Vinyl Wraps, Purpose-Built Equipment Win Loyal Customers

Technicians from Portable John Inc. strive to provide quick service, clean restrooms and constant communications with customers throughout Chicagoland.
Vinyl Wraps, Purpose-Built Equipment Win Loyal Customers
Trevor Bandauski and his father, Dale, are shown with their specialty freshwater delivery truck, a 2003 Hino box truck equipped with a 1,250-gallon plastic Norwesco Inc. water tank. (Photos by Rob Hart)

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For many portable restroom operators, providing clients with great service centers on things such as thoroughly cleaned units and on-time deliveries and pickups. Portable John Inc. in Lockport, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, ups the ante by adding new elements to the customer service playbook: innovative products and equipment design tweaks that are geared toward adding both excitement and convenience to the restroom rental experience.

“We’re very customer-centric,” says Trevor Bandauski, who leads the company’s marketing and customer service efforts. He’s the son of Dale Bandauski, who owns the company with his brother Don. “We don’t feel like we compete with competitors as much as we just aim to please our customers.

“Our company motto is that there are no problems, only opportunities,” he continues. “We’ve created a customer-focused environment where the customer always comes first and profits are second. We’re in business to help people.”

The customer-oriented approach appears to be working. Portable John, which services customers throughout metropolitan Chicago, has amassed a large inventory of equipment and restrooms.

IN THE GARAGE

A big part of that investment includes seven restroom vacuum trucks: two 2015 Hino 338s built by FlowMark with 1,200-gallon waste/800-gallon freshwater aluminum tanks and Battioni pumps (National Vacuum Equipment); two 2007 Ford F-750s from Amthor International with 1,500-gallon waste/500-gallon freshwater aluminum tanks and Masport pumps; a 2003 GMC T7500 that carries a three-compartment 1,000-gallon waste/300-gallon freshwater/300-gallon saltwater tank and a Battioni pump; a 2004 Isuzu FFR with a 600-gallon waste/150-gallon freshwater/150-gallon saltwater steel tank and Masport pump built by FMI Truck Sales & Service; and a 1999 Isuzu FTR with an 800-gallon waste/500-gallon freshwater stainless steel tank and National Vacuum Equipment pump.

All the vehicles are equipped with oversized vacuum and water pumps to boost job site performance, which fits into the company’s customer service approach by minimizing time spent on job sites, Bandauski says.

The company also runs a 2001 Freightliner with a 2,000-gallon steel tank, used to transfer loads from restroom service trucks to wastewater treatment facilities during special events. In addition, the company owns a 2003 Hino box truck equipped with a 1,250-gallon plastic Norwesco Inc. water tank used for delivering freshwater, and a 2002 Dodge 3500 with a slide-in 300-gallon waste/105-gallon freshwater aluminum tank from KeeVac Industries Inc. and equipped with a Conde vacuum pump made by Westmoor Ltd. This compact rig is used for crowded special events for greater maneuverability, Bandauski says.

Portable John also owns about 1,000 restrooms from PolyJohn Enterprises and Satellite Industries; six restroom trailers manufactured by Wells Cargo Inc.; six walk-up restroom trailers (fabricated in-house) that hold anywhere from four to eight restrooms; a restroom trailer with showers, manufactured by Comforts of Home Services Inc.; 150 hand-wash stations from PolyJohn, Satellite and Five Peaks; two cart-mounted pressure washers, built by Shark (a brand owned by Karcher North America) and Honda; and four four-in-one urinals from Kros International USA.

About 90 percent of the company’s business comes from portable restroom rentals and service, with the rest generated by ancillary services. On the portable sanitation side, monthly rentals represent about 70 percent of volume, with the rest coming from special event rentals, Bandauski says.

THE SURVEY SAYS …

Talking with customers is one of the less tangible yet most significant ways Portable John provides quality service. By constantly seeking feedback from customers, the company finds ways to improve operations – and customer satisfaction. Take the fleet of restroom trailers, which Portable John started buying about 10 years ago in response to customer demand.

While surveying customers after special events, a consistent complaint emerged: Women wearing high heels were finding it difficult to negotiate two steep stairs that provide access to two of the company’s trailer units. So after conferring with the manufacturer, Portable John sent the units back to the factory where a third step was added, Bandauski says.

“Sometimes customers come up with interesting ideas,” he notes. “And they’re really impressed when you listen and do something about what they say or suggest.”

