City of Mesa, Ariz.: Customers First

Pricing and customer service are the two most significant components to being competitive. Mesa approaches both from a customer perspective. We develop fee structures that truly reflect the actual cost while giving a personal touch to a service that most residents take for granted.

For example, we recommend service changes to "right size" our accounts and employ a "fast response" philosophy for problems, even though our rates may be higher in some cases.

Keeping our rates competitive means minimizing operational costs. We use full cost accounting with a detailed work order system. Our group's continuous quality improvement methods to work "smarter" has resulted in saving thousands of dollars.

We must market our services to stay competitive. We have worked diligently over the past several years to develop a customer account tracking system with various approaches to reach customers as well as keeping a continued rapport with all potential customers. We also seek the advice of equipment manufacturers to stay on the technological cutting edge, focusing on life-cycle costing, operator proficiency and acceptable downtime standards.

Most of our decisions are made with the drivers' input. Drivers take an active role in reviewing accidents and recommending preventative measures. They are also cross-trained. Recently, we've considered standardizing the techniques used when operating specialized equipment such as our automated sideloaders and frontloaders.

Key factors in accomplishing this have been a combination of employee involvement, working with our Fleet Support Division and being focused on customer satisfaction. This emphasis has added up to a dramatic culture change in our organization. We question everything in an effort to improve our business procedures. Although innovations require investing time and money, if they are analyzed with the end result in mind they result in a positive payback.

We measure success in many ways, from employee morale to customer satisfaction. Measuring correctly has been a challenge for us over the last four years, but the more we search for ways to determine how we are doing, the more apparent that measurement is the key.

Each month, we randomly select customers to question about our service, our treatment of them and our timeliness. In addition, we survey our employees at least yearly to assess their feelings toward the organization. We historically have prepared reports based on time, tonnage and miles, but recently, we have begun to standardize routes and compare driver performance against these standards. Developed with driver feedback, logical performance standards uncovered many collection issues that serve as opportunities to improve.

We are designing a strategic plan that will guide us through the next five to 10 years. This action document will instigate great thought followed by positive actions that focus on customer satisfaction, teamwork and employee morale.

Competition and privatization discussions have given many managers the reason to push for positive change in our industry. New technology, coupled with a customer base that is more knowledgeable and demands accountability, will continue this trend indefinitely.

Operations that are not ready for this challenge will be passed over.

Refuse Trucks

* 6 automated side loaders: 3 with Heils, 3 each with Leach, Mack and Peterbilts

* 5 front loaders: 2 Heils, 3 McNeilius with Mack

* 4 rolloffs: Galbreath, Macks

* 7 recyclers: 3 Labries, 4 National

* 3 rearloaders: 2 Heils, 1 Leach/Mack,

* 4 pick-ups: 3 Ford, 1 Dodge - 1 Hooklift American IH

* 3 side loaders: Labrie, IH Containers

* Automated carts: Rehrig Pacific, Semi Automated Toter

* Front load containers: Devivo

Customers: Residential, commercial, industrial

Employees: 40

Service Area: Northwest Connecticut

Services: Recycling, construction and demolition debris, recycling, business and industry waste collection, leaves

Local Tipping Fees: $48/ton trash;$65/ton bulky

Tossed And Found: Diamond ring in a compacted load of trash; 10 pounds of marijuana found in a recycle container.

Refuse trucks * 28 automated sideloaders, all Rapid Rail: 7 Peterbilt; 6 Mack; 15 Volvo-White

* 7 rearloaders, all PAK MOR: 6 Mack; 1 Volvo

* 14 frontloaders, all EZ PACK: 7 Mack; 7 Volvo-White

* 7 tilt frame (roll off) trucks: 4 C&O; 2 G&H; 1 K-PAK - 2 Mack; 5 White

* 2 six-yard Chevy manual sideloaders

Containers * 60,000 black 90-gallon barrels - Snyder

*25,000 black 90-gallon barrels - Toter

*2,000 green 90-gallon barrels - Rehrig

*75,000 blue 60-gallon barrels - Rehrig

*2,000 black 60-gallon barrels - Rehrig

*1,450 black 440-gallon barrels - Heil Roto Mold

*400 black 300-gallon barrels - El Monte/RMI

Customers: 78,000 residential, single-family customers; 40,000 residential, apartment units customers;1,800 commercial customers

Employees: 115

Service area: Mesa city limits; approximately 127 square miles

Services: Residential MSW and curbside recycling, appliance recycling, HHW collection, green waste collection, recycling drop off convenience centers, apartment recycling, business and industry waste collection and recycling, office paper recycling, construction debris

Local Tipping Fees: $17.50/ton; $27/ton "at the door"

Oops: Some customers perceived "green" waste to mean anything that was colored green, such as garden hoses, indoor/outdoor carpeting, etc.