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SERVICE CALLS AND CALL BACKS

Pest manager Jay Turner shares his insight on why call backs can be a good thing, and a chance to build relationships with customers.

I often hear comments from pesties boasting how they never get call backs using a particular product or technique. But personally, I love call backs. For me call backs are an opportunity to make lifelong customers.

Domestic pest control is essentially a once-a-year service, which makes it very hard to establish that special relationship with your client. Each additional visit is another chance to strengthen the connection with your client. For me every call back is also another opportunity to prove my skills and convey my knowledge. Let’s face it, any licensed pestie can perform a basic pest treatment, but it takes a good pest manager to fix a pest problem.

I will be the first one to tell you that call backs used to cut deep. I take a lot of pride in my work and I used to feel that a call back was a reflection on my ability as a pest manager. But the fact is, as much as we try and want our treatments to work perfectly every time, the reality is that we are dealing with many variable factors that are beyond our control and the occasional call backs is inevitable.

The key however is to think of them as “service calls” rather than “call backs” and to convey to your customers that your warranty is a “free service period” rather than a “guarantee”.

It’s often been claimed that less than 10% of dissatisfied customers actually complain. So what about the 90% that we never hear from? Unfortunately some pesties assume that because they never hear back from a customer, that the treatment worked fine. How many times have we gone to do a job for a new customer and the customer has commented, “The previous guy must have used water coz the ants were back the next day!” Why didn’t they call them back? What if the previous guy was you? Wouldn’t you like to know?

We love call backs. In my business, we even encourage them! From the initial phone call to the completion of the job, we constantly reinforce to the client that if they feel the treatment hasn’t performed to their expectations or there is simply a problem area that persists, then please call us! We even have leaflets we leave on site, to once again reinforce the need to call us if they have a problem.

We even graph our number of service calls each month (Figure 1) and instead of being concerned as to why one of our techs is getting more service calls than me, we are actually more concerned if they are not getting enough service calls. Maybe they are not fully conveying to the client to call us if there is a problem? Remember 90% of dissatisfied customers won’t call unless we encourage them.

Figure 1: Analysis of service calls

Encouraging call backs, particularly with ants, is not without its downside. I have a few clients which I refer to as “ant nazis”. I visualise them patrolling their house and property on a regular basis and at the first sign of ants they are on the phone. As annoying as this is, I have often used this obsessive behaviour to my advantage, by encouraging them to work with me; recommending them to remove food plants, controlling sap sucking plant pests and baiting ant trails as they appear, ultimately making my job easier next time round.

While on the topic of ants, I know many pest managers don’t offer warranties on ants due to the frequency of call backs. I personally don’t understand this. Remember if you offer a six month warranty this is not a guarantee that your treatment will last six months, this is a free service period. That is, if the ants come back during that period you will retreat at no charge.

So as long as you charge accordingly you can offer as long a warranty as you wish, many of my quotes actually factor in multiple service calls on top of the initial treatment. This can also help market your service, rather than quoting your client $400 dollars for a service that they know will take you less than two hours to perform and guarantee it will last six months, quote $400 for 6 months’ worth of pest management. It’s fairly obvious which service sounds better value to them.

Whether or not it takes one treatment or three treatments is irrelevant to your customers, as long as their service expectations are met. If it only takes you one treatment then bonus to you, but if it takes you a couple of extra service calls so be it, as long as you have priced it correctly.

When I scan through my database, my best customers are customers that have all had callbacks – some we even factor in a service call with every treatment. But it’s these customers that constantly refer us to their friends and neighbours, comment on our Facebook page and would never ever consider using another pest controller. These customers are pure gold to me.

Jay Turner, Owner, Laguna Pest Control