The company also had customers in mind when it designed and built its walk-up trailers, low-slung metal-fabricated trailers carrying four to eight standard restrooms stationed along a ramp with handrails. Customers like them because they’re portable and can be quickly moved from one location to the next for special events, such as marathons. Route drivers appreciate the drive-and-drop simplicity of delivery. “That easily saves them an hour in setup time,” Bandauski says. “It’s more convenient for customers, too, because it ensures faster deliveries. And the units can’t tip over, either, because they drop down into the trailer, then get locked in with large straps.”

ATTENTION TO DETAIL

The company also strives to offer innovative new products that will impress customers and make their experience more convenient. A good example is the Kros four-in-one urinals. “They’re great for special events like marathons because the runners don’t have to wait in long lines at restrooms,” Bandauski says.

Portable John also works around customers’ schedules when arranging service calls or pickups/deliveries, not vice versa. That means, for instance, if a locked gate bars access to a restroom except for a certain window of time, the route driver will accommodate that schedule rather than force the customer to perhaps pay an employee overtime to unlock the gate at a service time convenient for Portable John.

“We ask what’s the best time and what’s the easiest placement for a restroom, and customize our routes accordingly,” Bandauski says.

The company also prides itself on having clean, nicely lettered and logoed trucks that convey a professional image. Bandauski says it’s not unusual to receive calls from prospective customers because they saw a Portable John truck on the road.

“If a truck pulls up to a job site and it’s dirty and grimy, people think the product you’re delivering is dirty and grimy,” he notes. “We want to constantly maintain a brand image that’s clean and sharp – a company with which you want to do business.”

RAISING PRICES

Attention to customer service and a modern, professional image allowed Portable John to do something many operators have not been able to do in recent years: raise rates without a lot of complaints from customers.

“We were on a steady price decline for the last five years,” Bandauski says, explaining that the company did its best during that time to not pass on cost increases to customers. “But our operating cost increases got to the point where we had to raise prices.”

Sure, Portable John lost some customers who look at portable restroom service only as a commodity to be farmed out to the lowest-price bidder. But for the vast majority of customers, Bandauski says that positive long-term business relationships carried the day.

“You have to remember that if you offer a premium service and raise prices by, say, $10 a unit, customers will appreciate that you’re just trying to maintain that quality service for what amounts to a minimal price bump,” Bandauski explains. “And we noticed that some customers who left us came back because they missed getting great service. They missed having a route driver who comes to their place and knows their names and what kind of product we had out there.

“And the customers we lost for good turned out to be the ones that usually are slow to pay or even refused to pay their bills,” he adds. “So in the end, we improved our customer base. Our customers understand that going with the cheapest company isn’t always the best. … The bottom-dollar companies can’t provide the best service.”

NEXT GENERATION

Looking ahead, Bandauski is excited about the prospect of eventually owning and operating the business along with his brother, Tyler, who currently assists in the billing department while being mentored by his father and uncle. “I’m very involved in the business right now – I know every aspect of it,” he says. “I hope to be managing the company with Tyler within the next five to 10 years.”

Growing a large company in a major American market with many competitors will pose challenges. But Bandauski is confident that long-standing business relationships with its customers will help surmount those challenges.

“We’re big enough to handle big events, but small enough that we know customers’ names and can relate to them on a personal basis,” he points out. “We’re a family-owned company that’s focused on portable restrooms. So we can focus on customers and their specific needs and offer innovative solutions to an otherwise static market.”


Want innovation? It’s a wrap!

Portable John Inc. adds a splash of excitement to its marketing through themed vinyl truck wraps that transform restroom trailers and restrooms into festive, eye-catching objects of whimsy at special events.

For example, the company last year decked out some restroom trailers with wraps that showed an American flag for a Fourth of July special event. In addition, the company adorns restroom trailers with wedding-related items – even personal photos enlarged on vinyl – for wedding receptions, says Trevor Bandauski, head of marketing and customer service for the Lockport, Illinois, company.

Consumers are continually raising the bar for personalization in the products they order, perhaps fueled in part by exposure to new ideas on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. More and more often, customers are seeking something unique and unusual to create a memorable buzz. And why should portable restrooms be any different?

That’s a question Bandauski asked several years ago – and answered by creating an in-house graphic-design center that can create everything from the promotional Portable John stickers found on its restrooms to themed vinyl wraps for restroom trailers and individual units. “We can print our own vinyl wraps in-house – pretty much whatever a customer asks for,” he says.

“A restroom trailer often is the centerpiece of an event, so when it becomes more than just a waste container, opportunities open up a chance to innovate – spice things up a bit,” he adds. “It’s no longer about just dropping a unit at a customer’s location in order to make some money. That’s just the start. It’s all about connecting with your customer base on a whole different level.”



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