Putting Technology to Work

Technology Supplement - Technology Supplement

At NPMA’s Technology Summit, PMPs heard about new trends and products that will help them run their businesses more efficiently and effectively.

Subscribe
April 13, 2020

© AndSus | AdobeStock

In a recent Forbes magazine survey, several hundred executives said they are focusing on efficiency rather than revenue growth alone, and that technology is crucial to achieving that goal.

The report went on to say that it can be difficult for companies to know which technologies to select and implement, and that in the end, technology is useful only so far as it meets customer expectations.

The pest management industry is no different than other consumer-facing industries as it experiences a boom of technology products and services. The challenge is trying to determine which of the myriad of solutions available is right for their company.

To identify answers to those questions, PMPs descended upon Atlanta for the NPMA Technology Summit in December.

Technology is changing the way pest professionals operate their companies, hire and train technicians, and engage and deliver services to customers. But if companies spend their time and resources — both financial and human capital — on technology that doesn’t deliver actionable data and solutions, then they’ll likely miss out on strategies and services that can move their company ahead.

The three-day event kicked off with author and change disruption consultant Tom Morrison discussing what happens when the “Uberization” concept collides with an industry.

Ride services Uber and Lyft caused disruption as they stormed the market and changed how consumers not only got from point A to point B, but changed their outlook and preferences for buying services.

“The pest management industry is ripe for an Uber-style service offering,” said Morrison. “Companies need to start talking today about how to leverage that with customers. It’s not if it will happen but when.”

Today’s consumers are accustomed to the no-service contract model and flexibility as to when they use a service. This conflicts with the traditional recurring revenue model the industry has become accustomed to with weekly, monthly or quarterly service offerings. How will the industry adjust?

“Change can be hard for industries that are built on certain models but technology, with its ability to offer greater levels of transparency and efficiency, can help with the transition,” added Morrison.

Morrison said more and more customers are paying for the technology and not necessarily the service because of the “Alexa” mindset that consumers are becoming accustomed to.

“Educating customers and employees on how to use and take full advantage of technology is important to success,” said Morrison. “Companies that offer a tech suite of products must be able to get acceptance and buy in.”

Norm Waslynchuk, director of information technology for Abell Pest Control in Etobicoke, Ontario, says the industry needs to accelerate the adoption of technology to compete and level the playing field.

“We use technology to improve our operational efficiencies and drive the customer experience and events like this help greatly in advancing our learning curve,” said Waslynchuk. “Technology is important to our company since we service a large, diverse geographical area and our remote technicians need technology to support them.”

Waslynchuk says Abell and its in-house staff of software developers create custom apps that help the company collect valuable trend data.

“We must be able to collect and share data with our clients and help them design programs that are tailored to their specific needs,” said Waslynchuk. “Data is the new oil and technology allows us to mine that.”

Julie Fredlund, director of technology for ABC Home & Commercial Services in Austin, Texas, and vice chair of the NPMA Technology Committee which created the Summit program, said the event gave PMPs a better understanding of the capabilities of the technology products and services available and what they can and can’t do.

“It is important for pest professionals to spend wisely on technology and select products and services that work best for their company,” said Fredlund. “Don’t just select the most expensive or latest innovation. Make sure it works for what you are trying to accomplish.”

What follows are capsule reviews of several sessions from the NPMA Technology Summit. PCT magazine will offer more detailed coverage of these sessions in print and online in the coming months.

DATA & SECURITY COMPLIANCE. Every day there seems to be another story about a data breach at a retailer, hotel chain or credit card company compromising thousands of customers’ personal or credit card data. The pest management industry and its customers are not immune from this threat.

In his session titled Data & Security Compliance, Tim Fredlund, director of IT at ABC Home & Commercial Services in Austin, Texas, advised attendees to invest in training and resources to protect their data.

“Pest management company owners and management must think about safety and security as they and their clients become ever more tech centric in the way they conduct their business and how they interface with customers,” said Fredlund.

Those with unsavory aims on your company’s data do so for a variety of reasons, including financial and informational gain, wanting to cause harm to your reputation or simply to be destructive.

Fredlund said most data breaches occur in one of the following ways:

  • Password sharing among employees.
  • Using the same password for multiple accounts.
  • Poor internal email “hygiene” — the primary avenue of attack today — through phishing and corrupt emails.

“Crafty attackers can make an email look very real and fool even the most conscientious of employees to acting upon something that isn’t real,” added Fredlund.

VIDEO MARKETING. Video has rapidly become the tool of choice for marketers — and it’s not limited to high-profile consumer brands. It can work for pest management professionals. Just ask Jeff King of The Pest Rangers in Hanover, Pa.

“Video is storytelling and can be done in a short time period and with emotion that engages customers,” said King.

King has invested a solid portion of his marketing budget on video because it fits into consumers’ habits and allows his company to share the customer journey and make complex pest issues simple. It also is driving new revenue.

“A video on how to set a mouse trap may sound like nothing but how-to videos resonate with customers and can influence their buying decisions,” said King. “They better understand the value of our services and how we deliver them.”

King embeds the videos on his website and deploys them on Pest Rangers’ social media platforms including LinkedIn and Facebook where they can be shared virally and expand the impact. He reminded attendees to stick to three rules when creating videos:

  • Make them “snack sized”
  • Make them memorable
  • Make them measurable

“Using video can raise your SEO ranking and increase website traffic,” said King, who cited a Google statistic that 80 percent of website visitors will spend more “dwell” time if there are videos to watch. (Dwell time is the amount of time a visitor spends on your page after arriving from a Google search.) “Customers will stop to watch a video. They should be the buyer’s guide to your company,” King said.

EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT. Can deploying effective technology solutions such as apps to help employees manage their health-care benefits, track sales leads they submit for bonus compensation or recognize employee achievements lead to stronger engagement and improved retention rates?

Many forward-thinking pest management companies are betting they can and a panel presentation featuring Court Parker of Bug Busters in Atlanta, Julie Fredlund of ABC Home & Commercial Services in Austin, Texas, and Elizabeth Abell of Abell Pest Control in Etobicoke, Ontario, dove into the topic.

Abell said technology is a way to communicate company culture and engage employees, especially those who work remotely.

“Technology is embedded into the makeup of our culture right from the start as we onboard new hires,” said Abell. “We start conversations with employees before they start and look to match them with a mentor.”

She said the company uses social media and videos to communicate various training initiatives and sales messages but also to recognize employee achievements and share interesting pest management case studies or company culture information/updates.

“The videos and social media shares have created a FOMO (fear of missing out) with employees. They want to watch the latest video and find out what’s going on,” said Abell. “The more information we share with employees the more connected we become, and technology gives us the opportunity to do this more effectively and consistently.”

Jeff Fenner is a frequent contributor to PCT magazine.