Educating the customer means explaining the service, sharing expectations and asking for their help.
Aside from knowing they don’t want them in their homes, customers tend not to know much about fleas. It becomes the pest management company’s job to get them up to speed because, yes, you really do need their cooperation to eradicate these pests.
“Many times, people don’t know the difference between ticks and fleas until their vet or one of our technicians identifies the pest,” says Kathy Daw of Bob’s Pest Control in El Paso, Texas. Fleas are sometimes mistaken for bed bugs, too, due to their propensity to take a bite out of any warm- blooded being they happen to latch onto.
These cases of mistaken identity are particularly common among customers without pets. They don’t make the flea connection, because they don’t realize fleas can get into their homes a number of ways. Maybe they have a rodent issue, or a flea-infested opossum gets into the crawlspace. “Sometimes it’s as easy as having a neighbor who keeps their pet along the property line,” says Conrad Carpenter of Exterm-Tek Pest Control.
The Customer’s Role
Educating the customer means not only explaining to them what the service entails but also sharing expectations as to what they are accountable for. Many PMPs — 52 percent, according to our study — provide leave-behind sheets with specific instructions. Some email a prep sheet prior to the visit and then leave the follow-up sheet for actions to take once the service has been completed.
“Since we started making customers sign a prep sheet with complete instructions, our callback rate has declined significantly,” says Jeff King of The Pest Rangers. “Now any calls we get from flea control customers are usually just questions rather than service requests.”
What should customers be ready to do?
Take Their Pet to the Vet
Eradicating fleas means treating the environment and the pet, if a pet is involved. Many PMPs suggest the homeowner take their pet to the veterinarian or groomer during the time technicians are treating the home.
“Customers need to understand that they should not just slap any cheap flea collar on their pet. I always, always, always recommend they see their vet — not a groomer but an actual vet — to find out what kind of treatment their pet needs and what will be safest for them,” says Daw. “I explain that we all need to work together, and that without the vet, we will be fighting a battle we won’t win.”
Prepare Their Home for Treatment
Vacuuming is perhaps the most important thing the customer can do to ensure the success of flea treatments. “Vacuuming several times a day for several days before applying the chemical is essential to remove eggs, larvae and feces, and to stimulate flea pupae to emerge from the cocoon so they can be exposed to the pesticide,” Lance Driessen of Best Pest Solutions in Plover, Wis., shares in his “Before Treating” customer instruction sheet. He also instructs customers to vacuum rugs, drapes, upholstered furniture, mattresses and cushions, and to seal and discard the vacuum bag after cleaning. Vacuuming after treatment is important, too, Driessen adds, instructing his customers to vacuum every day for 10 days following application.
Additionally, homeowners need to wash pet bedding and clear their bowls and toys, as well as any other items on the floor. Hardwood and tile floors should be mopped, and floor vents can be cleaned with a wet, soapy sponge. They also need to cover any aquariums and turn off the filter if possible (not recommended for saltwater fish). Some PMPs also request that the homeowner mows the lawn, so that the outdoor application can get closer to the soil.
Patience begins with customers understanding that they need to leave the house (with any pets) until the pesticide dries. But patience is also needed after treatment, since pupae will continue to develop and emerge from their cocoons for several days or weeks.
More than two-thirds of PMPs — 69 percent — said they always discuss the benefits of using an IGR with their customers; another 21 percent said they sometimes discuss these benefits. “When I tell clients we use birth control in addition to the pesticide, it’s kind of a wow factor for them,” says Carpenter. “They appreciate we use a multi-tiered approach to give them the best results possible.”
A natural part of this conversation should be explaining the life cycle of fleas and setting customer expectations about what a normal amount of post-treatment activity looks like versus when they need to call you back.