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Customer service is what makes The Shredders Corp. successful. Jeff McFarland stepped up to serve as the president and CEO of The Shredders about three years ago after working for many years in the paper recycling industry. He made several system and equipment upgrades when he transitioned to his new role, but he says the company, which is based in Commerce, California, had customer service “nailed down” much earlier on in its history.

“In our industry, customer service is kind of an afterthought,” McFarland says. “For us, it’s not. Customer service is the most important thing we do. That seems to benefit us greatly.”

The Shredders, which launched in 1995, provides secure off-site document, hard drive, micromedia, nonpaper media and product destruction services to about 3,500 customers from within a 250-mile radius of its headquarters in southeast Los Angeles County. Since the early years of the business, McFarland says the company has made personal contact with the people and businesses it serves.

One way The Shredders has done that is by being quick to answer customer calls. McFarland says the company doesn’t use a remote call center. Instead, it uses an in-house staff who answers calls directly. He says customers dial one number and someone is available to answer questions from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific time Monday through Friday.

Beyond answering customer calls, The Shredders calls its customers one day before they are expected to receive service as a courtesy reminder.

“For example, today is Tuesday,” McFarland says. “We call customers prior to pickup, so everyone who is getting serviced on Wednesday is called today. That’s a big deal.”

The Shredders’ drivers also practice customer service, getting to know the clients on their routes on a first-name basis. McFarland says his customers love interacting with The Shredders’ drivers, which has helped the company retain business.

“Take care of your customer,” he adds. “Stay connected so that all are on the same page.”

Upgrading and automating

Although the focus on customer service has remained the same at The Shredders throughout its history, the company has upgraded its equipment and technology under McFarland’s leadership. When he joined The Shredders, he says he realized the operations needed modernizing.

The Shredders didn’t need rebranding, but he says, “We’ve remodeled the place, you could say. The system was fine before, but it was old. We revitalized it and improved upon an already successful model.”

The company added new, automated routing software to improve the way The Shredders schedules its stops and to help its drivers as they service clients. The Shredders operates 16 box trucks that travel all over its service area, collecting items to be securely destroyed.

With the automated routing system, McFarland says his drivers’ workdays are much more streamlined: They punch in for work and pick up their work cellphones, which handle much of the work from there.

The software on the cellphones provides drivers with their routes for the day; Google Maps directs the drivers to their stops; the cellphones transmit data from customer stops back to the office instantly; and drivers can provide customers with certificates of destruction on the spot.

“It’s making life easier; it’s saving a lot of time,” McFarland says of the company’s routing software.

Additionally, using a modern routing software platform has ensured that The Shredders’ drivers aren’t wasting fuel by sitting in traffic. That minimizes fuel expenses and, in turn, helps the environment, McFarland adds.

The Shredders also upgraded its fleet by replacing 14 of its trucks with new trucks that offer reduced emissions. The company purchased Isuzu’s 20-foot and Hino’s 24-foot box trucks, which it dispatches depending on the size required to meet California gross vehicle weight requirements when the weight of the cargo is factored in.

The new trucks feature an updated look and new company logo, which help with company branding. Each of the new trucks includes clear contact information for The Shredders as well as its website and social media sites.

“Your truck is your rolling billboard,” McFarland says. “They have all the information on there as far as social media sites and a photo of paper being shredded. I get a lot of customers calling in saying, ‘I saw your truck.’”

Beyond marketing with its trucks, The Shredders also has put more effort into promotion on social media platforms and through email blasts. McFarland says he still thinks in-person outreach is vital to growing the brand, but he says it’s also important to make investments to websites and social media.

“With social and websites, you pay to play, basically,” he says. “The more you pay, the higher you get on search engines. We do that, but we honestly believe in still visiting our customers.”

To make sure The Shredders’ website and social media sites are performing well in terms of search engine optimization (SEO), McFarland adds that he tracks results of these efforts closely using Google Analytics. “We review the results monthly,” McFarland says.

“Some great advice is to manage your budget properly as these projects can add up quickly,” he adds. “Also, using key phrases like ‘paper shredding’ or ‘document destruction’ are important because when people are searching for a certain type of service, they are typing in whatever verbiage they believe will help them find multiple options [or] reviews.”

Lending a hand

McFarland says he enjoys giving back to the communities The Shredders serves. One way the company has been doing that is by increasing its involvement with AbilityFirst, a nonprofit group based in Pasadena, California, that provides a variety of programs to help adults and children with disabilities.

For disabled adults, the nonprofit offers a variety of services, such as supported employment programs, which include job coaches. When a program participant begins a role with a company, the job coach will work with that participant until he or she is fully acclimated to the new position. The job coach scales back his or her involvement based on the specific needs of the individual.

McFarland says many AbilityFirst participants who work for The Shredders are warehouse employees or assistants to the company’s drivers.

He adds that it’s been rewarding—and fun—to figure out how to help AbilityFirst employees advance personally and professionally. McFarland says one of his AbilityFirst employees is one of his fastest workers with an amazing memory, while another one has been able to move to an independent living situation since he started working at The Shredders.

“It’s a really cool experience,” McFarland adds. “These are great people. They just want to fit in with society and work. The opportunity to be helpful and contribute to this has blessed our lives beyond belief.”

The author is the managing editor of Recycling Today and can be reached by email at msmalley@gie.net.