Like many of PCT’s readers, I’ve found a few silver linings during the pandemic. I’ve used the time I’ve saved commuting to and from the office to work out on our treadmill. OK, that hasn’t happened, but it’s something I’ve thought about doing! Joking aside, I’ve enjoyed the extra time with my family on those occasions when we are all working/doing schoolwork from home, and we’re also making some progress cleaning out our basement.

Professionally, COVID-19 has forced me to do some things differently — and for the better. During the last 10-plus years I have presented the annual PCT/BASF Technician of the Year Awards at NPMA Legislative Day in Washington, D.C. It’s been an honor to recognize three industry professionals for their contributions to the pest control industry at such a great venue. However, during the last couple years I started thinking that my actual presentation was getting a bit stale, and needed some reworking, perhaps with the use of video. But just as I thought about working out on our treadmill but failed to do so, I never put a plan into action to freshen up my presentation. That was, until the pandemic forced my hand.

In early January, NPMA announced that Legislative Day was being moved to a virtual event, meaning my presentation would be in the form of a video, something I had long considered. As of this writing, I have recorded the video presentation and I am in the process of gathering photos, supplemental interviews, etc., and working with GIE Media’s videographer on the editing process. I’m really excited for the final product and I guess I have COVID to thank for giving me that push. Let’s hope for everyone’s sake it won’t take another pandemic to get me on that treadmill!

In speaking with PMPs throughout the country, our staff is hearing of similar stories where forced change has proven to be beneficial.

In this month’s Tech Talk column, Plunkett’s Pest Control Training Coordinator Caroline Kirby reflected on some positives resulting from Plunkett’s shifting its “very hands-on, in-person training program to one that was entirely virtual.” Kirby scheduled virtual check-ins several times a day with new hires to help them develop problem-solving skills and work on specimen IDs — tasks normally done through hands-on training. “I found these regular, one-on-one check-ins allowed me to connect with our individual trainees in a different way than I had connected when training in person,” Kirby wrote. Specifically, Kirby found that new hires were able to relax and learn at their own pace during virtual training because they were not comparing their progress to their classmates. In addition, since new hires knew that Kirby was planning to call them and pose scenarios, they were “kept on their toes” and motivated to make sure they fully understood the material. Kirby added that she plans to continue this practice of more intentional check-ins with new hires, even after the company returns to in-person training.

Similarly, in this month’s feature, “Broken Engagement” PCT examined how ABC Home & Commercial Services in Austin, Texas, is using technology to keep customers and employees engaged during COVID-19. ABC already had a lot of customer engagement technology — texting in advance of service visits, sharing photos/videos with service reports, website chats — in place prior to COVID-19. Now, “Customers have been eating up those features,” said Julie Fredlund, director of technology/office operations at ABC, who added, “Once a customer becomes used to engaging in a certain way, they’ll stick with it.”

ABC employees have made “Meet the Anteater” profiles, which are 30- to 60- second videos in which they introduce themselves, share their job position and experiences at ABC, and provide some insight into their hobbies and interests. The videos are posted on the ABC “Community” page and several are highlighted at weekly meetings. “Making people feel less isolated was the inspiration behind the ‘Meet the Anteater’ but this will certainly become a part of the company culture long after the pandemic is over,” said Fredlund.

In the coming years I am excited to see what practices born during the COVID-19 era will become adopted and integrated into your pest control businesses!

The author is senior digital editor of PCT.