Now that we in the pest control industry are starting to recover from the emotional stress of COVID-19, this a perfect time to look at where we go from here.
Being a strong supporter of the industry, I wrote in previous columns that my bets were on the industry to survive and prosper. I was right. The future, though, requires that we look at the lessons learned earlier this year to embrace change and use this as an opportunity. Here are two important takeaways:
1. Managing pests we can see is still our core industry. Now is the time to step back and critique your business model. If your service is the same as when Granddad started the business, use this time to reinvent your company’s services. We all know that the best retention tool in a business is the customer-facing ambassador: the technician. If you don’t agree, switch out technicians on an established route and be ready for inquiries as to whether Sally is OK. Technicians become part of your customer’s family, whether the customer is residential or commercial. That is why managing turnover is so important.
Are those days fading, though? Does the next generation of customer really want that relationship? Do they care? Is this a good time to change up the way your pest control service is performed?
Years ago, pest management service concepts were turned upside down when some companies started offering quarterly, or even annual service. Naysayers thought that was impossible. Yet the fear that customers would reject a hefty periodic fee instead of a small monthly fee turned out to be unfounded.
The concept was revolutionary because it shifted pest management companies from being paid to apply chemicals to being paid to apply knowledge and care. That knowledge and care is the basis of service today. Customers still felt connected to the company, even if they didn’t see their service technicians as often.
2. Pests don’t know what down time is. Accounts that haven’t been serviced for some time will need attention. Anecdotally, more than half of the industry is performing disinfection work now, incorporating it into a permanent service line option. The industry already is looking ahead. This also could be a good time to think about exterior-only service, with interior-only as needed or annually.
With people returning to work, including many dual-income households, residential exterior-only service works. There is a misconception that you must cut your service fee dramatically if you only service outside, the idea being that you are only doing half the work. If you wish to be considered a chemical delivery service, then cut the rate; however, it is more likely that you are providing knowledge and care to solve pest problems using your expertise.
Start by removing webs. Then inspect thoroughly around the exterior. Then apply a first barrier to critical areas near the foundation and around doors and windows. Then treat several feet out as needed if inspection results warrant. Finally, apply granule or granular bait as the third line of defense. You will be providing service based upon your knowledge and expertise.
UNDERSTAND AND ADJUST
Things change fast. Most people hadn’t heard of Zoom until this year; now nearly everyone has used it with co-workers, family or friends.
Customers are evaluating and reinventing their lives, values and goals as well. Spend time to learn about your next-generation customers. Talk to them to understand their needs, with adjustments such as the best time to visit the account. In some high-tech markets, companies send technicians in the early evening to meet the work schedule needs of local homeowners. Be flexible.
The pandemic has expedited change that would have taken much longer otherwise. Use the time to introspectively look at your company, evaluate and adjust.