Tomorrow’s Effective Communicator Begins Today

By |  March 9, 2016
Embracing advances in communication will help streamline operations and boost profits. photo: ©istock.com/Chunumunu

Embracing advances in communication will help streamline operations and boost profits. photo: ©istock.com/Chunumunu

In this digital age, we have all grown accustomed to receiving and processing large quantities of information in an instant. While such advances have helped make our lives easier, they have also made our lives more complex.

Current digital-age demands can either increase opportunities for, or set back, a pest management professional (PMP), depending on his or her response. Today, the difference between a profit and a loss can be defined in the click of a mouse, the pressing of the “send” button, or the availability of human interaction when a potential or existing client calls for assistance.

The heightened level of communication required from everyone in the pest management industry challenges us to boost basic communication skills to improve the quality of service, increase upsell opportunities and reduce callback ratios. Reduced callbacks equal increased revenues, and transforms into improved client satisfaction. Embracing advances in communication not only helps streamline operations, but opens the lines of communication between you and your clients, allowing for a long-term increase in profits and improved customer satisfaction. The digital revolution has highlighted the importance of revisiting our core communications skill set.
 

Oral and written communication

How adept are your technical and sales teams at explaining a service, persuading a client to purchase a product or service, and/or answering questions about a product or service? Don’t miss an opportunity to explain the benefits of an existing service or product and ensure client satisfaction because it ultimately leads to client retention.

One important point to remember with oral communication is that we must always tailor it to our individual client, so he or she can easily understand what we’re trying to explain and vice-versa. Instant access to information has given clients the ability to verify what we tell them. If the information is accurate, then you become a valued resource to the client. If the information is inaccurate or false, it can cause confusion and lead to a poor perception of you and your company.

Written communication supplements oral communication efforts; it cements on paper (or online) the details of what was said. It’s critical that all forms of written communication be updated, even if we must seek the advice of an expert within or outside the industry, so the information is accurate, consistent and fully details what we’re trying to explain, sell, or upsell to clients.

It’s no longer a matter of how well you service an account. More importantly, it’s a matter of how well you communicate with your client on all levels. Digital age basics begin with effective email communications and progress to such additional formats as websites, blogs, social media, video and photos, to name a few. All forms of communication must be free of errors, concise and to the point. This will ultimately separate the average PMP from the “Super PMP” of the future. Super PMPs will use all the communication tools at their disposal to clearly and accurately get their points across to their clients.

As the industry continues to develop and embrace the green movement by steering clients away from a heavy reliance on pesticides, our current and prospective clients will rely even more on our ability to communicate effectively and direct them toward their goals. In turn, clients will possess an even stronger voice in choosing the products they purchase and how we service them. Our communication aptitude will continue to be challenged. We must strive to improve our level of expertise in all areas of the industry.

Gone are the days of a one-size-fits-all pest service using a pressurized hand tank. Today’s PMPs report to clients’ job sites prepared to take careful notes, and to listen more than speak. A PMP must be properly groomed and neatly dressed, and possess strong verbal and digital aptitude. Savvy customers know they have many service provider options. Intelligent PMPs recognize the value in being a strong communicator and the importance of projecting the proper professional image.

To illustrate my point, during a search for a local pest control company, I was able to locate one pest firm that has a dedicated director of communications. This demonstrates
the firm’s commitment to communication. Golden opportunities will continue to present themselves to those who are willing to recognize
them, and to those who take the necessary communication steps and follow through on them.

In the future, PMPs will keep accurate digital records of their clients’ purchasing habits and seasonal needs. Clients that tend to buy the same products or services will continue to do so, provided they continue to see value in these purchases. Upsell opportunities will also present themselves to those PMPs who recognize the seasonal product and service needs of their customers.
If we know that a particular client requires an ant service during the spring and summer, for example, it would be prudent for us to proactively reach out to the client to confirm an application date. Although consistent and ongoing communication at times may seem difficult, it’s necessary for company and individual growth.
 

Trouble accounts and callbacks

Most callbacks result from a miscommunication between a service provider and a client. To effectively analyze where a break in communication or expectations occurred, examine the exact area within the sales and service process where the problem first surfaced:

  • Was it during the initial sales process, where the salesperson may have failed to effectively communicate to the customer the details of the pest management process?
  • Was it during the actual service, where the technician may not have anticipated additional issues within an account?
  • Was it after a service was completed or a product was offered? Was our follow-up effective? Perhaps our clients’ pest threshold (amount of pests a client can tolerate) may not have been clearly communicated or understood.

These are all questions that should be considered. The key is to effectively identify areas within the sales and service process that require additional fine-tuning, and then act on them swiftly. Golden sales opportunities do exist, even within callbacks, for those who are willing to recognize them and effectively seize the opportunity.

In Japanese business culture, there is a longstanding philosophy called Kaizen — Kai, which means to change, and Zen, which means for the better. Kaizen means to strive for constant improvement of processes and standards. The Super PMPs of the future recognize we’re in an industry filled with golden opportunities. They strive to improve, and are mindful of the Kaizen philosophy. They take a system or process and continuously make improvements in what they do on a daily basis, with a focus on being better tomorrow.


 

Communication tips for upselling

An effective communicator is an individual who strives to listen twice as much as speaking. Clients have many choices available to them when selecting service providers, so it is imperative that our communication efforts are clear, concise and most importantly, take the client’s needs into consideration first. Our oral, written and digital communications programs must be in sync with one another; otherwise, clients will feel that they are not being appropriately heard. To achieve that goal, do the following:

  • Maintain accurate digital records and stay up to date on what clients’ needs are in regard to various services or products.
  • Promote the “needs” identified in the digital records, and follow up with the client to ensure their needs have been met or to learn whether adjustments are required to the pest management program.
  • Realize your program is always in a state of constant improvement, to enhance the client experience and to solve pest problems.
  • Actively seek methods for improvement should an error occur or the system, service or product fail.

—PJS

Peter Stieglmayr, an Associate Certified Entomologist (ACE), has more than 12 years of pest management industry experience as a technical director and entomologist. Contact him at pjstieglmayr@gmail.com.

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