How long has it been since you were on the front line in the war on pests? I’m talking about getting into one of your vehicles with a technician or sales professional and doing a ride along. I know you may have supervisors or branch managers who are supposed to do that, but can you really get a handle on the performance of what goes on in the field from behind your desk? I think it’s especially important to occasionally spend time with your sales staff to hear what they’re saying and to see whether they are getting the order.
Anytime you’re present with your employees, however, try to stay in the background. Don’t barge in and say, “Let me show you how to do this.” It can be intimidating for employees if a higher-up rides with them, so be careful not to embarrass them on the sales or service call by pointing out what they are doing wrong. Do it afterward in a coaching session.
A few years ago, we did a treatment on a really bad cockroach infestation in a mobile home not far from our office. The property was vacant but the cleanout was going to take several hours.
I thought it would be an ideal time for our office staff to experience a good ol’ fashioned cockroach cleanout. We equipped each person with a respirator, rubber gloves and shoe covers to go on a walk-through with our technicians as they battled thousands of German cockroaches.
Providing them with an opportunity to see what our technicians in the field experience on a regular basis was one of the best things we could have done. They were amazed at the number of cockroaches coming out of every crack and crevice as the service was being performed.
When they came back to the office, they had a new understanding of what it’s like in the field, but not from just on the other side of the telephone headset. (They may have even had a few dead roaches stuck to their shoes, but let’s keep that a secret.)
Show you care
My daughter Lori is our business analyst. She recently went on a ride along with one of our termite technicians for a bait station installation. It was good for her to see all of the stages — from greeting the customer to digging the holes for the bait stations, and all of the other little steps taken as the services are being performed. Additionally, the technician now realizes that management cares about what he and his colleagues do in the field.
You will learn so much from conducting ride alongs. It might even lead you to make some changes, such as reorganizing the layout of the vehicle to make it a better work environment. It might also increase staff productivity. I encourage you to get out there into the real world, alongside your No. 1 asset, your employees.
You can reach Ray Johnson, a past president of the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), president of Sevierville, Tenn.-based Johnson Pest Control, and founder of ACES for Business, at firstname.lastname@example.org.