The Best Techs Analyze

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Equipment and chemicals are important, but knowing how to analyze the problem, the people and the control approach are a service technician’s most valuable assets.

June 19, 2018

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Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the Summer 2017 edition of PCT Canada.

At Pest Management Canada in March 2017, PMP Brett Johnston talked about proper equipment and product use during his presentation on “The Changing World of Pest Management Applications.”

But the best way to prevent control treatment failures, retreats, unhappy customers and higher treatment costs is to “use your brain,” said the president of Assured Environmental Solutions and past president of the Structural Pest Management Association of B.C.

The best technicians assess each pest problem and their role in it and don’t rely on a “simple cookie-cutter protocol,” he said. Johnston urged technicians to take time to analyze. Here are some tips to help technicans as they go through their day.

The Interview — Sometimes a tenant claims bugs are everywhere when she actually saw six ants near the patio door. Other times bugs are in fact everywhere, from inside light fixtures to picture frames. “You’ve got to pay attention to what the client is telling you and is their information good or bad and is my method of getting that information good or bad,” Johnston said. And because the goal is to build trust and gain insight, consider your audience. How you interview a suit-wearing property manager should differ from how you question tenants, he reminded.

Self Check: Did I talk to the right people? Did I get the information I need? Did I ask them the right questions? How well did I interpret their answers’?

The Inspection — Get on your knees and up on a step ladder to explore hard-to-reach, hard-to-clean places. Use tools to remove motor housings and inspect overlooked back-leg zones (where the back legs of counters and equipment rest and where food, debris and water collect). If you’re having an ongoing pest problem, “you’re not going to solve it until you take that time and get back into those spots that are hard to get to,” said Johnston.

You’ve got to pay attention to what the client is telling you and is their information good or bad and is my method of getting that information good or bad.”

Then, compare what you found to the interview. The application you’re scheduled to perform may be unnecessary or inadequate. If the latter, take steps to provide immediate relief and schedule a second service visit with the time and equipment needed to resolve the issue. Performing a standard treatment and “hoping it works and hoping (customers) don’t call back” is not the solution, said Johnston.

Self Check: Did I find all the pests? Did I identify them accurately? Did I find all their nests? Their food, water, shelter? Entry points? Travel paths? Signs (droppings, hair, urine and rub, chew, tail drag and claw marks)? Did I identify the conducive conditions? Did I find everything the customer reported? Did I find more, or something different, or in a different area?

The Application — Before you pick up a spray tank or duster or other piece of equipment, think about why you’re taking this control approach and not another. Why are you using a wettable powder instead of an emulsifiable concentrate? Formulations, chemistry and technologies change and different situations require different approaches. “You have to assess why (an application is) working, and why it’s not working and adapt; not just do the same thing” over and over again, Johnston said.

The whole point is to guard against doing what you habitually do; doing just what’s scheduled, he said. “The bugs change, the chemistries change, the regulations certainly change; the bottom line is you’ve got to think about this stuff” to achieve successful control and ensure compliance, said Johnston.

Self Check: What did I apply, where and how much? How well did it work? Did it work in some areas and not others? Why? Did it work fast enough? Was it a safe application? Did I use the best application equipment? How could I make a better, safer, faster, more precise, longer lasting, cost-effective application?

The Recommendations — You need a client’s help to solve and prevent pest issues. But merely telling them what specific structural and sanitation issues to fix isn’t enough; you have to write them down, said Johnston. List too many fixes, however, and clients get overwhelmed. “They don’t know what’s important, they don’t know where to start, they think it’s too much and they just do nothing,” he explained.

Instead, provide a short list of prioritized fixes that have the biggest impact, he said. Ask clients about the change they noticed after addressing items 1 and 2; thank them for their compliance and encourage them to move onto items 3 and 4, which will help prevent infestations going forward. “That’s how you build the relationship with the client,” he added.

Self Check: Is this list of recommendations too long? Is it prioritized? Is it written down?

The Knowledge — The best technicians learn continuously from company experts, peers and industry professionals and they consider how this knowledge applies to different jobs in the field. By doing so “you’re better able to do the work but you’re more engaged as well” in solving people’s problems, said Johnston. “It’s important what we do and the more you realize that the better the job you can do,” he said.

Self Check: Am I asking trainers and coworkers questions? Am I reading trade literature and attending industry educational sessions?