When customers are driven by fear, treat with understanding


June 29, 2021



I was sitting with my friend at her recently purchased home on the back porch when she suddenly screamed in terror, “Ahhh — there is something attacking me!” She looked to me for answers. The scared expression on her face begged “Will I survive?” Fortunately, yours truly is a pest management professional (PMP). I identified the drywood swarmer she saw and told her she would live to see another day!

While fear affects people in different ways, a version of this story is probably familiar to all PMPs. We comfort our customers through the fear of pests and the havoc they bring. However, have we stopped to think where their fear comes from?

My friend’s intense reaction echoed the fear that so many of our customers share: The fear is what in part drives our business. In fact, many people’s No. 1 fears are snakes and spiders. PMPs must fall outside of the normal population somehow, since we do not shy away from jumping into an infested crawlspace; however, many people have an innate fear of insects, followed by fear of rejection and fear of failure.

The insect fear goes back to our caveman days when predators, like tigers, snakes and spiders, could wipe us out. Our caveman brains, built to survive, flood with the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol kicks us into fight-or-flight mode, helping us survive insects and other predators. (As an aside, fear of rejection — which includes related things such as fear of public speaking — is thought to be associated with a fear of being rejected from our tribe, which in caveman days meant certain death.)

It is no secret that our customers are often driven by fear when they call us. They have a fear of insects, a fear of their businesses being shut down, and/or a fear of their homes being destroyed. Our opportunity as PMPs is to not only prevent the pests, but also combat stress.

Particularly in today’s stressful, pandemic-led climate, it is not enough to simply kill bugs. While we likely will not know what else someone has been through over the past year in general when responding to a service call, we can safely assume there has been some stress involved due to the challenges the pandemic brought families, solely on a day-to-day level. Our opportunity as PMPs goes beyond that to create a stress-free experience as we battle their pests. We can help bring relief to a customer on multiple levels by handling their problems and assuring them this will be one less thing they have to worry about going forward.

Therefore, how you initially handle a customer’s fear in today’s environment, with so many other factors at play, can help turn those opportunities into long-lasting relationships.


About the Author

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Scarlett Nolen was promoted to president of Truly Nolen of America in March 2019. Nolen has worked for the company since 2012 in multiple roles. Most recently, Nolen was the district manager for the “Growth District,” a district of new service offices throughout Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. Prior to joining the company, Nolen graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of South Carolina with a Bachelor’s Degree in Experimental Psychology and Summa Cum Laude from the University of Central Florida with a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy.

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