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The best time to train service technicians is before warmer weather sets in — whenever that might be in your markets. Even in territories that stay warm all year, an uptick in temperature means more or different pests to manage; preparing your team ahead of time gives them the tools and confidence to get out there and excel once the busy season begins.

“We have monthly training meetings throughout the slower season, November through March, to let technicians know what to expect from spring and summer; review tools, techniques and pest ID; and update them on any industry and policy changes that may affect them,” says Caroline Kirby, training coordinator at Plunkett’s Pest Control and Varment Guard. “It’s a good time for them to take a breather, network with other technicians and supervisors, and focus on learning.”

It’s important to engage these team members by offering a variety of training tools, ranging from individualized online education and webinars, which they can take advantage of on days when they can’t get out on the road or have lighter schedules, to classroom instruction, kept interesting through videos, interactive presentations using online learning tools, and opportunities for hands-on exercises like practicing using equipment, she adds.

Consultant Stoy Hedges says that many companies find March to be an ideal month for training. “It’s a great time to review what happened across your markets the previous year — maybe you had a lot of crazy ant service calls or saw more smokybrown cockroaches than in years past. Talk about how to identify those pests, what products worked well with them, and what you’ll do differently to minimize callbacks this season,” he says.

In fact, conversation among technicians and supervisors is one of the most valuable training tools, says Cory Goeltzenleuchter, technical director at McCall Service. He encourages team members to share their experiences regularly. “When a technician sees an unexpected resurgence of a certain ant species, they need to know that they can help technicians in other markets by sharing that information,” he explains. “Most of our branches have a texting chain for this type of networking. We also have an employees-only Facebook account for posting photos and messages like, ‘I just saw my first Eastern subterranean termite swarm of the year.’ Everyone learns from one another.”

Kirby, Hedges and Goeltzenleuchter share insights into essential preseason training topics:

Pest biology. Understanding your region’s pests, from species identification to behaviors, is paramount to service success. The key is to instill this knowledge prior to pests’ springtime resurgence, says Goeltzenleuchter. “We see pests year-round here in Florida and southern Georgia, so we conduct training year-round,” he says. “We focus on several pests a month, and just before spring, we gear our training toward termite swarms, mosquitoes and ants, so our technicians can put control measures into place before activity accelerates.”

Products. It’s critical to take stock of the products you will be using over the season and review their proper usage. Hedges says that this is a good time for HAZMAT and PPE training, SDS training and label review. “The PCT Distance Learning Center label training modules can be particularly helpful as technicians build on their product knowledge,” he says. “They can be projected on a screen in a classroom setting, or technicians can learn individually on their handheld devices or laptops.”

Sales/Customer education. Goeltzenleuchter reminds that it’s not only your team but also your customers who need preseason training. “Customer education is a huge part of effective control,” he says. “Technicians need to think ahead about when they will be visiting a certain account next and communicate what that customer needs to know to prepare for the coming season — minimizing conducive conditions, for example.”

It’s important to engage these team members by offering a variety of training tools, ranging from individualized online education and webinars to classroom instruction, kept interesting through videos, interactive presentations using online learning tools, and opportunities for hands-on exercises like practicing using equipment.

Equipment. Spring and summer pest activity demands a well-organized truck, adds Kirby. “Teach or remind technicians how to make sure their equipment is in working order — calibrated and cleaned — so their trucks are ready to go.”

Time Management. A well-organized truck is one element of what Kirby says can be a true challenge for technicians: time management. “Technicians can get so busy that the day can get away from them if they haven’t carefully planned it out,” she says. “This is a very important area to address, because it affects not only productivity but also job satisfaction and morale.”

Inspections. The preseason is a good time to remind your team to inspect closely for structural damage that might have occurred to customers’ property during the winter. “Identify cracks and crevices that may need to be sealed up, focusing on windows and doors, the frame and trim, and the attic,” advises Hedges.

Final thoughts. Goeltzenleuchter says it’s smart, too, to help technicians anticipate what’s coming next — e.g., rainy weather and termite season — and focus their inspections on conducive conditions that could become problematic. “Excessive moisture, leaf litter, containers, bushes up against the house — help technicians understand the importance of inspecting everything and taking appropriate measures themselves or advising their customers of what needs to be done before spring pests emerge,” he says.

The author is a frequent contributor to PCT.