Surviving a Technology Conversion

Technology conversion. Utter these two simple words, and you’ll send employees running for the hills. It’s no secret that incorporating new technology can be incredibly frustrating—both for pest management leaders and their staff members. Even so, there are boundless benefits to adopting the latest and greatest operating systems, devices and software.

“It’s definitely one of the best ways to grow your revenue base and your earnings at the same time,” says Andrew Barrows, director of mergers & acquisitions with Environmental Pest Service, LLC. “Customers expect technology, especially the Millennials and Gen Z customers.

There’s a famous quote: You’re either moving forward or you’re moving backwards. In business, if you’re not embracing technology, you’re going to be left behind.”

When you enhance services with state-of-the-art tech, it also makes a major impression on current and potential customers. “I think it gives confidence to your customers that you’re a progressive company and you’re on the cutting edge,” explains Ted Brayton, branch manager for Griggs & Browne. “When you’re constantly changing things up, customers are confident that if there’s a better way to do it, this company is going to be on it.”

Is your business gearing up for a technology conversion? Here are 10 tips to help you navigate these turbulent waters and ensure the process is smooth sailing.

Tip #1: Get the whole team involved.

As you research, introduce or roll out new technology, Brayton says it’s important to gather input from all levels of your business. “I’m a big believer in involving people from all areas of your company when incorporating a technology change,” he emphasizes. He says it’s critical to view the technology conversion from all different points of view.

“You want people who run the company looking at how it will impact the company in the intermediate and the long-term,” he says. “You want feedback from the office staff on how it would affect the administration and the tracking of accounts and communicating with customers. You also want the technician’s point of view—how they’re actually going to be using it close to the customer. You’ll get different input from all three levels.”

Barrows reflects this sentiment, saying it’s critical to create a detailed plan for all areas of your business. “When you’re doing a software conversion, you need to understand how it’s going to impact all aspects of your business—not just the administrative function,” he explains. “You have to understand how it’s going to affect your billing, the sales cycle, customer interactions, HR and payroll. All these things are heavily affected, and you need to be very aware of how they are impacted so you can plan accordingly.”

Tip #2: Prepare for resistance.

If you’re planning to roll out new software or devices, get ready to face a barrage of resistance from your staff members. Even with the promise of higher business revenues and more efficient business processes, employees are rarely excited to hear about a major technology conversion.

“Unless you are the owner or the president, most people only look at how a change will affect their particular job,” Brayton points out. “They don’t tend to be super concerned with how it’s going to benefit the company three or five or 10 years down the road, or how it’s going to affect recurring revenue and customer retention in the long-term. They’re concerned with how it’s going to affect their routine. So, when you throw new technology at them, you’re going to get quite a bit of resistance.”

How can you handle this pushback? One way is to encourage employees to experiment with the new technology. “Everybody has a different way of learning, different job responsibilities associated with the technology,” says Brayton, “It’s important to let them experiment and encourage them to try different ways to use the technology. When you get a lot of people investigating all different areas of a technology, you can get a lot more feedback and you can help people do their jobs in ways they wouldn’t have thought was possible.”

Tip #3: Determine the cost vs. benefit.

Before you spend a bundle of money on new technology, it’s wise to calculate your return on investment. After all, incorporating the latest and greatest pest management system alone will not automatically drive your business to the next level.

“Just by signing up for an operating system, you’re not going to guarantee that it will offset costs,” Barrows points out. “You have to really own it, drive it, understand it and utilize it effectively. Execution is key if you want to grow your business in an efficient, effective way.”

For instance, let’s say your business mails out paper invoices to customers, which costs you $10,000 a year. You’re considering investing $8,000 in an operating system that will allow you to send invoices via email. “So, you have to figure out the cost versus the benefit,” says Barrows. “Instead of sending out $10,000 worth of paper invoices, you effectively converted everyone to email. Now you’ve just saved $10,000 a year by paying $8,000 for an operating system.”

On the other hand, let’s say you’re using and older pest control software that you already paid for 10 years ago. You’re considering upgrading to a cloud-based software that’s going to cost you $1,000 a month. “Well, now you’re paying $12,000 more than you did last year,” Barrows points out. “Unless you’re offsetting that additional expense by becoming more efficient in your routes, billing, office staff, etc. you’re just going to run a less profitable business.”

