Going paperless may seem extreme, especially if your company’s office décor consists of stacks of paper piled high and file cabinets stuffed with contracts. But pest management professionals (PMPs) who pull it off say it’s worth the effort.
American Pest Management in Manhattan, Kan., has been 100 percent paperless since September 2016 — and saving time and money ever since. That’s according to Travis Aggson, ACE, its executive vice president.
Eliminating the need to print every service statement has saved the company close to $33,000, he estimates. And the ability to process service statements faster has saved office staff two to four hours every day.
At American Pest Management, a mobile app for the company’s management software system provides instant access to measurements, bids, contracts, customer history, service notes and billing information. Technicians use it to upload data while on service calls.
“Our techs would handwrite all of the materials and notes on a statement of service, and then the office team would have to manually enter all the information,” Aggson recalls. “It would take hours.” Now, because technicians type this information directly into the management software system, only seconds are needed to process and review service statements if follow-up or other action is not needed.
Worth the effort
Going paperless takes some effort at first, Aggson admits. For instance, as part of a winter project at American Pest Management, office staff scanned all documents — including contracts — from the past three years and uploaded them to the company’s database. Documents they scanned were placed in storage. Aggson says the company keeps paper documents for up to seven years, and shreds older documents on a rotating basis.
“We used to have seven to 10 banker boxes per year,” he says. “The past two years, it has been closer to two to three banker boxes, and this includes invoices sent to us for accounts payable.”
Still, some clients are not ready to give up paper. That’s why the company kept its printers and
“We still send paper invoices to those who don’t want to provide an email address and would rather have the bill in their hand,” Aggson says. “In the past year, I have only been asked to send something by fax one time.”
For many, going paperless is a big change; it won’t work unless all employees are on board. Aggson says he appointed one team member the expert on all things paperless. His designated team member worked with the vendor that provides the company’s management software system until he felt comfortable using the software. He also was the go-to person for employees with any problems or questions.
Extensive training helps
Because the company couldn’t go paperless without its management software system, employees needed to learn how to use it properly. First, they received training as a group, then by territory, and eventually one-on-one as needed. In addition, the staff was trained on how to answer any questions customers may have. The company’s bank provided training on the credit card payment and automatic withdrawal process, and its management software system vendor explained how information is stored.
To make it easier to train employees and update equipment, Aggson recommends starting everyone on the same equipment — as well as choosing one platform and making it mandatory.
“One of our employees, a serious Apple user, demanded an iPhone. We got it for him, and then he left the company,” he says. “Now we have an iPhone no one wants to use.”
When making the switch, it’s important to communicate with the entire team, Aggson says. American Pest Management chose Slack for its company message board.
“We use it for announcements, pats on the back, requests for assistance, quick questions, trivia challenges, birthday announcements, and more,” he explains. “It really has made communication better in our office. Best of all, it’s free!”
American Pest Management takes security very seriously. The company’s IT vendor set up firewalls and implemented software designed to keep data secure.
“In our office, we had a team member experience identity theft; it’s not fun,” Aggson warns. “So we are very cautious with information.”
If you’re eager to give it a go, don’t switch everyone off paper all at once, he advises.
“We gave the software system’s mobile app to our managers and supervisors first,” he explains, noting that one was the oldest employee in the company whereas another was the most tech savvy. But they all got comfortable using the technology, and it was rolled out to the entire staff. Today, it is used company-wide.
Why paperless is not for everyone
Every state has its own policy regarding the formats in which documentation must be created and maintained.
Going paperless would not have been possible without the help of the Kansas Pest Control Association (KPCA), says Travis Aggson, ACE, executive vice president of American Pest Management, Manhattan, Kan. That’s because Kansas law required technicians to leave a statement of service in paper form at every home in which they applied materials. But the KPCA worked with the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA), which adopted Electronic Statements of Service as a means to deliver paperwork to clients. Together, they created a new policy that allows for documentation in an electronic format, providing it meets certain conditions.
“Without the KDA’s cooperation and insight, we would not have had the option to go paperless due to the way the [state] pesticide laws were written,” Aggson says. “After that hurdle was passed, our employees found that when going mobile, they had all the information they had been requesting for years at their fingertips.”
Before you take your company paperless, check your state laws to learn documentation requirements
Good information. I wonder how much labor is saved going paperless? At the end of the day, someone is still keying in data. But I suspect the real advantage is fast data retrieval, much more control over data crunching, and more accurate forecasts. Of course having less banker’s boxes cluttering up the office is priceless.