Pest control is a well-established industry, evolving from the innate human fear of insects and associated health threats. Much like other long-standing industries such as construction and plumbing, technology has not caused an increase in the economics of our industry. Rather, weather patterns and public perception are greater drivers of pest control economics. In the modern era of technology, the pest control industry lags considerably behind other industries.
Although there are new products and equipment offered each year, there has yet to be an “Uber” shift: A technology shift that turns our industry on its head and forces companies to strategize just to stay relevant. We have seen a range of industries disrupted by paradigm shifts and technology transformations. But what about pest control? Will there be a defining paradigm shift moment for our mature “old school” industry?
Frankly, I do not anticipate a blockbuster moment or an Uber shift; however, I do believe there is a divergence on the horizon. As previously stated, in general, the pest control industry considerably lags when it comes to embracing technology. Because of this, it should come as no surprise that some of the most robust pest control companies are operating on legacy systems, archaic paper processes, and growing in “technology debt” — a term referring to the inevitable cost of playing catch-up to make a company’s systems current. While old-school companies are safely in the majority, there are a small group of companies — Truly Nolen included — that are starting to take the foundational steps to reduce technology debt and rise to the expectations of the modern customer.
Technology investments are inevitable, but at what cost? Any technology strategy must account for an investment cost vs. a pass-through cost. With such a competitive commodity, we see customers balk at nominal price increases. Companies need to factor who is bearing the cost of any technical upgrade: the company or the customer? Furthermore, there is a divergence between small and large companies. Smaller companies typically must take what the vendors offer as binary solution (yes/no) — a true Software as a Service (SaaS) offering. Meanwhile, larger companies tend to have the resources to push back and make alternative decisions, integrate tech from various outlets, or create their own (which is what Truly Nolen has done) for the betterment of the customer and company.
So, what will this divergence turn into? Supply vendors, software support companies, and, most importantly, the customer are all pointing in the same direction. Pest management providers just need to catch up! In the future, we anticipate more widespread remote monitoring, artificial intelligence predicting customer needs, virtual inspections, strategic data mining and efficiency narratives. Pest control companies will need to do a tremendous amount of groundwork, as well as make definitive investment decisions, to make this transformation from paper tickets to the modern era of business.
From my millennial viewpoint, the evolution is inevitable. The question will be, how soon?