In December, Jen Fox, ACE, Terminix’s director of service based in Murrieta, Calif., teamed up with Joey Hoke, ACE, VP of employee engagement for Manhattan, Kan.-based American Pest Management Inc., for a presentation at the virtual Bed Bug Summit. During the event, which was hosted by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), Fox and Hoke focused on discussing “Implementing Effective Training Tools for Top-Notch Bed Bug Programs.” While our event coverage touched on a few of the points they made, we wanted to delve further into some of the good ideas Fox and Hoke shared with attendees.
1. How do you know a potential hire would make a good bed bug technician?
Hoke: They have to be intelligent, compassionate and a good communicator. Not everyone will fit this bill.
Fox: Although callbacks and retreats are often part of the process, to even have a shot at eliminating the problem the first time out, bed bug techs have to check every seam and flap, and leave no stone unturned. They need to be inquisitive and tenacious.
2. What are your recommendations to keep experienced bed bug technicians motivated?
Hoke: Capture their knowledge, and put standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place based on both industry best practices and their experience. The NPMA has a document online that is a great place to start. Keep them engaged in your company, and recognize when they’re ready for a management position.
Fox: Sometimes you have to pull information out of their heads by asking questions and having them share their experiences — good and bad — in training sessions. We joke that we don’t want to be “outGoogled” by customers, or for someone to give our techs a “gotcha” moment. But it makes us serious about ongoing training as a result.
3. Are there other factors to consider regarding SOPs?
Fox: The secret is to ask people to share. For example, I learned to open attic access doors from behind, so if things fall out, they’re not in my face! That’s not in a training manual. I got that tip from a veteran technician, and I added it to an SOP checklist.
Hoke: Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a cookie-cutter bed bug account. Consider where you plan to treat, and have SOPs for each one — senior centers vs. single-family homes vs. office complexes, for example. And know that at some accounts, you’re just going to have to go off-script, so to speak.
4. You both are proponents of a two-person team on bed bug jobs. With resources stretched thin these days, how can companies justify the added expense?
Fox: Ever try to lift a king-size memory foam mattress by yourself? Sure it’s possible, but it’s not ideal. I worry we’re going to have people’s feet sticking out like the Wicked Witch in “The Wizard of Oz!”
Hoke: Exactly. In fact, for senior centers, we try to take three technicians. One tech is there solely to answer questions. Most residents will want to talk and ask questions, and tell people on the next floor so by the time you get to the next floor, everyone wants to know what’s going on. Having a point person for questions lets the other two get the work done uninterrupted.
5. Do you have any final thoughts about bed bug staffing to share with readers?
Fox: Open communication among employees is vital. We have new hires for our sales and customer service teams ride with technicians for a week, to see what goes on in a job. They also flip a couple mattresses, and actively participate at accounts. This helps get everyone on the same page when talking to customers.
Hoke: No matter how good your SOPs are, you’ll always encounter situations not covered by them. Make sure you empower your employees to do what is necessary to get the job done in a safe, effective manner.