Creating a strategic plan of action is the key to serving commercial accounts.
Editor’s Note: Earlier this year, in cooperation with Copesan Services, the PCT Media Group published the PCT Guide to Commercial Pest Management featuring editorial contributions from some of the industry’s leading technical directors. In the coming months, PCT will be excerpting portions of this valuable publication in the pages of the magazine. This month, we’re proud to feature the insights of Mac Hoover and James Nicol, sales and service manager and quality assurance manager, respectively, for Care Pest & Wildlife Control, Vancouver, British Columbia, who will discuss why it’s essential to have a strategic plan of action when servicing commercial accounts.
Creating a strategic plan of action is essential to getting off on the right foot with a new commercial account. But what’s involved and how can you ensure that all your bases are covered?
The strategic plan of action will use information gathered from the client interview, site inspections, audit requirements and your own pest management expertise. A needs analysis is a good way to gather this information. This includes a list of questions you need answered to ensure that you do not miss any required details. Once formulated, your plan of action should not be static, but should be reviewed (at least) annually to make sure that it is still meeting your client’s needs.
Make sure you have the correct billing and contact information, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Find out the preferred or required service times. Learn of any current or past pest issues and if there are any potential pest issues about which they are concerned. Find out if the facility has any third-party or in-house audits performed. Make sure you understand the standards against which your program will be measured.
If the company has a current pest management program in place, find out who owns the devices and if they will be removed by the previous company. Lastly, find out if there are any protocols or site orientations that need to be followed prior to or at the start of each service.
Ask your contact for a guided tour of the facility, both interior and exterior. During the tour, you can ask further questions or point out conditions contributing to potential pest problems. This will help prevent you from doing or going somewhere you shouldn’t — you don’t want to get off to a bad start on your initial visit. It is advisable to take notes throughout the inspection of how many and what types of pest monitoring or control devices you will need. If the customer can provide you with a site map you can make notes on the map indicating particular areas of concern. It also is impressive to note any sanitation or structural conditions that may contribute to their pest issues. This will highlight your expertise and can set you apart from your competition.
The next step is to create a needs analysis which identifies the pests and areas covered in the facility, frequency of service, documentation, etc. These include:
Pests Covered. The type of pests covered by your service will depend on the geographic area, type of facility and surroundings. For example, there is no point in including stored product pests if there are no dried goods in the facility. Make sure that you differentiate between a monitoring program and a control program. For example, your service may include the use of pheromone traps to monitor for clothes moths in a Persian rug factory or storage facility, but treating for the moths would be an add-on service. The type of pests covered will determine the type of devices required. Make sure to include an accurate count of the numbers of each type of monitoring device needed as well.
Areas Covered. Some facilities may have numerous buildings, but the customer may be concerned about only one of them. Be as specific as possible about the areas covered by your service. You could end up losing profit by having to add service time and devices to areas because you did not adequately define the areas covered. In contrast, by specifically defining service areas, you may be able to increase your revenue at a later date by adding areas if the need arises.
Frequency of Service. This will depend on the pest pressure in the area, type of devices employed, internal requirements (such as cost) and external requirements (such as third-party audit programs). Again, familiarize yourself with the different auditing body requirements. These are easily obtained from the auditing bodies themselves or from the client. Keep in mind that not all areas need to be serviced at the same frequency. For example, you may service interior multiple-catch traps weekly, but exterior bait stations only monthly.
Documentation. This will vary greatly depending on the type of account being serviced. In some cases, a simple hand-written service report will suffice. In a food plant, a logbook may be required with copies of insurance, workers’ compensation compliance letters, labels and MSDSs, approved product lists, trending reports, etc. Make sure you allow time to complete all required documentation in the time allocated to each service.
Supervisory Quality Audits. Sometimes a customer will want periodic quality audits to ensure that the program still meets the needs of its facility and that the promised program is being maintained. This may be on a quarterly or annual needs basis. Quality audits should be performed by someone other than the regular service technician — never by the servicing technician.
