Protecting customers, employees in unprecedented times
May 27, 2020
May 27, 2020
Editor’s Note: In mid-April, we asked Bobby, Raleigh and Dennis Jenkins to share the changes they’ve made to their respective businesses as they deal with the coronavirus pandemic. The trio begins each morning with a FaceTime call, to share ideas and daily trials and tribulations.
President, ABC Home & Commercial Services, Austin, Texas
The safety of our employees and customers has always been priority No. 1. During this pandemic, it is of even more importance.
All field personnel are wearing gloves, shoe covers and face masks, and practicing appropriate social distancing along with washing their hands after every service. We begin each day with a wellness check for all field personnel who confirm they are feeling good and fever-free.
We moved to outside-only service for maintenance work, and go inside only if there is pest activity. Nearly all office staff work from home. Our weekly company meeting is now held virtually; we send a PowerPoint and video via email so employees can watch at their convenience. Our service and sales folks come to the office only when necessary, and practice social distancing when they pick up materials in the warehouse.
Signs on our entrance doors state we will not allow unscheduled visitors to enter. An employee spends the day cleaning and disinfecting all touch points — doorknobs, counters, faucets, light switches — in our building. We disinfect our building three time a week after hours. Like many in our industry, we are looking at providing disinfecting services to our customers.
So far, the most critical aspect of this “new world order” is making sure we are communicating with everyone about everything. I have a daily meeting with my senior management team, sharing updates, ideas and challenges. Some members of the management team are working from home, but with technology, we all are able to communicate in a very effective way. I should have bought stock in Zoom a couple months ago.
Several times a week, I provide a video message to all employees, letting everyone know how we are doing as a company. This also gives me the opportunity to tell them how much we appreciate them and that we are here if they need us.
When our city issued the stay-at-home ordinance, we let customers know we were able to continue to serve and protect their properties. We sent an email explaining the regulations and outlining the safety practices we would be following. We then created TV and radio spots to let the public know we are classified as essential and are available if they need us. We will run this ad campaign exclusively for the next month or two.
We are keeping our receivables down, increasing the amount on our line of credit, and applying for Small Business Association (SBA) loans. We implemented a hiring freeze, and are continuing to look for ways to cut expenses. We are working hard to make sure we are positioned to weather this storm for as long as it goes. Having access to cash is absolutely critical.
I stressed to all managers and supervisors to keep our employees: We don’t want to lose anyone. We are working hard to communicate to the entire team and, just as important, listen to everyone’s concerns and input. If an employee is uncomfortable working, he or she can use personal time off (PTO). If anyone has a family member with symptoms, he or she can go up to 80 hours negative on PTO.
We sent fresh, hot cookies to our office staff members’ homes to let them know how much we appreciate them. We bought lunch for our field personnel to thank them for their hard work.
We will return to a normal economy and growing our businesses as this too, shall pass. We are staying aggressive with our advertising campaign, which will pay off when this pandemic is under control. We are fortunate our industry is on the front end, not the back end, of the pest control season. People need our services, and we will be there to serve and protect them and their properties.
President, ABC Home & Commercial Services, Houston, Texas
Houston has endured catastrophic flooding and hurricanes. We’ve survived lack of electricity and contaminated water supplies. So far, this is beyond what has happened in the past; we must be nimble and adapt.
Cash is king right now. We are getting our number of days out on receivables down as much as possible. I have seen improvement since our efforts went into overdrive at the beginning of March.
Spending is at a halt, unless it generates immediate revenue. I accessed our line of credit from the bank to use as extra operating capital. Not knowing what the future will hold, it was one step in our preparedness for a worst-case scenario.
We began the process of filing for SBA loans and other government aid that surfaced. We are not in need of cash today, but I’m not sure what the situation will look like in the next few weeks. We are working with three different banks to ensure the SBA loan bank we use will be looking out for our best interests.
We stay in constant communication with our staff, as we set a goal to over-communicate. We call twice a day to check in and conduct health checks. The ownership team checks in with managers; managers check in with supervisors; and supervisors check in with their teams. We don’t want anybody to feel they’re alone or not getting the attention they deserve. Technicians meet virtually, but they also are out in the field. With our office staff working from home, it is a major priority to keep them connected, as they are the isolated ones.
We continue to focus on the importance of handwashing. Anyone who comes into our office building can only enter through one checkpoint. A water station table is outside so they can thoroughly wash their hands. As they enter, a second checkpoint manned by human resources staff or someone from the ownership team takes their temperatures and asks a simple health check question. When employees and visitors sign in, their temperatures are recorded and they each are given a wrist band that is a different color daily to ensure accuracy.
We sent a video to customers to convey our team is focused on exterior services, which will continue our efforts to reduce pest pressure. To keep their confidence in us, we informed them of our ongoing health checks and the personal protective equipment (PPE) each employee uses. We informed them our employees will not enter any home if somebody is ill or if our employee feels uncomfortable. If a customer has a problem they want us to address, we ask them to take pictures or video. We diagnose what the client sends, and ascertain whether it is necessary to enter the home.
These are unique and difficult times. My prayer for all is to do the best we can to be diligent, safe, steadfast, hopeful, and to stay healthy.
President, ABC Home & Commercial of DFW
The question of how we are handling business during the COVID-19 pandemic is something that is on everyone’s mind. I meet with my senior management team daily to keep informed about how our customers and our team members are dealing with working during the coronavirus pandemic.
First, we used technology to send almost all of our office staff home to work remotely. They have computers, and our phone system is able to work from phones we sent them home with. If your phone system features Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, then you have the same ability.
Second, we moved from an outside/inside service model to outside only. We informed customers we will service inside the home once the pandemic has passed. In cases where interior service is necessary, we first ask three questions: Is anyone in the house sick? Has anyone in the house recently traveled out of the country or by plane? Has anyone in the house come in contact with someone else who was sick? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, we do not go inside the home.
We have PPE for everyone, but supplies of respirator cartridges are limited; therefore, we only use them inside structures. We have a supply of gloves and shoe covers, and are asking them to be worn once and thrown away. We also are supplying our service technicians with disinfectants for their vehicles.
Having said that, at this time, we are very much still in business. We are performing about 95 percent of the services we normally would, and I feel good about the policies that allow us to work and protect our people.
We are providing disinfectant treatments to customers. The products we use are produced by a long-standing supplier to the pest control industry. We read the label, and are in contact with the supplier’s technical support team. We have been experimenting on our facility as to time, motion and amount of material used. We have a contract that makes it clear that this material will only kill viruses that are present and offers no residual or lasting effect. We are in the business of protecting public health, and it falls to us to provide service to assist in this area.
I wish everyone good health and good business. I have confidence we will make it through these challenging times, and I thank God pest control is classified as an essential service and we are able to keep working. Please be careful out there.
Read more COVID-19 coverage here: MyPMP.net/COVID-19