It is a monumental moment when a small service company begins to grow, continues to hire service technicians, and gets to the point where they need to create a service management team.
When my company, BHB Pest Elimination, reached this milestone, I tried to think outside the box and create a unique system. From our earliest days, we strived to deliver the most exceptional customer services to each and every client. As most of our customers were commercial accounts in urban areas, this was an extremely demanding challenge.
Our answer was to create service managers who acted like account managers. The plan was to have these managers work directly with our service technicians at problem accounts to solve their pest issues. This would serve two benefits: eliminate the problem for our customers and teach technicians how to solve these difficult issues.
At first, this system worked great.
We couldn’t see it at first, but there were flaws in the system. But because our customers were thrilled with the exceptional results they achieved, it took us longer to catch the issue than it should have. As we grew, we were finding mixed results with progress in our technicians. Some technicians exceeded our highest expectations, quickly becoming seasoned professionals who could handle anything. But others faltered. They barely advanced and became easily frustrated with difficult issues. This path quickly led to dissatisfaction with their job and typically led to them quitting or being let go.
We finally figured out what was so obvious. As our service managers worked to solve our customers’ pest issues, they naturally gravitated toward the technicians they knew could quickly solve their problems. They’d use their favorites, the ones they knew could do the job. This enabled the good technicians to keep getting better while the newer techs didn’t get the experience in solving problems.
The challenge was to create a system that put the attention on every technician, without sacrificing our customer service.
Enter the Pod System designed by my son, Zack.
From the time Zack was a child, he knew he wanted to join the company. Like many kids growing up in the family business, he began to work summers by age 13 and quickly learned everything in our business. Not only did he learn all we are doing right, he was keenly aware of all areas we needed to improve.
In one of his business classes in college, a speaker came in and mentioned how he consulted with a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) company and helped them restructure their service teams to small, more manageable teams. This led the company to better supervise their service technicians and greatly increase productivity and profits.
Zack immediately jumped on this idea. The timing was perfect, as he was about to begin working on his senior thesis project that looked at the pest control industry and his vision to grow BHB Pest Elimination into the future.
He looked at all the ways we could improve upon our current training and supervising programs, and created a complete job description and responsibilities for our Pod Manager. The position centered around each technician instead of accounts. Most importantly, it puts one person responsible for guiding that technician every step of the way. Previously, a new technician would work with multiple service managers. Now, the responsibilities of training and supervision fell to one Pod Manager. By working closely together on a daily basis, the Pod Manager can clearly see each member’s strengths and weaknesses, and lead them on the right path.
The true test came after he graduated and joined the company full time. His first task was to implement Pod Alpha. His team included one senior technician and four new employees. It didn’t take long to see how this system benefitted us.
From the first day, the group developed a team mentality and a camaraderie that exceeded our expectations and was so incredible to see. But even more importantly, as he worked one on one with each member, the service technicians progressed faster than we’ve seen in years.
We had only one concern as we tested this out: Would it negatively impact our customers? Our first management team was solely focused on our customers, and now we are putting all our efforts into the technicians. Again, everything worked out even better than we could have hoped for.
Better trained technicians obviously provide better services. Everything improved across the board. Team members showed more confidence and began taking ownership of their accounts. Upsales and reporting of problem accounts greatly increased, which increased profitability.
A company should always be striving to be better tomorrow than today. In order to do that, I needed to be willing to evaluate the flaws in my prior training program — and then take the necessary steps to change the program.