation is a dream made possible by technology. If a propane customer is enrolled in the One-Tank program, the need for interaction is greatly diminished. We understand that this is a relationships-based business and that there are immediate ramifications to cutting out the personal aspect, but the tradeoff is the ability to keep the customer’s tank full, charge them monthly for consumption, and never need to bother them. Think about how your electrical or water bill is handled, and that should give you some idea of how the propane industry could start to operate as an essential utility that, for the end customer, It Just Works. For those customers who are perhaps at risk from COVID and who would like to minimize close face-to-face contact, this could be an attractive option.
  • Safety: in these uncertain times, customers respond favorably to businesses that stay up to code and who have a focus on their wellbeing. Most good tank monitors have the ability to detect gas leaks and erratic usage. A happy accident of implementing this type of functionality for One-Tank customers has been that it’s not uncommon for older or less informed customers to call their propane company if they smell gas in the home, and the tank monitor helps de-escalate the situation. Propane distributors know that most often the smell of propane in the home is not the result of a gas leak, but rather something that happens quite commonly when the tank gets low. For a customer’s peace of mind, having remote access to tank levels at all times and helping them order product will cut down on calls and keep them coming back for repeat business in capable hands.

Not all companies will survive further waves of quarantine.

Those who will, will have some characteristics in common, and chief among them is proactiveness. While it does matter how you prepare, that is ultimately less important than whether you take steps to prepare at all. One-Tank wishes you the best of luck for the remainder of the year and beyond, and we hope you stay safe and smart.

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