When pest control operators (PCOs) think of business technology, they may think about their company’s website, or their team’s cell phones or their email system. But in 2018, the plethora of technology solutions available can support and enhance nearly every area of a PCO’s business.
The right technology used the right way can boost customer service, employee satisfaction, safety, sales and profitability. It can automate manual processes, innovate older ways of doing things, or even completely eliminate functions or processes that are no longer necessary. The key is understanding how different technologies can address your company’s unique challenges and opportunities.
Below are six ways PCOs can consider leveraging technology across their business.
Customer service: texting solutions
Mobile technologies have opened up new ways to communicate with and serve customers. Homeowners under the age of 40 are particularly keen on connecting with businesses through text messaging. It empowers an instant connection while avoiding time-consuming face-to-face or telephone interactions that research shows this generation typically prefers to avoid. A couple of texting solutions that Environmental Pest Service (EPS) has recently implemented include:
Website “Text Now”: This tool helps customers virtually and instantly connect with our company via texting. When viewing one of our brands’ websites on a mobile device, users have the option to “Text Now” to begin a text conversation. Our representatives can then answer questions and address issues via text messaging.
Text to pay: This tool allows opted-in customers to receive text messages notifying them that a payment is due. The customer can pay the invoice by simply texting back the last four digits of his or her cell phone number. The text-to-pay solution we use integrates with our business operations software. This kind of integration not only helps to streamline things for the PCO, but also for customers, who can see all their invoices, service appointments, payment details and other key information in their online customer portal.
Human Resources: Intranet
A robust, regularly updated Intranet—an internal website that only members of the organization can access—can be a powerful tool for pest control companies. The Intranet has the potential to act as the central hub of information for employees and to consistently communicate the company’s culture. It can house everything from the Employee Handbook to training materials to company success stories to messages from leadership.
The Intranet should be positioned as a go-to resource where employees can easily find anything they need—and where everything posted is relevant and up-to-date. Including fun and creative material on the site, such as videos from technicians out in the field and success stories contributed by team members, can help create a website that employees feel like they’re a part of and enjoy visiting.
An Intranet is particularly valuable for companies with large teams spread out across multiple branches and/or geographical regions. While some information on the site will apply to all members of the organization, posting region-specific and service-specific information can help employees gain greater empathy for their co-workers. For example, an article from a termite expert about his typical day can help a branch office worker better understand and relate to his teammate.
Training: videos and e-learning
Today’s technology provides valuable ways for employees to access education and training, including:
Field training videos: Affordable video cameras and editing software make it possible for members of the training team to produce training videos from the field with your technicians. This provides educational material for the entire team in a more entertaining and effective way than simply reading a manual. It also fosters goodwill in employees seeing their real co-workers out in the field, sharing their expertise.
Live video calls: Smartphones and mobile apps offer technicians the ability to connect with trainers via video calls. For example, if a team member is stumped on what to do during a service call, he or she can start a live video call with a trainer. The trainer can then talk to the team member, see what the technician sees over the video feed, and walk the technician through what to do. This results in better service for customers and better training for the team.
Branded e-learning: Rather than tie up personnel resources hosting only live educational and testing sessions, PCOs can tap into the power of e-learning. Consider allowing team members to access training materials, educational modules, videos and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) on the Intranet. If possible, brand all training content with your company’s logo so users know the material has been vetted and approved by leadership. And, ensure that all material is kept up-to-date and is consistent across the entire company.
Marketing: online advertising
While the phone book and mailed flyers may have been go-to advertising avenues in the past, technology has introduced plenty of online opportunities to reach prospective customers. While there are ample possibilities for online advertising, here are two we recommend for PCOs:
Pay-per-click advertising: More than 85 percent of people research companies online before making a purchasing decision. Pay-Per-Click (PPC) programs like Google’s AdWords display advertisements when pre-determined keywords—like “pest control Tampa”—are entered into a search engine. The ads display at the top of the search results, and the advertiser pays each time a user clicks on the link to go to the company’s website. PPC increases the likelihood that your PCO will appear at the top of the search results when a prospect is looking for services you provide.
Digital canvassing: This combines mapping and IP targeting technologies to deliver advertising to particular neighborhoods. Similar to how a PCO might hand out flyers to nearby houses after performing a service, digital canvassing looks at geographical indicators to determine which houses are delivered digital banner ads. This means PCOs can target specific neighborhoods and serve customers ads on websites they’re already visiting.
Sales: web-based technician referral system
Many PCOs may have a technician referral program where team members receive rewards for bringing in new business. This is a tried-and-true lead program that results in a win-win-win: the company gets new clients, the technicians earn more income and the new clients get your excellent service.
But, managing this kind of program manually can be cumbersome. That’s why a software application to manage the technician referral program can be so valuable. For example, EPS technicians have an app on their mobile devices. With a few clicks, they can enter the prospect’s information, which goes into our lead management system. Automating the technician referral program with technology is easier on employees, increases efficiency and reduces mistakes.
Fleet management: telematics
Telematics is a method of monitoring a vehicle. By combining a GPS system with on-board diagnostics, it’s possible to record and map exactly where a vehicle is, how fast it’s traveling, whether the vehicle requires maintenance and other key metrics. When used effectively, pest control companies can use fleet telematics to turn data into valuable information that drives strategic decision-making and management that can:
• Improve customer service: Software connected to telematics devices can show authorized users a great deal of real-time information, including where every vehicle in the fleet is located. This makes dispatching a field associate to a customer quicker and easier than calling around to see who’s available to visit.
• Coach safer driving habits: Pest control companies can see key driving data, such as how often a driver exceeds the speed limit, how many times the driver applied the break harshly, how many times the vehicle accelerated quickly and seatbelt usage. This allows management to identify unsafe driving behavior and coach safer habits.
• Keep vehicles running longer: Telematics also monitors mechanical issues, like tire pressure, oil levels and remaining battery power. Some programs allow PCOs to review this information online and to set alerts signaling when maintenance is due. Telematics allows pest control leaders to identify these habits and provide coaching to help save hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year on fuel, depending on the size of the fleet.
• Decrease fuel expenses: Using telematics, PCOs can monitor two big fuel-wasters: an idling engine and excessive speed, also saving on fuel costs.
Recent technological advances have provided significant opportunities for PCOs to improve nearly every aspect of their business. From customer service and employee engagement to marketing and fleet management, technology can help pest control companies strategically automate, innovate and eliminate for a more successful future.
David Bradford is chief financial officer at Environmental Pest Service. He can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 830-9707.
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