10 May 2018

If you don’t look after your pest control customers, someone else will!

Business practice | PPC91 May 2018

Martin Harvey heads up Harvey Environmental Services and sits on the BPCA Executive Board. His company was named as Pendle’s Most Outstanding Business and was shortlisted for an O2 business award. He shares his thoughts with PPC readers about what it means to look after the customers you have and the potential cost implications of dropping the ball.

Does your pest control company place customers front and centre

Let’s start off with a few sobering facts and figures.

For a lot of us, our regular contract business is our lifeblood and where approximately 70% of our one-off business comes from every year. Getting new customers is about eight times more expensive than keeping an existing one.

We spend our time out with customers

Losing customers over an extended period damages your reputation. People remember poor service and tell other people. After all, they say the only thing that travels faster than light in this world is bad news! Losing customers puts more pressure on sales to ‘plug the gaps’, which sometimes leads to poor quality business being brought on board and the vicious circle gets worse.

Poor client retention has a knock-on effect in poor staff retention. This compounds the monetary loss, plus you have the hassle of finding good people in the first place to replace those that have left.

Some UK pest control companies have had annualised contract loss rates of around 25% of their opening portfolio. Think about that for a second or two and apply it to your business. Just how hard do you have to try to fill up that leaky bucket?

Recent research into the UK service industry shows that the top reasons given for leaving a company included:

  • Feeling unappreciated/not receiving the service expected (44%)
  • Unhelpful/rude staff (35%)
  • Being passed around to multiple people (33%) 
  • Not being able to get answers (27%) 
  • Not being able to speak to a person (25%).

And when faced with poor customer service this is what people said they do:

  • 52% of respondents would write or phone to complain
  • 47% would never use the offending company again
  • 40% would change suppliers
  • 20% would post an online review
  • 16% would tell friends or colleagues not to use the company
  • 16% would complain publicly via social media (note this one, folks - it’s really important nowadays).
  • On the contrary, if provided with good service, customers would:
  • Be more loyal (68%)
  • Recommend the company to others (59%)
  • Use the company more frequently (34%) 
  • Spend more money with the well-performing company (30%).

We take time to understand

So it seems that if we want to make life easier and more profitable for ourselves we’d do well to take this research on board and take some positive steps.
Right, that’s the facts, figures and research section done now – let’s do some real life.

We have an excellent client (and staff) retention rate. The customers that we’ve lost in the last three years I can count on the fingers of one hand. They’re the ones that we’ve terminated as we’ve been making no money out of them or where customer demands were unreasonably high without them playing their part in pest prevention, ie doing the proofing and the hygiene improvements that we’d been recommending on every visit.

In extreme cases we’ve dropped customers where proofing and hygiene recommendations have fallen on deaf ears, and the risk of The Environmental Health Officer’s involvement has been deemed as very high. Someone else can have that problem, thank you very much! 

We’ve lost no customers to competitors – and we’re not ‘we can do your pest control for half the price you’re currently paying, guv’ merchants. In fact, when our customers get approaches from ‘sales’ people who come in with that mantra (even saying this before they’ve carried out a survey) they get treated with the disdain and derision that they deserve.

So – the question we’ve been asked is “how do you do it”? I’ll tell you in the form of a very fashionable numbered list:

12 ways to keep the pest control customers you’ve got

1. Prioritise retention throughout the team

Our technicians get a consistent and straightforward message from the management: the most important thing is to keep your customer.

2. Produce a contract fit for the future

We don’t sell a contract as just a solution to a current problem. It’s something that the client will always need due to the nature of pests.

3. Provide proper documentation and reports

We report what the real situation is on the sites we service and document the risks if pests were active. Our reports aren’t in the megashort ‘no problems’ style – we believe that this indicates poor inspection skills or laziness, and such a lack of value and professionalism will encourage terminations.

4. Deliver the service you promised

That’s the routine visits, the follow-ups and the call outs. Most of the contract business we have we’ve taken from competitors was due to poor quality or lack of delivery – not on price.

5. Communicate live across your team

We communicate quickly and effectively regarding any customer issues. We use a WhatsApp group which everyone in the business is part of, meaning we can sort things quickly.

6. Incentivise staff

Our service and admin staff are incentivised based on an increase in company turnover. They all understand keeping customers is vital to growth.

7. Be proud of pest control

We’re proud of what we do and we tell our customers how important what we do is for their business.

8. Understand your client

We take time to understand the way that customers businesses work so that we can make sure that our service fits in the best way. For example, I spent a morning with a restaurant group recently learning about their food safety system to make sure that what we do on their sites fits in with it.

9. Get out of the office

I’m talking about management here: we don’t sit in offices much. We spend our time out with our people, our customers and people who aren’t our customers yet, not behind a desk.

10. Inspect all work areas

We inspect all areas and don’t hide away from people in offices. Pests get into offices as well, and the people that pay the bills live in offices!

11. Educate your clients

We run pest awareness sessions for many of our clients. This helps to get all staff on board with pest control and prevention.

12. Appreciate your customers

We say thank you to our clients at Christmas time and we always thank them for their business – it pays our wages!

It’s all basic stuff really but it seems to work. You can do all of the fluffy stuff if you want (customer satisfaction questionnaires, online surveys, loyalty schemes etc), but I think that’s not really where it’s at.

We all work in a service industry. Let’s deliver the service we’ve promised before we get fancy with it and let’s prove that we care about our customers. Because if we don’t, why should our customers care about us?


Got a tip for keeping your customers happy? Let us know!

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MArtin Harvey headMartin Harvey
BPCA Executive Board and Harvey Environmental Services 

1 May 2018  |  PPC91

Source: PPC91

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