Keeping The Customers Educated

Whenever carnivals come to town, or when the local baseball league is sponsoring a tournament, or construction on a new building is in the works, or a large wedding reception and party is being planned in Danbury, CT, the name around town for all portable restroom needs is Berkshire Septic and Portable Toilet Service. The company offers septic system pumping and cleaning services to residential and commercial clients, as well as having on hand as many portable toilets as desired, fully sanitized and immediately ready for installation and use as needed, whether it is a single unit or many.

ALL IN THE FAMILY
The Berkshire Septic Tank Company, founded by local businessman Ben Fusco, opened its doors for business way back in 1956. When Ben felt it was time to retire in the early 1970s, however, he handed the helm over to his son, Mike, and today the business continues to have the same stellar reputation in the area that Ben worked so hard to establish. “You could say that our company grew along with the city and our strong presence in the community for so long is a testament to our staying power and success,” says Mike. “Nowadays everybody knows us and something as simple as word-of-mouth recommendations goes a long way in creating an ever-growing network of repeat and loyal clientele, and is one of the best and most cost-effective types of advertising a business can have, if they’re lucky.”

Having that kind of consumer clout must be nurtured in order to be sustained over the long run and Mike, at the same time appreciating absolutely the hard work his father Ben put into establishing a business known for its honesty and fairness in contract bidding, estimate appraisals, septic tank service and portable toilet installations, knows the importance of, and has become very adept at “reputation management.” He was first introduced to this concept while pursuing his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at Eastern Connecticut State University. Mike also has an Associate’s degree in Civil Engineering from a local community college, a field of study directly applicable and relevant to the type of business in which he is involved.

THE NUMBER ONE BUSINESS IN THE NUMBER
TWO INDUSTRY
When Mike told me that his business is “the number one business in the number two industry” I had to pause a moment to reflect on the meaning of what he said. At first puzzled, his laughter was a clue to what he meant. The phrase “number two” made immediate sense as soon as I linked it to the specifics of the septic tank and portable toilet business. Repeating it over also brought a smile to my face. “It’s important to have a sense of humor in this industry, given the nature of what we have to deal with on a daily basis,” says Mike. “Plus, we beat any smart-alecks to the punch, and that goes a long way in offsetting any wisecracks about our business or industry,” Mike quipped. The strategy works because once you realize it’s silly to take such things so seriously and can have a friendly laugh at oneself, how could anyone else make fun of it?

One a much more serious note, because he knows that employee relations is one important aspect of a business that can make the difference between producing a profit and operating in the red, Mike takes a hands-on approach to all of the hiring and training of his employees. “I personally train both my office staff as well as my service team. This way I know that they will act professionally and do the job right, as well as treat our clients with the same courtesy and respect they would expect if they were the customer.” His work ethic principle is as simple as it is sound: “I teach my crew to treat everyone as they would like to be treated.”

EDUCATING THE CLIENT
A wise tip, attributed to Sy Syms, the pioneering retailer and marketing whiz, serves Mike well in his philosophy of customer service. “An educated consumer is the best consumer” Syms used to espouse in his televised and print advertisements. There are numerous ways Mike’s approach to customer relations is embodied in that business truism. For one thing, the website provides relevant information on: “How a Septic System Works,” “Common Causes of Septic Failure,” and “How Often Should the Septic System Be Cleaned?”

As Mike explains, “we recommend that our clients have their septic tank cleaned at least every two years.” He wants to remind his clients that “it is important to have your septic tank pumped regularly to remove the solid waste before it enters the leaching fields, which will cause the ground pores to clog, resulting in a backup into the house as well as possibly contaminating your property.” His concern for customer education extends to his portable toilet rental service as well.

Mike sees it as his professional responsibility to remind his clients that employing portable toilets at outdoor functions is not only practical but beneficial to them as well because, “they save usage of, and wear and tear on, both their well and septic system.” Not only that but, “It’s the ideal way to keep your guests outdoors and prevents them from going in and out of your house and dirtying up the place!” To these ends Berkshire faithfully sends out about 500 septic tank reminders every year, from April through August. As far as the portable toilet side of the business, reminders are sent out according to the times and dates of the previous year’s events.

Client empowerment is one of the hallmarks of the Berkshire customer service philosophy. Educating the client no doubt leads them to make educated decisions—like regularly having their septic systems cleaned or having portable restrooms at their outdoor events—and this translates into financial benefits for the educator, i.e., Mike Fusco and Berkshire Septic and Portable Toilet Service.

