What Are We Saying to Our Customers?

Columns - From the Field

I believe we all can agree that our completed service ticket goes a long way in explaining what was performed during our pest control service. This service ticket often is used as a reference by our customer for controlling sanitation concerns. More importantly, it is also a legal document that can be used, should the need arise, in a court of law or arbitration hearing. It goes without saying that proper completion of the service ticket is critical.

Proper communication in the form of documentation along with the ability to educate our customers is paramount to our success individually as well as in our industry. Pencil whipping service tickets and simply asking for a signature is no longer acceptable in a competitor-heavy marketplace. Additionally, most states require detailed notes on the service tickets as those documents may be examined in the future, depending on the need to clarify an aspect of the service rendered. State requirements aside, explaining what you did and why you did what you did will go a long way to set you apart from someone else.

However, there is another form of communication that speaks volumes to the public and has far-lasting effects. Nonverbal communication often says more than any other type of communication. Wikipedia defines non-verbal communication this way: “A primary function of nonverbal communication is to convey meaning by reinforcing, substituting for, or contradicting verbal communication. Nonverbal communication is also used to influence others and regulate conversational flow.” We must effectively communicate to our clients our intention to provide a solid solution to their pest problem in a professional manner. That includes what we say and what we do not say.

Everywhere we look, everywhere we go, there is some form of communication bombarding us with information. Whether it be billboard advertising, television ads, internet popups, random robocalls or texts, we are constantly communicated with in one form or another. What a PCO’s actions “say” to our customer is essential in building long-term relationships and it is critical that our skills be developed to incorporate best practices into what we communicate.

EYE CONTACT. Maintaining eye contact as we explain what was done or as we answer a question sends a clear message that we are truly interested in what our client receives from us. We have all experienced the dismissive attitude that a convenience store clerk gives us when they look away as they give back our change, saying nothing in the exchange. Conversely, we can sense the confidence an experienced salesperson brings to the table in the way they carry themselves as they propose their product or service, making absolutely sure that they have our attention fully throughout the process. How a person communicates nonverbally can be instrumental to the client as they evaluate our products and services.

OUR APPEARANCE. What does our uniform tell our customer about service and our brand? Is it clean, crisp and properly worn or is our shirt untucked and our sleeves rolled up as we track mud into the establishment from the last job we completed? Can our customer deduce that they truly hired a professional by how we look or does it have the opposite effect?

SERVICE DELIVERY. How the service technician performs the service is another aspect of nonverbal communication that is conveyed. Do they walk around without a perceived purpose, simply going through the motions? Or are they engaged in what they are doing, making notes, appearing alert and focused, seeking to solve or prevent a pest problem? Do they represent a consummate professional or are they taking shortcuts? Do they exhibit a concern for the environment as they make applications or do they sloppily “spray” materials? Simply put, do they look professional as they go about their business or do they appear disorganized and overworked? These are all takeaways that our customers glean from interactions with our service professionals.

OUR SERVICE VEHICLE. This is perhaps one of the most important aspects of non-verbal communication as it affects not only our current customer base but any potential customer down the road. (No pun intended.) Our vehicle is a rolling billboard and its appearance can make or break pest control businesses. Does the technician keep an organized truck and truly care about how his or her truck looks compared to a competitor’s? Are your trucks routinely inspected and any deficiencies addressed or are they one flat tire away from the junkyard?

FINAL THOUGHTS. Finally, do you have programs in place to provide proper training on these or any other skills needed in your place of business? Is role playing consistently being used to sharpen soft skills? As important as any pest identification, learning how to properly speak with clients and build customer relations will determine your success going forward. It goes without saying that If you observe any of these behaviors as you perform field audits, it must require your immediate attention and the retraining of your team.

Frankly, our industry can either succeed or fail based on what our service professionals do in the field. Are we providing value or causing consternation each time we are in front of our customer? Ultimately our communication, both verbal and nonverbal, will be the driving factor in whether we enjoy continued success. Let’s face it, if we do not provide value to our customer, they may choose to terminate their relationship with us and find others to provide pest control. This may include doing it themselves and if we have done a poor job of demonstrating professionalism to them, they could follow a poor example, which could have environmental consequences as well.

Jay Connors, A.C.E., is a regional support manager in Terminix’s Southeast Commercial Division. He has been with Terminix for 24 years and been in the pest management industry for 26 years.