Retaining Route Service Representatives

Retaining Route Service Representatives

With today’s every tightening job market, it becomes critical to assure stabilization of our exceptional customer ambassadors. The route service representative (RSR) makes or breaks our business. We know the great RSRs because they tend to be the ones telling us what is going on in their customers business each day. When they share that story while referencing the decision maker by their first name, we know the value they bring to our business without question! You can confirm this during one of your onsite visits when employees of your customer immediately question; “Is Johnny alright? Is there any problem?” Your customer retention should tell you Johnny’s worth also. Business kept tends to be more profitable than new business sold. We’ve got to have both and should never forget it! If we are not growing, we are dying!

On the flip side, customers know immediately when you’re having turnover issues. Think of being suddenly confronted with a new face when your customer has been accustomed to exceptional, personalized service by “Johnny” who took care of their every need. Prior to the invoice being presented for signature, they’re accustomed to being updated about issues addressed during the visit. For example, being told about the air freshener placed in a restroom which had an odor irritating the front office staff was very important. Because this customer had also experienced turnover, these little details of attention to needs said loud and clear that Johnny cared about their staff’s satisfaction. Value added service!

Great pieces of business are jeopardized due to staff shortages, poorly trained replacements and missing those key particulars that Johnny had a knack for taking care of start a customer worrying. It becomes much more complicated when your new RSR shows their frustration due to the rushed training. A negative comment here, a negative comment there fuels the concern and it seems all the good things Johnny did prior to leaving are quickly forgotten. Then the final stab in the back comes with the Certified Letter terminating service. Seems unlikely? This story plays out more times than we like to admit! Do we even know why Johnny left? Did we do an exit interview? Could Johnny have been saved by having a “pulse” on employee satisfaction?

It Takes a Village

Surrounding our RSR’s with strong managers who know how to develop and retain talent is critical. We need to look at every facet of our business assuring that good decisions are made for long term successes. Millennials are taking over the workforce and we all know they will not have the customer service experience that those they will be replacing had. We need to put plans in place to extend the years of service for our current customer ambassadors who are entrusted with our most valuable assets, our most profitable customers. If we have not already considered four-day weeks, incentives for renewals, retention, price increases, route growth (including new business), etc., we need to revisit this now! The key to success will be simple, make sure your managers have a plan for success and work the plan to its success! “What gets rewarded, gets accomplished!”

Incentivizing Performance

Measurement boards, recognition boards, group meetings celebrating successes along with cash bonuses incite all to work for the reward. Training sessions to polish our great customer consultants helping them achieve success, growing paychecks and retention (both customer and employee) makes it a “Win-Win” for everyone. Remember, customers note another company’s stability and tend not to consider the competitions proposal for service because of this.

Sales Representatives tend to have a higher comfort level when they know their new account is going to be serviced by the most successful service representative. It becomes easier when they see the whole service group this way. We need to ask our sales representatives what strengths (and weaknesses) they see in each RSR then use this same exercise with our managers. Use this information to polish the team because they want to stay with an employer who shows them how much they are appreciated.

Success comes when word on the street says your competition finds it extremely tough taking business from Johnny and the rest of the team! This allows Johnny to ask his customer if it is alright for him to get a raise setting in motion the price increase and renewal of the Agreement. Another “Win-Win”. This is not a dream, this is happening every day in the well-structured businesses in our industry.

It All Starts at the Beginning

Think about interviewing for positions that are not even open. Having a plan to interview candidates on an ongoing basis will get you there. A good interview process is critical here, make sure to involve all the managers in this process as ownership of the hiring process is a key ingredient of success. Finish it up by having those great candidates ride a route with your strongest RSR. Plan the heaviest day so you know what they are capable of. Make time to interview them one-on-one at the end of the route day. Then ask your RSR what energy level they had, were they asking a lot of questions during the day, did they interact with the customers, did they pick up quickly on the different tasks? You’ll weed out a lot of weaker ones quickly by doing this and your management team will benefit too! Stay true to the process and enjoy the rewards.

Start today by placing your strongest and best manager over this process. Remind them that their success relies on everyone surrounding themselves with people as good or better than they are. This will make a great company even greater!

Fred AndersonFred Anderson consults with Industrial Laundries on a variety of issues. For more information, go to or call (678) 644-9658.