Pest Management Professional (PMP) asked Desiree Straubinger, BCE, technical director for Rentokil, as well as PMP’s “Ask the Expert” columnists Judy Black, BCE, a 2019 PMP Hall of Fame inductee and VP of quality assurance and technical services for Rollins Inc., and Dan Baldwin, BCE, director of technical, training and regulatory services for Terminix Commercial, to weigh in on what their respective companies are doing to adjust to the realities of business during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are their responses, edited for length and clarity.
PMP: What is being done differently at your companies to ensure both customers and employees are protected?
JUDY BLACK (JB): Since COVID-19 first appeared on the global radar, we’ve had a cross-functional task force dedicated to monitoring news and updates related to the coronavirus. We are providing daily updates to all employees, which include any business-related changes, as well as good news from the field. We also changed the language of our service alerts to reflect the precautions we have in place prior to and during services. We activated our pandemic preparedness policy, and have made updates specific to COVID-19.
DAN BALDWIN (DB): There have been both internal and client-facing communications. For our employees, we have a very simple message: “If you’re not feeling well, stay home. When you are working, always use the proper [personal protective equipment, or] PPE, and never take any chances.” Non-field personnel are working from home, and technicians have structured visits to the branches for materials distribution.
DESIREE STRAUBINGER (DS): Rentokil’s mission statement is to “protect people and enhance lives.” We have that in mind with everything we do. We transitioned to virtual meetings for office colleagues, and increased our library of e-learning modules across the board. We also are focused on being as efficient as possible. We increased our focus on disinfection, including equipment, as we enter buildings. And we are not requiring signatures on paperwork, to alleviate the customer from having to touch common-use items such as pens.
COMMUNICATING WITH CUSTOMERS
PMP: How are you keeping customers apprised that your technicians are putting safety first?
JB: We are committed to keeping our customers updated. In addition to updating our website with COVID-19 protocols and procedures, we also updated the language on our service alert text messages and emails, while providing the same updated information on social media. Our branches also are calling their customers to discuss the changes to services during this time, especially if the customer has questions about how we will perform services.
DB: We’re reinforcing proper PPE protocols, and personal and public health best practices with all employees. In-person interaction at their offices is kept to a minimum. We have made it a priority to communicate our efforts to the clients on a regular basis, assuring them that personal and public health factors are a primary concern for Terminix.
DS: We sent various communications to our customers through email and social media to reinforce our focus on their safety and the safety of our specialists. We informed customers about the added precautions our specialists are taking to keep everyone safe. We also created a Frequently Asked Questions section on our website, tailored to our customers to keep them informed with the ever-changing information.
PMP: Are there changes in best practices for PPE? How are you ensuring there is enough PPE to go around?
JB: We increased education for our teams on when the use of an N95 mask — and really, any PPE — is warranted, so we are not using it frivolously. We reviewed all circumstances in which our technicians wear masks or respirators, and we implemented some product changes based on our research, to help extend our supplies of these items.
DB: Probably the biggest difference is wearing a respirator indoors, regardless of the situation. We have multiple suppliers, so inventory is not an issue. We are focusing on continuous team review of the proper fitting and cleaning of PPE — going back to square one on respirator training and reinforcing the basics.
DS: Safety always has been our main concern, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified our need to protect our customers and colleagues. Along with our standard safety precautions, we increased our education on disinfecting the reusable equipment — such as respirators and goggles — after each use. We also enforce safe and efficient PPE use for our specialists.
PMP: With the situation changing so rapidly, are you leaning on different tools than you have in the past to interact with sales managers, office staff and other personnel?
JB: Our teams across all levels of our business are leaning more heavily on technology to make social distancing a top priority. Specifically, we are leveraging tools like Microsoft Teams and video calls for meetings that were once held in-person.
DB: We’ve long had a route optimization process in place, but techs had a fair amount of flexibility because they know their routes. For non-field personnel, we’re relying heavily on technology for all of our meetings, ensuring that everyone can work from home.
DS: We are a Google company, so our colleagues are well-versed in virtual hangouts and meetings. We have seen an increased demand in using virtual videos for larger-form meetings and events, but our company has transitioned with ease to the virtual setting.
PMP: What have your field teams done differently, besides focusing on exterior services whenever possible?
JB: Our residential technicians only service the interior of homes upon request. We continue to service essential commercial customers, though, including hospitals, food manufacturing facilities — even toilet paper manufacturers. Our technicians follow all precautions outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as they relate to social distancing and proper hygiene.
DB: We only go inside for pests that present a public health concern, like cockroaches or rodents. We give our team daily guidance on PPE use and maintenance. As far as doing things “differently” at the service level, Terminix has always focused on doing the right thing for our employees, our clients and the public. As such, while being mindful of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue to provide the services that our clients need.
DS: We have an enhanced focus on protecting our field colleagues, and provide regular reminders on the increased need for safety, sanitation and hygiene measures, such as frequent handwashing. Our teams also adopted an increased number of communications throughout the week to check on the health and safety of our colleagues.
Read more COVID-19 coverage here: MyPMP.net/COVID-19
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