EQUIPMENT CORNER
Berkshire’s fleet of vehicles includes 4 DT 466 model International trucks, one ‘97-gallon tanker, another ’88-gallon tanker, and two smaller ones for the portable toilet jobs, a ’07-tanker and a ’02-tanker. Mike tells me that he “used to run all Fords but had some problems and switched over to Internationals and we’ve had nothing but good luck with them so far.” The “Fords just didn’t cut it as far as I’m concerned” was his strategic business conclusion. International’s “MaxxForce DT” model truck has the appropriate nickname of “The Legend” in the mid-range diesel truck market due to, among other top-quality characteristics, its high-performance and big-bore design. Some of the other features of the “legend’s” engine include a wet-sleeve design and an in-chassis rebuild capability. Navistar International, the manufacturer of the DT 466, maintains that these features enhance durability and reliability due to the consistency in the particular wall thickness of their sleeve design, which allows for steady-level heat transfer, ensuring that the cylinders stay perfectly round-shaped during “thermal expansion.” These features of strong durability, high-performance, and robust reliability cashes out as overall low costs for the wise businessperson who makes use of them for their fleet. Berkshire’s total investment in its service trucks lies somewhere between $300,000 and $325,000.

In addition to the fleet of 4 trucks they use for the septic tank side of the business, Berkshire owns outright about 350 portable toilets, manufactured by Polyportables, a Georgia-based company. The company prides itself in being a “world-wide leading manufacturer for portable restrooms, hand wash stations, deodorizers and accessories.” Using this particular product again reflects Mike’s business savvy when it comes to choice of superior equipment and supplies. Although there is plenty of top-class portable toilet merchandise on the market, Mike finds that Polyportables products work just fine for his own particular business needs. “Our group of portables consists of regular units, handicap units, deluxe models that flush, as well as units with free-standing sinks,” he says, continuing, “We strive to provide a wide range of products that will satisfy any need the client has or special requests they might make.” Again, Mike spared no expense when it comes to strategically choosing first-rate products in the portable toilet industry marketplace. “The price purchase for our portables inventory is somewhere in the neighborhood of the cost of the trucks, around $300,000.” After experimenting with numerous freshening and sanitizing products, Mike settled on Toico Industries, which is one of a number of manufacturers of high-quality deodorizing chemicals. He finds that “customers seem to like the bubblegum-scented deodorizers the best.”

THE LOGISTICS OF LIQUID WASTE MANAGEMENT
“Let’s face it,” Mike says, “the services we provide are pretty much outdoors, and so dealing with the weather presents certain challenges. During the winter months the ground freezes and the chance of septic piping icing-up increases and so we make sure to schedule our services before the sometimes harsh Connecticut winters set in.” He continues, “It’s next to impossible to pump someone’s septic tank system when the ground is frozen and the pipes are under a few feet of snow.” This is one important reason why he makes sure to send out his client reminders during the spring and summer seasons.
To keep costs down, maintaining units in good working order is a major concern, especially under hot and humid conditions, which necessitates additional and stronger chemicals and deodorizers. The summer heat therefore poses a different set of problems. “During the summer months the maintenance of all the portable toilet units, keeping them in top functional condition is a high priority, especially when it gets very hot out, because that puts extra demands on deodorant products, and the toilets need more frequent services while they are operational in the field.” Depending on the job, the deployment of portables can vary, from a single unit to multiple installations. “Most sites have 1 or 2 toilets. A big project may have 10 units but is rare. Some weekend events have that many but are just for a weekend event.” For example, “A current job site for a condominium construction site has 8 portable toilets with hand sanitizers” which, Mike states “are becoming more and more popular.” The placement of his portable toilets varies continuously according to the needs of his clients. “Another has a unit with a sink for a food stand at a park.” Consistent with his policy of fairness, Berkshire has “set prices for septic cleaning and toilet rental unless there will be multiple toilets rented. We do about sixty percent toilets, and forty percent septic cleaning, and, on average, we consider a full day cleaning septic tanks to consist of 5 homes or businesses.”

To sustain the services flowing smoothly, Mike has developed a mapping system so he can keep track of all the deployed units in any given week. “We make sure we map out a set of regular routes based on the different locations of the units, and we work to insure that all of the units on the same route are serviced on the same day.” Due to the outdoor nature of the septic and portable toilet business, and the ever-changing weather conditions, logistics is a high priority and Berkshire has developed over the years well-tested strategies for dealing with no matter what they are confronted with. They do this in order to insure quality service for all of their customers. This reflects another business dictum that Mike follows fastidiously: “A satisfied and happy consumer is a well-paid businessperson.”

If you are interested in finding out more about Berkshire Septic and Portable Toilet Service, you can visit their website at: www.berkshiresepticandtoilet.com.

Story by Mark Joseph Manion

For more information, visit:
www.internationaltrucks.com
www.polyportables.com
www.toico.com

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