Editor’s note: PCOs often receive questions from clients about pesticide use. What follows is an exchange between former PCO Dan Collins and a property manager regarding a decision Collins’ company made to not make a baseboard application. It serves as a good example of how a PCO effectively communicated his company’s pest management approach and educated his client.
Rule No. 1: The customer is always right. Rule No. 2: When the customer is wrong, refer to Rule No. 1.
Although this cliched adage is frequently used by service companies, I do not think it best describes great customer service. In fact, I think it is a disservice to allow clients to dictate how we provide pest management services, especially when it involves pesticide applications. In my opinion, it is our responsibility as pest management professionals to educate our clients in a logical, professional and science-based manner.
When I owned Collins Pest Management, I had to learn how to wade the waters of customer service every day. Most of the time client requests were realistic and, oftentimes, proved to better our service offering. For example, a pet food manufacturing company challenged us to provide better documentation for more descriptive corrective action items and final “presentations” to auditors. This resulted in our company providing clearer corrective action items and better stage presence during audits for all of our clients.
However, we also received many unrealistic requests from our clients and auditors inspecting our clients’ pest management programs. Almost daily, we had to defend the lack of traps in one area, placement of traps in another area, and so on. Or, we would get questions like: “Why did you not treat the interior when night-flying insects showed up in light traps in large numbers?” It was truly frustrating sometimes and left us exasperated at the end of the day. Nevertheless, we were usually able to justify our position because of our standard operating procedures (SOPs) and risk-based pest management programs.
Unfortunately, we were not always able to meet our clients’ requests and a decision had to be made on how to handle the situation. Sometimes, we were able to meet in the middle, but occasionally we had to separate ties and move on. It is much better, in my opinion, to walk away from clients when an equitable resolution to a problem cannot be reached. That is my style; it may not fit for everyone, but I found it easier to “agree to disagree” and move on. I rarely burned bridges, but it did happen from time to time no matter how hard I tried.
The following exchange is an example of how I would draw a “line in the sand” and work with clients who were not being realistic with service requests. This particular client was not a “normal” Collins Pest Management account, as we primarily serviced the food and food-related industries; it was a retirement community of duplexes that purchased pest control from one source to service the entire community on the same day. They were frequently calling in to complain about not being “sprayed” each service and that the previous service provider ALWAYS sprayed the baseboards.
The following exchange shows how our firm handled his request.
EPILOGUE. Some of you may disagree with my approach (there are multiple ways to approach it) but I was able to save the client, stop the “spraying” requests and continue the business relationship using our service protocols.
The author is director of pest management at Rose Acre Farms.
5 Questions with Tom Costello
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In today’s market, thermal technology has become an important tool in eliminating wood-destroying insects while also being more conscious of the environment. Tom Costello is the director of technical services for Greentech Heat Solutions. He has over 35 years of experience in the pest control and termite fields. Tom has worked with many different industries in the use of thermal technology for the control of many different insect species.
1. What advantages are there to using thermal technology?
Heat can be an effective tool in achieving complete elimination of termites in a single treatment, thus reducing and eliminating callbacks and time-consuming retreatments. Heat also will kill non-target pests such as cockroaches, spiders, and other residential insects.
2. How is heat different than fumigation?
Unlike fumigation treatments that take multiple days to perform, require specialized safety equipment, and utilize restricted use pesticides, heat penetrates every part of the structure and will in most cases eliminate infestations in a single treatment. Also, extra processes such as bagging food, structure tenting, and air samples are not required.
3. What is the difference between a traditional chemical treatment vs. a heat treatment for termites?
Traditional termite treatments are very labor intensive, cost prohibitive and often require multiple applications as well as having a negative impact on the environment. On the other hand, heat treatments for termite control are less labor intensive and, in most cases, can be completed by one person in a single work day. They are also more environmentally sensitive since they don’t require the application of a liquid termiticide barrier around the perimeter of a structure.
4. Is heat effective in interrupting a termite’s life cycle?
Yes. Unlike most traditional termite treatments which do not impact future generations, the use of heat is ovicidal by killing both adults, nymphs and eggs. This process then kills the queen which, in turn, stops any further reproduction. Heat will also sanitize and denature organic matter left by infestations.
