Book the call

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December 4, 2023

Bob Williamson

Bob Williamson

Most pest management professionals (PMPs) get slammed in-season and fail to keep up with their call volume. I often hear that limited staff is what restrains the growth of the business. Owners and managers spend much of their time running on calls to compensate for the lack of their staff’s capacity. Their customer service staff is told to make no promises until next week.

Realistically, potential customers typically call the next provider they can find. We really only get one chance to acquire that new customer — a new customer that we will likely retain for many years. All this occurs because we were too busy to take on more work when they called.

The easy answer here is to “book the call,” regardless of capacity issues. Don’t allow dispatchers, managers and technicians the opportunity to close the door on new sales. We all have experienced moments where we feel like we can’t handle another thing. After the momentary stress abates, we are able to process the demands and move on. Booking the call can allow us time to develop solutions.

Sometimes the solution requires moving existing work around. This can be done judiciously by getting in front of customers who can be more flexible and don’t live on a rigid calendar. Always ask for their approval, and you can back off if they push back. You can also provide an incentive for their inconvenience. It is important to talk to them after service, however, to show appreciation about how they are willing to keep working with you. Most people like to do favors for others; recognizing them provides affirmation.

Recently, I had a customer demand we work late on a Friday afternoon because they were having a party. We had worked hard to schedule them all week, but now they were ready. My dispatchers were frustrated and told her we were booked solid.

They didn’t want to add a burden to their team members.

The customer called me to express their disappointment since they were entertaining and meeting their future son-in-law, a stressful situation for all involved. When I approached the dispatch team, they showed me their schedule. There were no blank spaces anywhere.

We huddled briefly, and we did an “Apollo 13” drill: We texted several techs nearby and asked for a favor to work late, and we would buy dinner for their family at a place of their choosing. We had three technicians volunteer immediately. We thanked them all and let the customer know who was handling the service. They were all happy to be part of offering a solution.

When we don’t “book the call,” someone else does. Someone else develops a relationship with the new customer. There are no second chances in meeting the customer’s needs. In most cases, the solution isn’t that difficult. It’s not a convenient way for staff to operate, but it is convenient for the customer. We can’t say no to calls and continue to grow our business. You need to stay involved with your business to be sure your staff is not using “being busy” as an excuse to turn down new work.

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About the Author

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Williamson is pest & lawn director for Cetane Associates. He serves on the Pennsylvania Pesticide Advisory Board, is former president of the Lawn Care Association of Pennsylvania and former president of Warrington PA Rotary Club. For over 30 years, Williamson worked with Moyer, a large Mid-Atlantic residential service provider. Williamson has managed services including heating oil, propane, HVAC, plumbing, home security, swimming pool, lawn and tree care, and pest control.

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