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By Joey Hoke, A.C.E.

Senior living communities offer a broad range of challenges to PMPs. The large number of people coming and going provides multiple avenues of introduction for a variety of pests. The residents may or may not be physically able to assist with treatment, particularly if the treatment is more extensive than what may be the norm for a general pest visit. Treatments for cockroaches and bed bugs often require moving furniture, clearing all cabinets and may require the individual to leave their home for a while. All of these can be exceptional challenges to our elderly patrons.

I have been involved in pest control for the last decade and many of my clients have been in senior living facilities. To many of the wonderful people I have been privileged to meet over the years, pest management often is not their most pressing need, even when dealing with a pest like bed bugs.

Usually a PMP will focus on the immediate need or concern of their client, whether the problem is ants coming through a window, beetles coming under the door or cockroaches in the kitchen. We are trained in the methodology of solving the immediate problem. What we may miss, and what is so very important, is the human aspect of what we do. When PMPs get into the routine of planning the day, trying to be as efficient as possible to get to as many of our clients as we can, it is easy to forget to take the time to communicate with the client.

ALL ARE VIPs. Who is the client in a senior living facility? Because a building may be set up as a single account we tend to treat it as such. We only have so much time to do our job and move to our next appointment. But in a senior living complex, every resident is our client. It is important to remember that. It is important to allow time to treat every individual living in that facility as a valued client, because that is exactly what they are — a valued client.

Einstein theorized that nothing can move faster than the speed of light. I know something that comes close: a rumor in a senior living facility. A rumor started at morning coffee will spread through the building faster than a bad review on Facebook! If I am called to perform a bed bug inspection I know that by the time I have finished everyone in the building will be aware there is a problem. Communication becomes critical in preventing the spread of false or bad information.

Some of our senior clients are very tech savvy. But what they may not know is where to find correct information. As a result, much of the service can be taken up by correcting misinformation found by the residents online. Taking the time to communicate the correct information to the client is an integral part of providing top-notch service. The difficulty for the PMP is repeating the information a hundred times to each of the residents in the facility. It is time consuming, it can hamper the efforts of the PMP who is trying to get the job done and it is frustrating to the residents when they find out the information they were looking at was incorrect.

It is always a good idea when dealing with a facility that has a large number of residents onsite to offer an educational class on the topic of concern. The PMP must stop the spread of misinformation as quickly as possible. The PMP must be smart, knowledgeable, compassionate and patient. Time must be given to the PMP so that he/she can address all resident questions and concerns.

When selling services at a senior living facility, the salesperson also should be aware of the specific challenges involved in treating these homes. The service will take longer and it will cut into the production of the PMP. But that does not mean the job is not profitable. Creating loyalty by building positive relationships with each tenant (as well as management) certainly will lead to a long and productive association.

The author is an Associate Certified Entomologist and vice president, employee engagement/technical director, American Pest Management, Manhattan, Kan.