No doubt this has happened to you: Customers with particularly persistent pest problems are so grateful to the pest management professionals (PMPs) who solve them, they become loyal lifelong customers.
This is especially true of PMPs who offer bed bug control services, because the stigma associated with an infestation is very real for many customers.
“We have found that being professional, respectful and compassionate with our customers sets a level of calm and creates a personal, lasting relationship,” says Michael Listopad, president and CEO of AAA Pest Pros, West Middlesex, Pa. “Taking the time to listen to and acknowledge their challenges and fears — while also educating them about bed bug prevention, treatment methods and expectations — helps our customers trust us and the pest control process.”
SHARE YOUR KNOWLEDGE
Customers with bed bugs may turn to the internet to learn more about the pests and their control, but it cannot compare with the accurate knowledge experienced PMPs offer.
“Customer education is part of being a great industry steward,” says Cory Goeltzenleuchter, PHE, technical training director and entomologist for McCall Service, Jacksonville, Fla. “With all of the outlets for information, some of which are inaccurate, I feel an increased need to provide our customers with honest answers.”
Rosenbloom Pest Control Service Manager Sholom Rosenbloom says educating customers is good business practice at his Baltimore, Md.-based company. “They will see how much you know and care about them and their problems, and therefore stay with you long-term,” he explains.
Rosenbloom says he believes showing customers compassion helps PMPs understand and solve their customers’ problems. “The extra bit of compassion is the human connection you develop with your customers to be there for them in any way you can. We call it ‘total customer dedication.’”
COMMUNICATE YOUR NEEDS
Explaining the treatment process to customers helps ensure success.
“If customers are not properly educated, they may not prepare accordingly for their treatments — and proper preparation is key to a successful treatment,” says Kyle Stiemsma, owner of Terminator Pest Control in Randolph, Wis. “We try to help the customer understand how bed bugs can be spread and introduced so they are careful not to spread their infestation to others, as well as take precautions to avoid future infestations.”
Communication helps manage customer expectations, too, Rosenbloom says. “Every service in our industry requires time to be successful. If you have not communicated that to your customer, your job is not done.”
At Truckee Meadows Pest Control in Reno, Nev., Owner Jodi Ashby sets up a free consultation with customers before discussing pricing. “The first step we take for an effective treatment is to never quote prices over the phone,” she says. “Bed bug treatments can get pricey, and we don’t want to scare people away before we can educate them.”
Then, during the consultation, the Truckee team focuses on education. Customers are advised it’s not their fault they have bed bugs, reassured they should not be embarrassed, informed why do-it-yourself treatments don’t work, and told how to avoid reinfestation after treatment.
“A social stigma surrounds bed bug infestations; families with infestations feel they are carrying the plague. The fear of spreading bed bugs places families under significant stress, not only financially, but socially,” says Rusty Markland, COO of PestNow in Sterling, Va. “Anyone, anywhere can contract bed bugs. Bed bugs have no prejudice; they will infest the rich, the poor, the clean and the unclean.”
For Rosenbloom, providing bed bug management services is rewarding when you see the relief customers experience because you helped them regain their quality of life. “A bed bug problem is mentally exhausting to most customers,” he points out. “When you eliminate bed bugs from their life, they are very grateful.”
But it’s not as though bed bug treatments are magic. They are based on biology, application, chemicals and a partnership with the customer to help solve the problem, Markland says. There is no quick fix, and customers need to remember that.
“As PMPs, it is our responsibility to take care of our customers by educating them on the bed bug control process and explaining what to expect,” he adds. “Furthermore, it is our responsibility to train and educate our inspectors and technicians on the full bed bug control process.”
COVID CREATES CHALLENGES
Over the past year, COVID-19 has had an impact on bed bug work, according to PMPs who answered Pest Management Professional’s (PMP’s) 2021 Bed Bug Management Survey. Data show bed bug pressure has been moderate, perhaps because people are not traveling and getting together like they used to, and spreading the pests. In addition, some PMPs surveyed said their customers did not want technicians in their homes to perform bed bug control services.
Yet another challenge survey respondents reported was that state-mandated shutdowns made it difficult for customers to find a place to go when asked to leave their homes during bed bug treatments.
Despite the COVID-related challenges of the past year, however, customer calls for bed bug services seem to be increasing in frequency.
“Twenty years ago, bed bugs were just in a goodnight poem. Now, they are here and they don’t seem to be going away anytime soon,” Ashby says. “It’s important for PMPs to offer an effective treatment for bed bugs so we can help stop the spread.”