The world has changed. Not only are we looking at our lives differently, but so are our customers.
They have been stressed, sent home, called back, sent home, laid off, called back, asked to mask up, asked to unmask, and had to worry about their jobs and families. Customers complain about how hard it is to just get restaurant take-out correct as ordered. No fries, again? Has the whole world given up on customer service?
Oddly, this creates a great opportunity for pest management professionals (PMPs). In the midst of wildfires, storms, health concerns, and fear of the future, one thing our industry can do is provide peace of mind to customers regarding pest management challenges in an uncertain world.
We’ve done that for years, you say. What’s the big deal? Well, there is a void of confidence. Ask anyone who is having work done on their homes. Where previously, there was implicit trust of the service industry, today that is gone — if the contractors even show up in the first place. With that in mind, I present three areas on which PMPs should focus, to restore faith in society if nothing else:
1. Take extra care of customers, starting with the first contact. The first, and often most under-appreciated, contact is with your customer service representatives. Some companies use these fine people as churners of appointments, but now is the time to re-evaluate and let staff take the time to simply ask how customers are doing. Encourage them to establish good working relationships with customers and potential customers, just as we encourage our technicians to engage. Customers appreciate the extra care and appreciation for their business. Customer service staff are great at what they do but sometimes, they just don’t have the time. Technicians are the second stage of contact. There has been extensive training on technician-customer interaction, and it is critically important, but let’s never forget the office staff.
2. Take extra care on the jobsite. General pest technicians have busy routes, with little time to spend with customers. If you think about it, though, an extra five minutes with a customer, on the occasion when that customer is home and wants to engage, can turn him or her into a true advocate for your business. Simply explaining what was done and showing how spider webs were removed as part of the service, for example, go a long way. Otherwise, our industry might be viewed as just another “gas-and-go” service with no customer loyalty.
3. Nurture employees. We’ve all seen sessions at industry meetings when speakers encourage us to “appreciate your technicians.” In part, that translates to giving them the tools they need to get the job done right, including safe vehicles, proper equipment, and a reasonable schedule to foster great customer relationships.
It also means expressing gratitude for employees’ work. Sure, you’re glad to have your employees, but do you let them know often enough? If you truly believe the staff did a great job during the week, spend a minute and express thanks to all for a job well done. Speak from the heart. A thank-you shows employees you see what they do, you understand that what they do is important as a vital part of everyone’s success, and you appreciate them.
Nurturing employees also means taking a few minutes speaking with each one individually to find out how their lives are.
For example, you might find that an employee or two want to expand their abilities by taking courses. From basic business marketing to safety, there are many free online opportunities through excellent universities; just search online for “Massive Open Online Courses.” There is no charge, because universities are encouraging staff to educate others. Upon completion, a certificate can be purchased for a small fee if desired. There is no catch; and it will help employees and businesses alike.
If all business leaders would just take a few minutes to think about how customers have changed, employees have changed, and perception has changed in recent months, perhaps we could move into a new era of customer and employee satisfaction — and continued business success.