5. What is the best heater for termite treatments?
Because of the thermal energies required to raise core temperatures of wooden structural members to 990,000+ BTU, the Titan 800 portable propane heater is the best heater to use when treating for termites.
5 Questions with Dr. Barb Nead-Nylander
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Even though a pandemic has limited travel and human interaction, tough pests like bed bugs have not gone away. Dr. Barb Nead-Nylander, research and development scientist at Douglas Products, answers common questions about bed bugs and treatment options.
1. With people spending more time at home due to COVID-19, have bed bug calls increased?
According to the PCT 2020 State of the Bed Bug Control Market Survey, bed bug calls have slightly decreased due to COVID-19. But when calls have come in, pest management professionals report finding more severe infestations that are more challenging to treat.
2. What health effects can be attributed to bed bugs?
Whereas bed bugs do not transmit diseases, some people report mild skin irritation or allergic reactions to bed bug bites. Infestations can trigger mental health effects, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and insomnia — to name a few.
3. What are some of the best ways to manage bed bugs?
The most effective way to manage bed bugs is holistically using all available tools. That includes monitoring devices; preventive protocols; and, when bed bugs are found, using multiple treatment options, including spot, heat and fumigation. One advantage to fumigation with Vikane® gas fumigant is bed bugs have no resistance, which is not true of some insecticides used in spot treatments. Plus, Vikane only requires one treatment to eliminate all bed bug life stages.
4. What is a common misconception about fumigation for controlling bed bugs?
One misconception is that fumigation is only available in certain regions of the country where drywood termites are more prevalent. However, no matter your location, Douglas Products can help your company begin fumigating for bed bugs.
5. Why is fumigation so effective against bed bugs?
Because of the physical properties of the fumigant, Vikane effectively moves throughout the fumigated space, including wall voids, furniture, mattresses, clothing, electronics and even in cluttered spaces, to eliminate all life stages of the bed bug — including the eggs. Because fumigation finds the infestations for your pest control company, it requires less preparation and labor overall.
Forty-five percent of PMPs said the 2020 termite swarm season was “average,” found the PCT 2021 State of the Termite Control Market survey.
In some areas of the country, however, PMPs said swarming activity was stronger due to an abundance of wet, warm weather. In fact, 16 percent of PMPs said termite swarming activity in 2020 was stronger than it was five years ago.
“We just had the perfect combination of moisture and humidity and so we had the best swarm that we’ve probably had in 12 to 15 years. It’s like the old days,” said Weldon Hurt, Pest Patrol.
Jamie Steffey, owner of Gateway Pest Control in Georgetown, Ky., attributed more activity to unseasonably warm weather in his region. “The temperature has been above average for the most part; that’s conducive to termite activity,” he pointed out.
Favorable weather in parts of the Southeast helped Formosan and drywood termites expand their range, said PMPs in follow-up interviews.
“We’ve had continued increase in Formosans; we’ve had some increase in (Eastern) subs and had a very big swarm season for drywoods,” said Jim Swayne, Safer Home Services.
Formosan termite activity also increased in markets served by Rice Pest Control, Anniston, Ala. “We’re trying to figure out what’s going on and how and why they’re here,” said President Tracy Rice, who thinks the pests are following railroad tracks since he’s found most infestations within a mile of the rail line.
A “Phenomenal” Real Estate Market
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Super-low interest rates made for a popping real estate market across much of the country. People refinanced homes or moved because they could now work remotely due to the pandemic. Often transactions required wood- destroying insect or wood-destroying organism (WDI/WDO) inspections.
“With termite inspections comes termite work,” pointed out Weldon Hurt, owner of Pest Patrol in Abilene, Texas. His WDIs were up 40 percent in 2020. New Yorkers and Californians were active buyers in his community. “The real estate market is so good in our area; I mean it’s just been phenomenal,” he said.
Even in markets without heavy termite pressure, home inspectors often recommended treatment, said Frank Illnick, owner of PermaKill Exterminating in Flanders, N.J. He benefited from this as more people moved into his rural community. “A lot of people are selling and buying out here; getting away from the city, I imagine,” he said.
Even the commercial real estate market delivered. “We had a good year,” said Diedrich Schweers, president of SWAT Mosquito & Pest Control in McClellanville, S.C. The company specializes in termite pretreatments for large commercial construction projects; Schweers recently pre-treated soil for a 685,000-square-foot warehouse.