Former PCO Dan Collins reflected on an incident where he was forced to “draw a line in the sand” when dealing with a client.
By Dan Collins
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.