Case Study: Partnering with Your Local Propane Retailer

Programs like Builder Care exemplify the partnerships that can exist between construction pros and local propane companies.

Before he started selling propane in Texas, Steve McKay was an accountant, a profession that taught him to pay attention to every detail and find creative solutions for his clients.

Those skills have served him well at Sharp Propane, where McKay and his management team recently launched the Builder Care program to provide homebuilders with a comprehensive approach to propane services. "Builders told us they wanted more than for us to put a tank in the ground," says McKay, the company's CEO, "so we mapped out the various stages and components of the services we provide to builders and put them in a logical sequence."

A Sharp Propane service technician discusses the location for the propane stub-out with a builder as part of the Builder Care program.
A Sharp Propane service technician discusses the location for a propane stub-out with a builder as part of the Builder Care program.

The resulting Builder Care program, formally launched last year, engages builder customers across all price points and target markets as early in the development and construction process as possible, long before the tank and supply lines are to be installed—and long after that work is done. "They'll come out to the site to discuss the size of the tank we need, and where and when it and the lines should be installed," says Chad Wootan of Wootan Homes, a custom builder in College Station, Texas.

During the tank installation, Wootan says, Sharp Propane installers will inspect supply line connections and pressure-test the entire system installed by Wootan's plumber; they'll also make sure regulators and other components are designed and set up for propane instead of for natural gas—a key detail that enables optimal performance and safety of propane appliances and systems.

Sharp Propane also makes sure products and systems, from tankless water heaters to fireplaces and cooktops, are working properly and safely before the owners move in.

As builders develop homesites out of the reach of municipal natural gas lines, and turn to propane to provide energy to an increasing variety of products and systems demanded by their homebuyers, the value of retailer programs comes into even sharper focus. "I always get their input," says Bob Hope of South Shore Custom Homes in Austin, Texas, who sought out Sharp Propane when he started building luxury homes along Lake Travis, west of the city. "They make sure the propane-using products perform as promised and without problems."

In addition to training builders about the nuances of its product and system, Sharp Propane meets directly with buyers to discuss basic safety and maintenance of the system. "Sharp takes care of me and my customers by giving us peace of mind," says builder Scott Mauldin, president of Bailee Custom Homes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Though safety issues with modern propane systems are rare, both Sharp Propane and its builder customers recognize the value of educating homeowners about what to do just in case. "We do as much as it takes to explain the safety features and what to do in an emergency," says McKay, an after-sale service that's critical to the Builder Care program.

Cooperation with retailers forms trust and relationships that help builders maintain a positive standing with their homeowners. "They're already very skilled in customer service to the level that I strive for in my own company," says Wootan, speaking of Sharp's reps, who deal directly with his customers. "I don't have to set any expectations with them."

For free training courses and videos on tank installation, safety checks, and other related topics, check out the Propane Systems section of the Propane Training Academy.


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