Today isn’t going down on my list of all time best for a couple reasons. One, I was treating for paper wasps on the side of a home and took camouflage/cover near a palm tree to avoid getting stung. Well I’m sure you guessed it, there was an even bigger nest in the tree and I got whacked in the collar before I knew what hit me. The second reason is not more than ten minutes later I received a call that a rather large account was canceling their service with my company.
The customer is a medium sized apartment complex with only 65 units but the work was steady and with the newest management company that came in I was finally getting paid on a regular basis. I service the account so I can’t blame my technicians and although it’s not the largest job I do by far, the sting of losing a customer no matter how big is just as bad. Of course I’ve gone through the range of thoughts as to why this happened and being human I blamed them in my mind and narrowed it down to a conspiracy of the manager and the maintenance man. As my 12 hour day wound down to the end I began to have more rational thoughts about it and perhaps tomorrow I’ll even have changed my mind or found out the real reason with a phone call.
Every account has a life
The best advice I have ever gotten was that every account has a life, meaning that no matter what you do no account lasts forever. I learned this from a man I worked for in Baltimore along with many other valuable lessons. In this case I don’t believe there is much I can do to save the account and to be honest I’m not sure I have the energy. They have gotten several other bids and I hear that they are ‘substantially’ lower than me so that is almost always a death nail. The account is mainly subsidized housing and the tenants have very low, shall we say, cleaning standards. Not to minimize things but I have been chasing roaches for years there and when I finally get a place cleaned up new people move in and bring a whole new batch of german roaches along with them.
It happens to everyone
I have been in my business for many years and seen many accounts come and go. What? Are you surprised I would admit this,let alone even write it so all the world could see? I’m always amazed when talking with my peers at ceu courses or reading replies on pest control forums how no one ever loses an account, raises prices every year with little fuss and hardly ever get any complaint calls in their companies. I gotta call BS on that for any pest control business that’s even been around for a short time. I’m not here to explain it per se but customers are fickle and the bug business is a complaint business. Put those two elements together and you will get cancellations somewhere down the line, guaranteed. I have had long time customers cancel, friends, business associates and the ever popular brand new ones who just signed up cancel after the first visit.
Why customers cancel
Terminix used to have this broken down to a science and of course service or lack thereof was the #1 reason. Moving was second and dying was third but I’m not sure if they got it completely right and I’m sure they didn’t do their poll in Florida or other retirement states that have large elderly populations. While I agree service can make or break an account I think it comes down to little things that eventually add up to the ultimate decision to cancel or switch. What I’ve observed and what new customers tell me as to why they left other companies to take my service boils down to things like;
The guy was never on time, a new technician each service, he didn’t take off his shoes, they raise their prices each year, they never called, their billing was always screwed up, the office was rude or they found a better price.
For my example I can say only two of these fit the bill and as I’m writing it is coming clearer. I’ll admit a couple of months ago I was at least border line rude with the office girl but I had had enough of some chronic complainers who would never clean up and yet wanted bug free homes. I suppose the secretary was at the end of her rope too because she had to listen to them as well and we both ‘respectfully’ clashed that day. The other was a raise in price but I hadn’t done that for five years and their new insurance requirements were going to cost me an additional $1300.00 per year. Long story short the powers that be decided that I had to carry huge amounts and name them in my policy and even put all of their employees on my auto plan. Since I rode around in their golf cart with their maintenance man driving I of course resisted and we had been having discussions about it for a couple of months. When I raised the price to at least cover half of my new expenses I’m sure they didn’t like that very much and so here I am today.
I must not have been all that bad a guy because the manager who spoke with my office said it was out of her control and she felt bad. There goes my conspiracy theory. They even asked if I could do next months service even though the original contract is over and I never made them sign a new one. I can only imagine that the new company who’s taking my place has to scramble to get approved by management with all the new insurance obligations. I’m sure they will quickly discover that two million dollars of insurance here and one million there adds up quickly. They may be just so happy to get the account and won’t realize it until they are riding around in the golf cart that they’re not insured on, servicing yet another unthankful roach infested apartment, that every account has a life and maybe then hope this one ends soon.