No matter what control method a pest management professional (PMP) chooses, bed bug jobs require cooperation from customers.
“Customer cooperation is critical,” explains Mark Hassman, VP of Hassman Termite & Pest Control in Salina, Kan. “We really don’t ask much of our customers; however, what we do request is vital to the quick and successful eradication of bed bugs.”
Decluttering the areas to be treated and careful use of cleaners are among Hassman’s pre- and post-treatment requirements of customers.
With bed bugs, treatment success depends on preparation. For proof, look no further than Pest Management Professional’s (PMP’s) latest Bed Bug Management Survey. More than three-fourths of the PMPs who answered reveal they have walked away from a bed bug job because a customer did not adhere to preparation instructions.
President and Senior Pest Control Operator Josh Rzepka says his company, Enviro-Pest Solutions, was “born into” the bed bug epidemic. The pests have been the company’s focus since it launched in 2007, and account for about 40 percent of its annual sales. The Waterloo, Iowa-based company encourages its technicians to be as prepared and educated as possible to ensure success rates for bed bug jobs remain high. To that end, technicians give prospective customers literature, including prep sheets.
“We sit down with each customer and walk through prep, room by room,” he says. “We have each person sign the prep sheets when we leave — not only to state we went through it top-to-bottom, but to ensure they understand.”
Enviro-Pest also helps customers whenever possible by prepping areas for those who are unable do it themselves. It also supplies free storage totes and bags for customers who need them because, Rzepka says, “a well-prepped property keeps our success rate high, and makes our job easier in the end.”
Bill Haynes, CEO of Haynes Exterminating in Buford, Ga., says his company has, on occasion, had to reschedule bed bug jobs because a customer failed to follow preparation protocol.
“Customer cooperation used to be so very important; I would liken it to German cockroach control before the development of baits,” he says. “Fortunately, it has become less so with new technologies such as Aprehend.”
STICKING IT OUT
But sometimes, it’s not possible to walk away from a job. PMPs with key customers, such as those with multi-unit dwellings, opt for a different strategy that includes extra attention and education.
Rzepka says joining several local landlord associations has been beneficial in the battle against bed bugs. Each year, his company is invited to make a presentation that not only promotes what they do, but also helps keeps landlords informed on what’s new in bed bug research and control.
“The landlords in our area understand what we do, and they love the hands-on approach we take with their tenants,” he says. “But even if they do not use us — because we are not the cheapest — they know they can call at any time and we will help them in any way we can.”
The majority of PMPs who responded to PMP’s survey indicate they charge more for severe bed bug infestations. Educating customers on the importance of seeking out a professional for bed bug control helps ensure successful treatment and prevent reinfestations.
Hassman Termite & Pest Control was founded in 1962, and has been providing bed bug control services to Central Kansas residents for the past 12 years. There wasn’t much bed bug work the first few years, Hassman says, but now bed bugs are a daily part of the company’s business. He doesn’t rely on referrals for work, however.
“Most bed bug customers are ashamed or embarrassed, and try to hide that they have had an issue with bed bugs,” he explains. “Even though we try to let them know it is a more common issue than they may realize, they like to stay quiet.”