Tip #4: Measure twice, cut once.

When it comes to a technology conversion, preparation is key. When you pour plenty of blood, sweat and tears into the pre-launch process, it will make things much easier down the road. “I’m a huge proponent for putting in a lot of hard work upfront,” says Barrows. “It’s the measure twice, cut once kind of approach.”

The more research, training and preparation you invest before the conversion, the more smoothly the transition will go when the time comes. “This will mean fewer customer and employee issues—which are a lot more painful to deal with post-conversion than it is pre-conversion,” Barrows adds.

Tip #5: Choose the right captain.

Before navigating the uncertain waters of a technology conversion, you’ll need to choose a capable captain.

“You’ve got to have the right people driving the ship,” Barrows stresses. “Execution is key, and you need someone who can take the reins and get it done.”

Brayton says it’s generally best to have one go-to person who is responsible for owning the new technology. “You want employees to know there’s one person they can go to who knows it better than everyone else,” he says. “And if an employee asks them something they don’t know, they need to have the time, motivation and comfort to go to the manufacturer and get the answer.”

Tip #6: Plan a test-run.

Before you dive into the full conversion, take time to test the new technology. “If you can test either in a pilot program or in a test environment, that’s ideal,” Barrows explains. “When you test before you convert, you won’t overexpose your customer base and your employees to the kinks and the bugs that come along with a conversion.”

Tip #7: Take it slow.

Barrows says it’s important to make technology changes slowly and deliberately. “You’ve just got to be thoughtful,” he advises. “You don’t want to change too much all at once. Do a pilot program, then roll out the larger program. Don’t do too much all at once—effective is better than efficient.”

Tip #8: Overly communicate.

When it comes to a tech conversion, there’s no such thing as too much communication.

“Communication—with both your employees and customer—is key throughout the process,” says Barrows. “Be thoughtful how you communicate so no one is surprised. Customers can handle a lot of change, but not a lot at once; and they especially don’t like it when they’re surprised by it.”

Tip #9: Track performance.

You’ve carefully prepared for a conversion, tested the new technology in a pilot program and clearly communicated the changes to your employees and customers. Once you press “Go,” you can just sit back and enjoy…right? Not quite. Your job isn’t finished yet.

“You have to track your tasks and performance tightly,” says Barrows. “Monitor it closely, don’t just think it’s getting done.” This data will help you understand your progress and whether or not the technology is successful.

Tip #10: Invest in training.

Obviously, employees will need to receive training on any new technology—and Barrows says consistency is key. “Don’t roll it out differently with different people,” he emphasizes. “Everybody should be doing it the same. For example, entering a sales lead. If you’re going to run everything off a new program, and everyone is entering the data in the system differently, when you go to run your monthly reports, you can’t really understand what your business is doing. Consistency is key when people start to change their operating system.”

Long after the new technology has rolled out, employees should continue to receive training on how to most effectively use it. “You want to invest in ongoing training to maximize the investment in the new technology,” says Brayton. “Depending on the technology or the software company, a lot of them have ongoing training programs. Once or twice a year they have a conference and explain how to use all the features of the software.”

Brayton says pest management leaders should take advantage of these training opportunities. “Spend the money, show them that you’re committed to the tech and you’re committed to them and it’s important,” he adds. “That will help you get the most out of that investment.”

Tip #1: Keep moving forward

If your company has a technology conversion on the horizon, these 10 tips should make the process a little less painful. Above all else, it’s critical to focus on the execution of the conversion—not just the technology itself.

“Success is 10 percent idea, 90 percent execution,” says Barrows. “You can have the best idea in the world, but if you’re not executing effectively, consistently and in a focused way, it is bound to fail.”

Last but not least, let your team know which direction your business is headed—and that should always be forward. “You must clearly communicate to all that the change is permanent and you’re committed to moving forward,” says Brayton. “We’re not going to be stagnant, and we’re not going to go backwards. We’re not going back to the way it was before. We are moving forward.”

By Amy Bell

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