When customers switch to Acme Fuel from other companies, they’re sometimes reluctant to join the autofill program because of a fear of hidden fees. It can take dispatcher Seth Murphy a while to make them understand that Acme is different.
“A lot of businesses will charge up to $25 just to back in your driveway,” he says. “They might mask some of those fees as something else, but it can cost an extra $100 a year for four stops. When those customers come here, they’re apprehensive about autofill, but we don’t have any of those fees.”
Murphy has only been with the company for a few months, but has spent 20 years in the industry. “Generally the lifespan of a customer is three years,” he says. “Acme Fuel has clients that have been here for decades. Everything they do in terms of customer service, they do so much better. That’s why I’m proud to work here. It’s a great business.”
Driver Mike Phillips has been with Acme Fuel for nine years and knows there is a difference in how Acme Fuel operates. “I had a customer the other day who gets filled once a year. He kept asking, ‘What’s my price going to be? I’m not a good user.’ I told him, ‘That doesn’t matter to us. You pay the same price as everyone else with this size tank.’ Acme Fuel doesn’t price gouge based on usage.”
The company’s newest employee, Darrel Arthur, has been enjoying the benefits of the company’s longstanding relationships within the community. “Customers love to see Acme Fuel,” he says. “They really seem to appreciate the service they get. Quite a few of them come out and say ‘Hi’, because I’m the new face. They’re used to seeing the other fellows that have been here for years and years, so when they see me, they come out and shake my hand and say, ‘You guys do a good job.’”
That doesn’t surprise Cullen Jensen. He’s been with company for 20 years and has known many of the customers for almost that long. “Acme Fuel is downtown, so they relate the company to the guy with the truck and that’s how you create your relationship,” he says. “We tend to see more retired people because a lot of the younger people are working. Some of them enjoy having someone to talk to and you’re the propane guy that comes around once a month.”
Those relationships evolve and deepen over time. “They enjoy seeing the same faces,” says Jensen. “They’ll come out and say, ‘How’s the family?’ or ‘What’s going on in your life?’ They enjoy the comfort of knowing it’s a local company that’s been around a long time.”
Acme Fuel drivers are a tightknit group that know they can rely on each other in a pinch. When snow struck last year, Phillips ended up working 40 hours of overtime in just the few days leading up to the storm and the weekend that it hit. “There were customers who were on will call, and they’d forgotten to get filled up,” he says. “We’ll go out right away because they are our customers. Even though I was the one on call, if I needed help I could have called any of these guys and they would have helped to deliver.”
That spirit extends to Acme Fuel’s owner Tom Allen. “During the big ice storm a few years ago, I was on a call going out to Shelton on Hurley Waldrip Road. The customer had a big steep hill for their driveway, and they’d run out,” says Jensen. “Tom Allen himself carried two seven gallon jugs up there and then I did, too. The snow was deep and it was up a long hill to dump them into their tank to keep them going, but he was willing to step forward.”
For drivers, the most challenging part of the job, aside from weather, is the ever-changing conditions they face. Even when they’ve been visiting the same customer for years, the landscape can alter. “Every time you go there it can be something different,” says Jensen. “Maybe people put a boat or a motor home in their driveway or the branches are lower. In the fall the leaves are getting heavy and the electrical lines are too, so you have to look at everything.”
Other than personal safety, taking care of customers’ property is the first priority, agrees Phillips. “You’ve got to read your notes all the time about things like not driving on their concrete,” he says. “It can be a challenge when you’re driving a big truck like this.”
That type of attention to detail inspires loyalty and has contributed to lasting relationships. “We want our customers to be as comfortable with us as they can,” says Lonny Kirschbaum, another employee who has been with Acme Fuel for many years. “We get to know them so well that it’s like they’re part of the family.”
Learn more about Acme Fuel at www.acmefuel.com or by calling 360-943-1133.