What’s The Hardest Part Of A Pest Control Complaint?

Re-do’s, courtesy calls, extra service visits, call it what you like but in the end it’s just a complaint. Complaint calls are part of the business and if I had the formula to eliminate them all, I’d be a wealthy man.

If you don’t handle them right, complaint calls can cost your company a lot more than just the few bucks in chemical it usually takes to service them. They take away from positive production, can put a dent in your referral chances, keep you from getting home at a decent hour, and in some companies- if you get too many of them you win an all expense paid trip to the branch managers office. But there’s one aspect of complaints I dread the most, I wonder if you do too….

I’ve never done the research but speaking for my own little bug company, I’d bet 95 to 98% of the complaints we get are frivolous and need no action save to appease a client who wants “someone out there today”. The % is even higher this is for a problem they’ve blown up in their own minds. A big roach on the carport is a reoccurring theme, (that’s carport=open air exposed to the world so even a moose could walk right in) dead bugs inside the house, oooh, imagine that! “I think I heard a mouse in the attic can you crawl around up there and find it?” My favorite is the “Jerry said” complaints. This is where I say something like “give it some time and if you see any more after that-I’ll be happy to come back.” They hear and report to the office 2 days after my service-”Jerry said if I ever see another bug at all to call and he’d be out that same day.” To make matters worse a good portion of these bellyachers can be pretty nasty. Insects can bring out a whole other side of people that you never otherwise see. Comments can and often do get personal and even threats of non-payment or cancelation often accompany a complaint call. Ugh, this can be exhausting and adds to the grievance but it pales in comparison to the most woeful part of the complaint.

The worst part about complaints isn’t standing there in front of the client and explaining the why’s and wherefores or performing a treatment that appease only them. No, The absolute worst (at least for me) is the time in between the call I get from the office and the time I arrive at the home to, eh, respray. It may be several hours (or days) before I get to the call and in that time my mind plays all sorts of games with me. Does that sound weird? maybe, but I have a feeling I’m not alone.

The drive over to a complaint is often all consuming for me. I go through all the things I said to that client- I run the service I did through my mind a hundred times to try and remember if I did something wrong or skipped something important. Do I suck at pest control that badly? I wonder how it is they so soon forgot that I crawled under their house just to give them piece of mind on if they had termites, how I treated the hubby’s workshop (40x 60 out bldg.) Wasn’t that us at the kitchen counter sharing a laugh or stories about our kids? And weren’t they the ones who nodded their heads as I explained the complete process and they said they understood and they’d give it the time and employ some of the tips I gave them for goodness sakes? So where did this person come from and why all the sudden are my actions and words worth so little?

As I make my way across town I go from screaming at the customer and canceling them to fearing the worst. Maybe not only will they scrap my service, but they’ll also tell their friends and neighbors (who I service in most cases) & then just how will I face them? The scenes play over and over in my brain and it can be quite vexing. I guess I’m somewhat of a hypocrite because I tell people all the time to not take complaints personal- but I so often do.

I am happy to say however, almost always, it’s never as bad when I get there. Most of the time people have calmed down a bit and in some cases I don’t even think they realized what they said. Even though I swore (in my mind) I’d be the tough guy, the pro who will have the last word… I find myself listening, maybe biting my lip a little, reiterating the finer points and once it’s all poured out, all seems forgotten, they are back to being are receptive and all ends well. That is until the next moose walks into their carport.

About The Bug Doctor

Jerry Schappert is a certified pest control operator and Associate Certified Entomologist with over two and a half decades of experience from birds to termites and everything in between. He started as a route technician and worked his way up to commercial/national accounts representative. Always learning in his craft he is familiar with rural pest services and big city control techniques. Jerry has owned and operated a successful pest control company since 1993 in Ocala,Florida. While his knowledge and practical application has benefitted his community Jerry wanted to impart his wisdom on a broader scale to help many more. Pestcemetery.com was born from that idea in 2007 and has been well received. It is the goal of this site to inform you with his keen insights and safely guide you through your pest control treatment needs.

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  • Exterminatorsrock

    I hate complaints. I will admit I have NOT found a way to study how to reduce them, because, as you know, the detective hat must be put on.

     this is how it goes…


    1. what was the date of the last service?
    2. which tech did it last?
    3. did he do the right house?
    4. was the job completed or did we need to return because of.. (dog in back/fence locked/hurricane happened/emergency job called in blah blah)
    5. what did he use?
    6. has he cleaned his tank recently?
    7. was it raining or did it storm hours after departure?
    8. has the customer NOT complied with tasks we gave them (clean gutters, trim touching tree limbs, etc)
    9. did our tech document he told them what needed to be done?
    10. was the customer home or was these instructions left on a note?
    11. is it the customers primary residence? if not, was note mailed to permanent residence or just shoved on the door of the “lake house”
    12. what exactly does “black bugs all over” mean?
    13. is the customer planning a cookout and truthfully “just wanting it sprayed” before guest arrive?
    14. how many times has this customer complained before?
    15. has the permethrin in the tank enjoyed several days of 100+ or 20 degree temps?
    16. is the account current or do they owe us for 3 services?
    17. are my techs stupid or does this person have some new “super species” that is resistant to everything?

    i could write more, but i have to go service a church (that’s not due til september) that is having a revival sunday and is really sure they need to be sprayed before then…

  • Love # 12, that’s a question not even the Dali Lama could answer– I take that back—we know the answer…it’s #13 or some variation there of …  #9 is one that my company has been working on = mixed results.   

    Honestly, this could be a CEU class in itself, great stuff!

  • Bobby

    i find when a rats got into your customers premises and its setting the alarms off at night and its upsetting the neighbours or your client and the customer cant switch off their alarms at night til youve caught it because their insurance will be null and void and you have to sort the situation real quick.
    i got a post office that a rat walked right in through the front door and hid, the post mistress called me early the next day and said Rob you will need to get that rat cause i had a call from the police in the early hours in the morning to go to the post office as the alarms were going off and when the lady turned up at the shop the road was shut off both sides with the armed response team were there and to make matters worse there was a helicopter flying over the post office, im pleased to say i located it behind wood partitioning due to its tail hanging down below so i went outside got my rifle and shot it, i was waiting on someone calling the police again and saying theres a man going into the post office with a gun and the same scenario all over again… lol

  • Good job!!