[View Point] Who’s the Expert About My New Home? Not Me

Columns - View Point

March 27, 2012
Jodi Dorsch

My family and I recently moved. It was lots of work and lots of fun (but I don’t want to do it again anytime soon!). If you’ve ever moved you’ll know the first couple of weeks are a blur. Lots of boxes, lots of pizza and lots of confusion. There are things you have to do right away (e.g., making sure the utilities are switched over to your name) and things you don’t (e.g., buying new window treatments).

One day during the first week in our new house there was a statement from a pest control company stuck in the front door. I didn’t need to deal with it right away since I didn’t owe them any money but I did look at the statement quickly. It recorded the time of the service visit, the temperature, what the technician did on the visit, what products he applied, what his inspection found, etc. The technician included his name and phone number as well. Everything a customer needed to know was on that statement. The only trouble was that I wasn’t his customer. My house was.

Fast forward two months. Another statement arrives at our door (addressed to the former owners). And this time, since I was more settled in, I called to find out what was going on. It was a Saturday morning and someone answered the phone. (Score one for the company!) I explained who I was, that I was new to the area and that I thought his firm was servicing my home. He looked up my street address and he said, “Yes, the previous owners purchased a year-long contract that runs through May (which included two more treatments in addition to the two I had received).” The account was set up to visit every other month on the first Friday of the month and was that OK with me? (Score two for the company!) I asked if they were treating exterior only. He said, “Yes.” So Fridays were fine by me.

I told him he could go ahead and treat the next two times and then call to see if I wanted to renew in May. No argument from him. He took my name and phone number and told me if I had any problems on the interior to call them since it was free for them to come out (well, free for me but the sellers paid for it). I asked his name, he told me and he said he was the service manager. End of call. So what’s wrong?

How many times have you heard that it is more expensive to gain a new customer than it is to retain a current one? My house is not a new customer for this firm. But I am. And I write the checks. And keeping me as a customer is far less expensive than finding a new one. So why didn’t he explain the value of his service? What pest his firm was originally called out for? What other services his firm offers? What pests infest my neighborhood or town?

At this point of my home ownership, this company knows more about my home than I do. The technician should know if there are any concerns with my property. Are there moisture issues? Are the gutters clogged? Are there any trees touching the roof? Why not share that information? Why not be the local expert and tell me what the summers are like around here? What my neighbors’ homes have been treated for? What to expect in the fall?

Let’s assume for a moment that I’m not an editor at a pest control magazine. Let’s assume I’m a typical consumer. I believe that without lots of evidence to prevent me from doing so, I will cancel the contract when it is up for renewal in May. The typical customer will have seen little to no pest activity (after all, I’ve only lived here in the winter months). I won’t have seen any pests so I’ll think I don’t need a pest control service (a silly argument, I know). And no one has told me the value the pest control company brings to my residence.

When you get a call like this, make sure the person answering the phone jumps on the opportunity. Have them explain why your service is so important. Make it an easy decision for me to renew the contract. Send me a letter welcoming me to the neighborhood. Heck, why don’t you even try to upsell me some of your other services?

Pest management firms spend so much money getting the phone to ring. So when someone does call, shouldn’t you make the most of the opportunity? You may think this is all common sense. So do I. But obviously it’s not. And I bet it’s happening to your firm more often than you think.

The author is editor of PCT magazine.