7 Post-Pandemic Questions You Want to Hear Customers Ask

The past year has been challenging for portable sanitation providers. Hopefully your customers have a greater appreciation for the difficult job you do

It’s been a hectic year for portable restroom operators. When it started, the world was still in lockdown from the COVID-19 pandemic, but with expectations running high for an effective vaccine. Then, when everything started opening up again, your crews were busy like never before. 

Several factors converged to empty your yards of remaining restrooms and hand-wash stations. Construction was booming despite economic headwinds that impacted many people. Folks starved for gathering in public rejoiced with the return of music festivals, county fairs and wide-open attendance at sports venues. Cities across the U.S. and Canada, besieged with growing homeless populations, scrambled to offer adequate sanitation solutions.

Through it all, one challenge remained constant: meeting heightened customer expectations. While your crews were doing all they could to remain safe during service runs, clients demanded higher sanitation standards, more frequent cleanings and equipment and supplies that weren’t always easy to deliver. Unprecedented demand for toilet paper, hand-wash stations and hand sanitizers made it difficult to please your customers or the public.

But all these difficulties reinforced the importance of portable sanitation in the public’s eyes. They realized you provide a truly essential service, and without your products and services, the wheels of commerce would grind to a halt. I am counting on this greater understanding and respect for PROs to repair some of the bad impressions people had about portable restrooms in the past.

Rather than constantly looking for ways to cut corners when providing relief for their workers or event visitors, I now hope that your clients will see you more as a partner and an ally in providing a crucial service. Instead of saying ‘How can we get by with less?’ I want them to be asking you, ‘What can we do to create a safer environment for our employees or guests?’

In that spirit, here are some of the questions I’d like you to hear from portable sanitation customers moving forward: 

What would you recommend?

Too often in the past, event planners and construction companies have approached PROs with expectations for service that focused more on the bottom line than the comfort and safety of their users. This can’t happen anymore. Many times over the years, PROs told me their clients didn’t appreciate their expertise at planning for crowds or placing construction restrooms. This often resulted in overwhelmed restrooms and unhappy users. I believe the attitudes and expectations are changing and that the pandemic forced decisionmakers to step back and ask for advice rather than dictate unrealistic terms for your service. The pandemic taught them to be more cautious and take a safety-first approach.

Can you give me an extra unit just in case?

Or, ‘Could you service the restroom one more time per month or per week?’ The public has made its expectations for cleanliness clearer over the past year, or at least the circumstances related to the pandemic forced those ordering restrooms listen a little closer. It’s my belief that negative perceptions about portable restrooms have more to do with adequate service than the idea of using a portable restroom itself. If units are not over-full, do not have bad odors and aren’t generally filthy, the public will recognize the convenience benefits and use them without complaint. If your customers want to keep workers or event attendees happy, they will request more comprehensive coverage and service. 

Could you put a sink in every restroom?

For years PROs have struggled with customers to accept basic sanitation standards. For at least a generation, contractors have hoped to add sinks or hand sanitizers in every unit. Who doesn’t believe the general public is disgusted when they have to use a restroom without any way of washing their hands afterward? If builders won’t spec out a home bathroom without a sink, why would they insist on leaving workers with no way to sanitize their hands on the work site? There has been a ridiculous double standard for portable restrooms based solely on your customers trying to cheap out on an equipment order. Well, thanks to the pandemic, that’s not going to fly anymore. I believe sinks or sanitizers will become standard equipment with restrooms from now on.

Can you provide me with a better restroom? 

I’m surprised that one portable sanitation trend internationally isn’t taking hold in the U.S. That’s the frequent or mandated use of flushing restrooms. If introduced to a flushing unit, I think the general public would begin to demand them all the time. The basic drop holding tank is inexpensive, efficient and easy to pump and service, but it certainly does not provide the optimal user experience. What makes people equate portable restrooms with outhouses is the experience of looking down into the tank and seeing waste and mounds of toilet paper. The public, and in turn your customers, will elevate the level of service over time and require flushing systems. The brisk rise in popularity of restroom trailers is an indicator that flushing is the next advancement in poly restrooms.

Can you help us with service logistics? 

On social media, PROs often complain that their customers are clueless about caring for restrooms on site and helping their drivers improve service efficiency. They say trucks and equipment are parked in front of the units on construction sites, making them impossible to clean and pump. They say customers often move units to the worst possible location at a work site or away from the flow of foot traffic at special events. Is it too much to hope that your clients will heed your advice so you can provide better service or so your units aren’t damaged or neglected? I don’t think so. If you keep stressing the importance of logistics to quality service, they will start listening.

How can we help to prevent vandalism?

Equipment vandalism has long been a revenue killer for PROs, both in the cost of replacing damaged goods and the time it takes to clean and repair inventory. Customers failing to step up and take responsibility for this senseless damage has also been a concern. Events of the past year may begin to change that. 

At a time of high demand for restrooms, you can ill afford to take units out of commission and hunt around for replacement parts and panels to make repairs. With the pandemic, vandalism has become a more acute problem, especially among units rented to municipalities to serve urban downtowns and homeless populations. And it’s not just graffiti, but reports of restroom arson are on the rise. 

PROs have been confronting their customers in an effort to counter these losses, and it’s starting to have an impact. My hope is that your clients begin to take this problem seriously and work with you to seek solutions. And if they don’t see themselves as responsible parties, it’s long past the time when you need to have a talk with them about the costs of vandalism.

How can we provide you with a testimonial?

The pandemic and its aftermath were challenging, but you did the best you could to deliver the necessary equipment and provide quality service. Out of appreciation, happy customers may be willing to write a testimonial for your website or through social media. This amplified form of word-of-mouth advertising is a powerful tool for marketing your company and should be encouraged.

WISHFUL THINKING?

It’s not likely you’ll hear all of these questions from your customers. But it would be nice to imagine a growing awareness about the challenges of portable sanitation after living through a protracted crisis. Every little step we take toward improving sanitation for the public is a worthwhile endeavor.   



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