Intensive Treatments. If the client has a current pest issue, some form of intensive treatment may be required to get the problem under control. Keep in mind that if the client is switching providers it is likely doing so to see better results. There is no quicker way to make a new customer dissatisfied than by not solving the pest problems quickly.
To avoid any future misunderstandings, it is advisable to have a service agreement or some written document outlining what your service includes — be as specific as possible. Remember, once the sale is made, do not forget about this client. It is much easier and less expensive to keep an existing client happy than to get a new client. A happy client who perceives value in the service you are providing will not begrudge your profits.
A follow-up phone call or courtesy visit is a good idea after the first few services. You want to make sure that your new client becomes a long-term client who will refer your company to friends and associates. Referrals are the best and cheapest form of advertising.
The Customer is King.
“Before you can inspire with emotion, you must be swamped with it yourself. Before you can move their tears, your own must flow. To convince them, you must yourself believe.” – Sir Winston Churchill
Your customers are your top priority. They are the basis of your entire business, and you need to do everything possible to assure they remain content with the service you provide. There are many ways to achieve this, and the following list will help you keep them as valued, long-term customers:
VIP Treatment. Everyone appreciates the feeling of being a very important person (VIP). Think back to your last visit to a favorite restaurant that you frequent; how does it make you feel when the server calls you by name and is able to share a personal anecdote with you regarding a shared interest?
Though there may be a five-star restaurant next door, you keep going back to this one because you enjoy the feeling of importance. Know the names of the individuals at your accounts; it shows the level of importance you have placed on each account when you take the extra minute to speak with a site contact.
Convenience. Be just a phone call, e-mail, or text message away. It is vitally important that a customer not wait 24 hours for a return phone call or e-mail. Customers need an immediate response, with an action plan, as soon as possible; and they need to know that you are there for them when they need you.
Consistency. Commercial customers want to see the same person at every visit. A revolving door of service technicians is not appreciated. They want the same person; and they want him or her to be identifiable and easily recognized within the facility and its operation.
Properly Equipped, Knowledgeable Technicians. All technicians who are brought to the account need to have the proper equipment, knowledge of whom to communicate with at the account, and information on the recent history of the account. No customers appreciate having to constantly repeat themselves about the intricacies of the facility. This includes knowledge as well as practicum: Always be prepared and equipped to deal with a wide range of issues.
Face of the Company. The service technician is a direct representation of the pest control company for whom he or she works, making training and quality audits important in providing first-class or VIP service. All technicians should know and understand that they are the face of the company, and they are one of the most important tools for providing consistent quality care.
Accountability. Customers appreciate having someone they can fall back on when an issue arises or they have an important question or action that needs resolution. Providing them with the peace of mind of having a dedicated account technician and manager allows them to have peace of mind that they are being looked after.
Respect. This cannot be overlooked when you and your firm are dealing with any of your customers. Respect can come in many forms as it deals with everything from the interaction and communication with the customer to the service technician assigned to service the facility. Respecting the protocols in place and the mannerisms of the service technician are vital in maintaining an account for the long term. All service technicians need to look and act the part.
Results. It is critical to ensure that all pest problems are solved efficiently and in a timely manner. You need to be able to provide clients with peace of mind since you are the professional and they will be eager to follow suit. By hiring you as their provider, they have transferred liability to you and expect results.
Compliance. Make sure all paper work is up to date and left onsite as a part of your program manual and logbook. This allows auditing parties to refer back to the history of the account when necessary.
Provide Value. The ever-changing climate of the economy in which we live means all customers appreciate the perception of value. Ideally, your price of service is affordable for your accounts; however a customer is typically willing to pay for the knowledge and service they receive if they have an understanding of the value they are receiving.
Although there are many specialized attributes that make for a successful pest control program, commercial clients are dedicated to the absolute best service and products for their consumers, customers and business. Therefore, they expect professional, informative and valuable service from their PMP. Through effective communication and detailed documentation, pest control service providers can continue to improve the success of maintenance and management programs for commercial clients.