When dealing with many pest issues, gaining customer cooperation is crucial for resolution. Getting them to understand what role they play and getting their buy-in is vitally important to resolving many issues. However, not everyone takes the time to think about what they are telling their clients before they open their mouths or hit submit on their reports. Ultimately, knowing how to ask for cooperation is what is going to make or break the communication needed for success.

One of the rising issues we have as an industry is the client’s level of maintenance. This includes maintaining their equipment, general cleaning and storage habits, among others. One way to set the stage for good client and PMP cooperation is ensuring you state the issue clearly with minimal subjectivity and lots of detail. For example, if a restaurant has a sanitation deficiency, don’t tell them, “You have a small fly problem because you have poor sanitation.” Approach it differently by stating, “Your food debris and water build-up are contributing to the small fly issue.”

The first statement regarding the sanitation issue is blunt and implies fault, which may make them defensive and less cooperative. Most owners and managers have pride in their business, and do not want to be told that they are doing a bad job. Using the second statement that pinpoints the root cause of the sanitation issue without using accusatory language will generally encourage better cooperation and faster resolution. Think about how your significant other would respond if he or she were told there was a dirty kitchen and he or she caused the pest issue. It may be true, but the sting from the words does not help the situation.

When talking to clients, make sure they understand their role and its importance in the resolution. If they expect that you do everything and they don’t have to participate (“pest management is the PMP’s problem”), then they are taking a passive approach. In some cases, they may not understand that being passive can actually make a bad situation worse.

If they are passive, explain to them that it will take longer to resolve their issue. Outline a reasonable time frame for resolution, why it will take that long and if there is anything they can do to accelerate the resolution process. Managing the client’s expectations has to be a part of the conversation.

PROFESSIONAL COMMUNICATIONS. Even if you have a great relationship with your client, remember to keep all communication professional. Clients with whom you have a positive, chatty relationship may be the easiest to work with, but you still have to be mindful of what you are telling them. Do not make the mistake that these people are your friends — it’s still business. When problems occur, even your most friendly client may proverbially “throw you to the wolves” if questioned or confronted about a pest situation, particularly if it means negative consequences for them.

Always follow the direction from the most senior person working for the business, whether it’s the manager, a corporate stakeholder or both. This is particularly important for third-party-audited facilities. If the corporate entity wants you to write up every little thing, make sure you follow those directions. It may cause some pain with your local contact who may not want full disclosure of challenges in the facility, but politely explain to them the direction you have been given and suggest they approach the decision maker to request any changes.

The old adage, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it,” comes into play daily for PMPs. In many cases, it is tempting to become frustrated with lack of client cooperation, and sometimes even lash out in defense. Even if you feel justified in your communication, resist the urge to react, stop and think about the best phrasing to get better results, and then speak. Taking these simple steps could make a world of difference in your client relationships, improve the results of your service and lead to better client cooperation.

David Moore is a board certified entomologist and received his master’s degree in entomology from Virginia Tech specializing in urban entomology. He serves as the manager of technical services for Dodson Bros. Exterminating.

Copesan is an alliance of pest management companies with locations throughout North America. To learn more, visit www.copesan.com.