[Technology Update] Beyond Search Engines

Features - Technology & Internet

How a free Google feature changed one pest control company’s approach to servicing customers.

October 23, 2013
Victor Palermo, ACE

Search engines, SEO and pay-per-click have become household topics for pest control professionals. These modern media outlets help promote a pest control business and its services. But what else can technology giants like Google, Bing and Yahoo do for small businesses?

Ultra Safe Pest Management provides full-service pest and wildlife control. We face the challenges of solving a wide range of pest problems for a diverse customer base. Successfully providing all phases of commercial and residential pest and wildlife management can be downright grueling at times. It takes intense focus, efficiency and a work ethic to handle the many peaks and valleys of a given season.

One area in which we have significantly improved the overall customer experience has been in how we manage our residential “new customer” phone leads. Our company views the phone system as priority one. This is where most customers get their first impression of a business. Modern phone technology like voice IP and auto attendants are great for directing customer calls to the right people but what happens next?

Pest professionals basically have two choices. The first is to try to quote a service over the phone and the second is to send out a company representative to inspect the site and propose a plan of action. Our customers are looking for a pest expert to provide consultation and come up with a long-term solution. It is hard to identify a problem, evaluate a site or quote prices over the phone without having seen the property in question.

Sending a representative out has its advantages but comes at a high price. The added vehicle expenses, salary, commissions and related costs can have a big impact on a small buiness. It also requires having enough personnel to get to the new customer that day or by the following morning. A homeowner finding a rat in the kitchen probably isn’t going to wait three days for a salesperson to show up. What about those peak times of the season when the phones ring off the hook? It can be hard to keep extra staff around for those short-lived booms. I have found that “sales only” representatives don’t work out well at our company either. We are focused more on providing a specialty service than we are on sales volume.

The Future is Now.
If only we could see the property while talking to a customer on the phone. Enter Google Maps Satellite View. It’s free and it can make a huge impact on a small business; it certainly did for ours.

Now when a customer calls in, the call gets directed to a licensed pest specialist. We gather some basic information about the pest activity in question and ask the customer for the property address. We then pull up the property on Google maps to get an idea of what it will take to service this particular location. The site offers “bird’s eye views” as well as “street level” images.

The information provided by the customer, combined with the experience of the pest professional on the phone and the Google Map images, help us bring it all together. We can see that there are branches overhanging the structure, a missing chimney cap, a Dumpster behind the fence in the neighboring property, etc. In many ways we actually see more than we would being there in person. The feedback from customers has been great. They get into it and become engaged in the conversation and rapport is built. They also like that we use the latest technology.

This has all but eliminated our need for salespeople for residential services. We want to conduct a thorough inspection when we arrive on site, only now we let the technicians who are going to be performing the service do it.

The results have been dramatic to say the least. Our firm has not used dedicated salespeople for residential new customer calls since last October. Since that time we have increased our residential phone sales and revenue by 18 percent and reduced site visits by more than 60 percent. This has significantly reduced our carbon footprint while increasing revenue. It’s a win/win for everyone involved.

Not bad for a free service that is just a click away!


The author is president of Ultra Safe Pest & Wildlife Management, Boston. Contact him via email him at vpalermo@giemedia.com or visit www.ultrasafepest.com.