OBSTACLE: Attracting and retaining quality employees
OPPORTUNITY: Communicating expectations helps everyone work toward a common goal
It can be a challenge for pest control companies to find, hire and keep good workers. But having a solid strategy in place has enabled Sharon Roebuck, COO of Eastside Exterminators, Woodinville, Wash., to retain a talented team of customer service representatives (CSRs).
“We hire, fire, review and reward based on our company’s core values, which are: ‘Family Focused, Passionate, Committed and Do the Right Thing,’” she says. “We find that it is easier to coach someone to learn a specific position if they posses our core values.”
The company’s website features a career portal that emphasizes this belief, and the importance of the company’s culture. “Our core values are the soul of our culture, it is who we are,” Roebuck adds. “We are truly a family. Our mission is ‘Our family protecting families.’ We take care of one another and our customers.”
Ten CSRs, including billing agents, work at Eastside Exterminators. Roebuck says she is “slow to hire and quick to fire.” “I know that sounds brutal,” she explains, “but nobody wants to work in a position they are not good at and don’t like. It’s not good for the company, our clients, or the employee.”
The hiring process starts with a phone interview that ensures the candidate meets the basic qualifications for the position. An in-person interview is next, to allow the department manager to ask questions that ensure the candidate is not only qualified to do the job, but will fit in with the company’s culture. Then, a working interview takes place so the candidate can experience firsthand what the job entails.
“This also helps us get to know the person a little bit better and gives them a chance to get to know us,” Roebuck says. “We fiercely protect our culture, but we also recognize we may not be everyone’s cup of tea.”
Once hired, the company tracks and evaluates the employee’s performance using the 30/60/90 method. It consists of a form — now digital, because employees are working from home due to the pandemic — that shows what new employees are expected to know every 30, 60 and 90 days as they receive training and learn their new duties.
“We absolutely let our new hires know about the 30/60/90 during the interview process,” she adds. “We tell them what training will be like, and how we will communicate what is expected of them. Although our interview process may seem involved and take a bit longer than most, we find that this helps the company and candidates make the best decisions when embarking on the very important decision of whether to join our Eastside family.”
Managers conduct a formal check-in every two weeks to go over the 30/60/90 form with each new employee — to let them know whether they are right on track or are falling behind with their assigned tasks. It’s an opportunity to say, “You have to step it up a little bit if you’re going to make it through this training period,” or “You’re doing great and exceeding our expectations, so we’re going to move some of the tasks from the 60-day list to the 30-day list.”
“It’s a good tool to make sure new hires understand what is expected of them,” Roebuck says. “We find that open and honest communication flushes out issues, and helps build a strong foundation from the beginning.”
The company also relies on what it calls “GWC,” which stands for Get it – Want it – Capacity. “We make sure each new hire truly ‘gets’ what is expected, ‘wants’ the position and has the ‘capacity’ to execute their duties,” she says.
Training for CSRs doesn’t stop there. It also includes the use of scripts to ensure customers hear the same message and have the same experience with every call. Recording calls provides an effective training tool, Roebuck says, and takes the guesswork out of what was or was not said during phone calls.
An easily accessible training manual is a must, because it enables employees to find answers to questions right away. Motivation is paramount for all Eastside Exterminators employees, and can take the forms of cash bonuses, contests, treats or even additional paid time off.
Professional development and advancement are important, too, to let CSRs know they are valued members of the team with attainable career goals.
“Our internal family is my first priority, which in turn spills over to our customers,” Roebuck says. “When employees are valued, it translates to valued customers.”