As we kick off a new year, it seemed like a good time to reflect on some things that happened to those of us in the pest management industry in 2016. This lighthearted article dives into the daily work life of pest control technicians. Here are 10 situations that many in the pest management industry have experienced. How many of these have you run into? And are you and your team prepared to handle these situations in the future?
1. The Customer Who Stands You Up
Many customers need to have the inside of the house treated. If that’s not your standard protocol, you schedule a specific stop, and in some cases a special trip to the neighborhood, to get the job taken care of to find the customer is not home. Sometimes you drove 30 minutes or more one way. You even called to let the customer know you’re on your way.
2. An Unfriendly Dog
I have run into so many people who say their dog is friendly. “He’ll just jump on you,” they say. What clients don’t understand is when they aren’t home, that “friendly dog” is doing what we hope our dogs will do for us — he or she goes into protection mode with a stranger on the property. I once had a customer who accused me of laziness and thought I was looking for any excuse to not service his backyard. I was afraid for my life when I was in his backyard and his two dogs had me cornered. Unfortunately, I left my phone in my truck, otherwise I would have called 911. After a long standoff, I was able to slowly make my way back to the gate — waving my backpack wand and yelling at the dogs the whole way out.
3. A Cancellation from Around the Corner
Every pest control technician has received the cancellation phone call from either the office or the customer directly when you are literally around the corner. I prefer that call to come from the office, as sometimes it is difficult talking to customers at that moment since I have to now reschedule my day.
4. An Exaggeration
A customer calls and complains about ants. They say, “The ants are horrible,” or “There isn’t a room in this house that don’t have ants.” When you arrive, the ants are usually isolated to the kitchen sink area and maybe an adjoining bathroom. Or they send in an online request and mark that their house is infested with every pest option on the request form.
5. A Miscommunication
It’s typical to have a customer who says they never got the reminder call the day before the service, even though you have notes stating otherwise. Your notes say a call was made and a message was left on voicemail, or the message was left with the customer’s son or daughter. For whatever reason they didn’t get your message and they will most likely want to reschedule.
6. A Locked Gate
Customers sometimes don’t remember to unlock the gate for you and they aren’t home to do it for you when you arrive. I call these customers the day before to remind them of the next-day service and they specifically say, “I will make sure to unlock the gate for you because I won’t be home.” You know that sometimes the gate won’t be unlocked though.
7. A Shoddy Gate
A gate that drags on the ground or is difficult to open or close is almost as bad as a locked one. These gates are generally wooden ones that have deteriorated over time. Sometimes they only hang from one hinge or debris is in the way.
8. Equipment Malfunctions
Sometimes it’s not human error that throws a wrench into our day — it’s a technological failure. These malfunctions always seem to happen when you have a full route and you have no time for unexpected problems, right? Several years ago, I was using my aerosol unit (which I had just finished cleaning the night before). When putting it back together, I only tightened it by hand. After pressurizing it, the hose blew off, shooting the product inside to the ceiling. Lucky for me, it was a condo undergoing a major renovation at the time. Even though all the furniture was out of the condo, it still was an irritating ordeal.
9. Unpredictable WeatherThe weatherman says the rain will stop by mid-morning, so you wait it out (of course you have many outdoor stops planned for the day). The rain does stop, but then an hour later it starts up again. You’re left wondering if you should wait the rain out in a parking lot somewhere or if you should call it a day and go home. Murphy’s law says if you go home, there’s a possibility it will stop raining for good. But, if you wait in a parking lot hoping it will stop, it surely won’t.
10. Lack of Aftercare
This sometimes happens with German cockroach jobs. I always explain where cleaning needs to take place and how/what to clean. I sometimes come back to find the cleaning either did not take place or it wasn’t as thorough as I would like. These are the jobs that often fail. For this reason, with German roach jobs (or fleas, among others), I specifically write in the contract if proper cleaning techniques aren’t utilized, or if the dog or cat was not treated properly for the fleas, we won’t be able to offer a warranty.
FINAL THOUGHTS. All in all, the life of a pest control technician is not too complicated, but these situations can be a barrier to success. Consider training your staff on how to handle these situations — even if they’re out of their control.
The author is with Main Sail Pest Control. The company’s blog is at mainsailpest.com/blog.