Digital communication, routing and processing can transform your business, not only saving time and money, but also increasing customer loyalty. However, “technology for technology’s sake is not useful,” warned Greenix Pest Control Chief Strategy Officer Andrew Barrows in a presentation at the 2021 Lawn & Landscape Technology Conference. “If you’re not implementing it, managing it effectively or picking the right technology, you can go backwards,” he said.
One element Barrows discussed as beneficial to customer loyalty was the use of electronic communications both internally and externally. Based on internal studies, Barrows said they determined that 60 percent of the calls to call centers were related to scheduling rather than to sales or other customer service issues. Because of this, he is a proponent of moving 75 percent of company and technician communication to text or webchat. Customers can text or go online to switch a service day or leave an instruction for a technician without concern about call center hours, pushing the right number to reach a representative or any of the other frustrations related to calls.
Electronic communication benefits your business as it decreases the amount of time needed for scheduling and reminders and reduces the need to train or staff a call center. (Which, Barrows added, “is one of the most difficult positions to fill.”) Addressing scheduling from a strategic standpoint can have a huge impact on your company’s operational efficiencies and your customers’ satisfaction levels. Thus, moving customers from calling to texting increases efficiency, reduces costs and smooths customer interaction, providing for a better experience.
This is particularly true of millennials, who have become the largest portion of the workforce and, according to the National Association of Realtors, now make up 43 percent of home buyers — the most of any generation. It’s generally simple to switch these younger generations (and others who are tech savvy) to electronic communication. “[They] don’t want to talk with you on the phone,” Barrows said. “They just want to get a text.”
But there will be others who are more reluctant to switch. The way one company managed this was by implementing a 15 percent price increase, which was waived for customers who switched to electronic billing with their credit card number and email kept on file for automatic monthly billing. By notifying customers of this change in person and discussing it with them, the company’s business was transformed in a year.
However, there can be downsides to electronic communications that need to be accounted for in other ways. For example, the loss of face-to-face interaction can be detrimental to customer relationships. One company overcomes this by requiring technicians to perform an act of service (e.g., bringing in the garbage can, moving a package out of the rain, etc.) at the end of each pest control service. While doing so, the technician takes a selfie and texts it to the customer including any general comments and thanks for their business.
The ability to communicate so smoothly and immediately with customers, while getting more done in the field, is a primary reason that going mobile (as in mobile phones) is so crucial to the growth of a pest control company’s business.
Another technology some companies have found to be of benefit is GPS. Along with enabling map routing, GPS can enhance visibility into employee actions and provide tracking and verification if a customer questions their service. Some companies have integrated in-vehicle cameras as well, which has been proven to reduce accidents and can provide for insurance savings. While it also has served as cause for some technicians to quit, feeling it was too much of an invasion of privacy, some companies have seen this as “good churn.”
When determining the use of digital communication, including that of internal training and interaction, pest control companies also need to strategically consider whether to allow technicians to take their trucks home and route from there. “It is a balancing act,” Barrows said. If technicians are routed from their homes, you lose the cultural benefit of having them come into the office. But it also can be much more efficient than having the technicians drive into the office and all start from the same point. If you do choose to have your technicians route from home, Barrows recommended that they still be required to come into the office on designated days for meetings, training, etc. Some companies have found success allowing technicians to work remotely, only meeting in the office once a month, while others see a better balance by having technicians in the office once a week.
Implementing technology that enables a company to go paperless provides other benefits as well, such as reducing the potential for a sales consultant to make changes to a contract, creating a single, easy-to-access location for data retention and reducing paper pushing. Every time an employee picks up a piece of paper, it costs you money (hourly rate, benefits, payroll taxes, etc.). Every time an employee calls in to make a change they can’t do themselves, it costs money.
But a critical aspect of going digital in any capacity is that of selecting the right software for your business and the right provider — then implementing it. “As you look at technology, make sure you have a plan,” Barrows said. Evaluate your procedures and how you run your business, and examine how a new technology will change the way you operate. “Too many people keep doing what they have been even with new technology,” he said. There will be an investment in software, but if done strategically, it will pay for itself.
On the other hand, every dollar you spend on your employees and the business is an investment in the future. It is essential to ensure that you are getting return on every dollar spent — including technology. It’s all about the “spend money to make money thing,” Barrows said. “But you’ve got to understand it, and you’ve got to execute effectively in order to get a return.”