What effect is the pandemic having on Australian pest control businesses? Our Pest Pulse survey invited readers to share their experiences. 

In our quick Pest Pulse survey on March 30, 2020, 201 pest managers responded to tell us how the pandemic was impacting them and their businesses.

This research was carried out two months after the first reported case of COVID-19 in Australia and just two weeks after the formation of the national crisis cabinet. The nature of the control measures implemented by the Government in the following two weeks had an immediate impact on the economy.

This Pest Pulse snapshot was designed to provide a topline view on the immediate impact on pest control business as well as providing a measure as to how many pest control companies are considering offering disinfection services to help off set any reduction in revenue.

Figure 1: Number of pest managers reporting a decrease in residential business

Of those that responded, 77.5% of pest control business reported a downturn in residential pest control business (Figure 1). Of those respondents, just over 80% had seen a downturn in general pest business whereas the drop-off in termite work has been lower, with 48% reporting a drop in termite inspections and 28% reporting a drop in termite treatments. This is perhaps not surprising in that general pest control is often a more discretionary spend, whereas dealing with a termite problem is viewed as an urgent problem to solve. The fact that 41% of pest companies that experienced a drop in business indicated that pre-purchase pest inspections had also decreased, highlighted the impact on the real estate industry.

In comparison, 61% of businesses had seen a drop in commercial pest control business (Figure 2). Not surprisingly, the services most affected were those for the restaurant industry, mentioned by 82% of pest control companies who have seen a drop in commercial business. Commercial and hotels/motels were the other two segments showing the biggest drop, both mentioned by around 50% of pest companies.

Figure 2: Number of pest managers reporting a decrease in commercial business

During these times, having a written COVID-19 safety policy for staff and customers is important, not only to protect your staff but to reassure your customers. However, only 48% of pest companies had a written policy. Of those that had, the vast majority (85%) had communicated the policy to their customers.

With the drop in pest control business, companies are looking to diversify – and branching out into disinfection services would seem an obvious opportunity. Some 40% of the companies responding to the survey indicated they were considering offering disinfection services. As with any skills and services, training is key. 38% of respondents reported that they already had some level of training in providing disinfection services. Of those that were considering disinfection services but had no experience, 79% were intending to get some level of training.

Of those considering disinfection services, only 33% confirmed they were covered from an insurance point of view. 16% knew they were not covered and the remainder either hadn’t yet checked or hadn’t thought about it. As with any business operation, it is important that you have in place appropriate insurance for the services you are offering otherwise you may find yourself liable.