No one disputes that termites damage homes to the tune of billions of dollars every year, that rodents contaminate billions of pounds of food or that insects around the world kill millions of people and cost untold sums for the medical and control treatments. With all our great advancements, these numbers are still staggering and it almost seems as if we are, at best, just treading enough to keep our head above water. We certainly can’t say we’re winning can we?
Well that question is one to ponder but there is another silent killer in our industry that is also a devastating force but gets very little attention. No, billions of dollars aren’t lost, structures aren’t weakened nor are lives physically harmed. But these infestations are persistent and unless you are vigilant to spot them and then do something about them, the effect can be very devastating to you and your pest control company.
Insidious Inspector Infestation
The infestation of which I speak is that of competitors inspectors (salesman) who’ve honed in on your account and now have made it their mission to have this client, all to themselves. Almost all inspector infestations go unnoticed at first but left unchecked, your customer can become overrun with their implanted thoughts and notions of superior service or better prices. Once that level is reached, corrective treatments is about your only chance to save the account but it is almost always an uphill climb. If only you could have seen this insidious inspector invasion, maybe you could have done something to remind your client just what a faithful and great service company you’ve been.
Brain Science & Rocket Surgery
Have you ever lost a client like this? Sure, we all have but what gets me is that when I look back on so many of these lost customers- there were clues, evidence and outright neon signs pointing to the fact that… MY CUSTOMER IS GETTING BIDS FROM OTHER COMPANIES! Now I’m not the smartest knife in the box…? but after almost 3 decades of perfect 20/20 hindsight vision, I can with all confidence report to you the 5 most common signs of inspector infestation so that hopefully, you can avoid these pitfalls.
#1- Finding a competitors flyer on the door when you walk up is one of the earliest signs. Although it doesn’t mean they’ve spoken with anyone you at least know the vermin was in the neighborhood. I’d make sure THAT day’s service, was just a little extra special.
#2- Finding a sticky board under the sink that isn’t yours. This means the rat has been inside your account and been given permission to look around. It also means they’ll be back to check the sticky and that’s when the sales pitch will come. Having bugs on the trap wouldn’t be good. This is when I poke around a bit to make sure I’m not missing anything and then ‘tactfully’ ask if my service is lacking in some way? I’ve buried my head in the sand a few times at this point only to pull out and see- I didn’t have a client anymore. (time to speak up)
#3 – Seeing another companies contracts on the counter. I’m constantly amazed that my clients do this and then act surprised that I saw it. I guess them leaving my check next to the piles of papers my competitors left wasn’t much of a clue huh? This usually is a client getting prices on termite or lawn. When I tell them I do that work too, they give me a blank stare as if they couldn’t possibly imagine the bug killer they’ve had for years would kill all those other bugs but not the termites that they’re about to lay out over a thousand dollars for. Again, time to speak up but first I get the first aid kit- because I just bit my lip so hard trying not to scream I need to stop the bleeding. This is one situation that is completely MY FAULT 98% of the time. Even after all these years, I’ve (and you) got to do a better job at telling people all that I do and then keep reminding them.
#4- When my client suddenly gets a rise in his/her pest IQ and starts using words not normal for someone outside of the industry. It’s usually questions about ‘service frequency’, residual life or the specific names of products used. When they ask “Do you use Demand CS outside because it doesn’t degrade so quickly?” That’s usually a clue they’ve been talking to someone else. Round this time I’ll pour on the knowledge a little bit thick if you know what I mean. Most salesman aren’t really smart about bugs, just sales- so after 5 minutes of any reasonable tech talk you’ll long surpass that sneaky sales weasels puddle of information and all should be right with the world again. Just keep an eye out for a contract or brochure, price trumps knowledge in too many cases so be ready to ‘speak up’ and make sure there isn’t something you can do to nip this infestation in the bud should it continue.
#5- Seeing a competitors truck backing out the drive way as I’m pulling up. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had this happen and talk about a range of emotions. Just on the walk to the door I go from being angry, to apologetic, puzzled, sad, unsure and then finally kinda stunned as my client opens the door to let me in.
Now, if I’ve done my job right she just smiles and says, “My silly husband let him give us a termite estimate last week and he forgot his measurer, I told him you’re the only bug man we need and he wasn’t happy when I told him no.” But, if I didn’t pay attention to the signs and act accordingly, it almost always means I’ve lost another account, lost due to a severe and neglected inspector infestation.