There’s no question that technology is a must-have for every modern-day business—and pest management companies are certainly not immune. Not only can technology help you streamline processes and increase employee productivity, but customers have come to expect high-tech offerings from service companies.
In fact, 58 percent of consumers and 77 percent of business buyers say technology has significantly changed their expectations of how companies should interact with them, according to a Salesforce Research report. To top it off, half of surveyed consumers say they are likely to change brands if a company doesn’t anticipate their needs. Thanks to today’s technology, with information and company reviews right at our fingertips, it’s easier than ever for customers to make the switch. According to the report, 70 percent of consumers agree that technology has made it easy to take their business elsewhere.
“I don’t think technology should be seen as a monolithic thing,” points out Dauphin Ewart, president of The Bug Master, a pest control company based in Austin, Texas. “There are different types of technology—some have to do with how businesses are operated, and some have to do with how customers behave. I feel like it’s important to understand the differences there.”
When discussing how important it is for businesses to keep pace with technology, Ewart points to the phone book transition. “During the 80s, everyone owned a phone book, and that was a resource that society at large used to find and engage companies,” he says. “At some point, the phone book died. So today in 2018, if you’re spending thousands of dollars advertising in phone books, you’re not getting any customers and you’re spending way too much.”
He says it’s essential for pest management companies to consider technology in the context of how they work and what their customers expect. “It’s a critical thing to understand because it’s about understanding your clients,” he emphasizes. “I really think it comes down to customer behavior.”
As you shop around for tech tools and cutting-edge gadgets, it’s easy to get distracted by “shiny objects,” Ewart says. “I have fun with technology, so I like shiny objects,” he laughs. “But you have to ask, how does technology add to your business? Why do you want to use a specific tool? Does it help you do something faster or better or is it a way to address how clients are changing? The most important part is determining what technology your clients use.”
Keep reading to learn about a few top tech tools that could allow you to boost productivity, connect with customers and build your business.
1. Apps, apps & more apps
If your pest management company is like many others, you probably provide each employee with some type of smartphone or tablet. Not only does an iPhone, Android or iPad allow technicians to keep in touch with the main office, but these devices also serve as a mobile workstation—particularly when you load them up with lots of useful apps.
“When a new employee shows up, we give them a new iPhone with a bunch of apps on it that we use,” Ewart says. He believes this immediately gives new employees and customers a sense of confidence. “It’s a statement that we’re a modern company,” he adds. “I think it’s engaging to people when they see we actually have our own software system. Of course, it also has to be technology that people know and can use.”
2. File sharing tools
One of the apps that should be included on every pest control technician’s smartphone is a file sharing tool. While there are a number of file sharing options available, Ewart says his company uses Dropbox.
“Dropbox has a pretty fantastic scanning application,” he says. “We cover large geographic areas, so someone in the field can create a paper document, scan it using their phone and load it into a shared folder. Then, the office immediately has access to it.”
Access to files over a great distance is one of the major challenges that service businesses face, Ewart says. “File sharing technologies are good at solving that challenge.” Besides Dropbox, some other file sharing options include Box, Google Drive, iCloud and OneDrive.
3. Collaboration and communication platforms
It’s crucial for pest management professionals to stay in constant contact with their team members. That’s where a collaboration tool can help.
“One tool we use pretty heavily is Slack,” Ewart says. Slack is a business collaboration application that offers team members a shared work space where conversations are easily accessed and organized.
“We use it as a communication platform,” Ewart explains. “It’s everything from an instant messenger to file sharing.” He says they often link their Slack channels with shared Google Docs. “For instance, we could have a spreadsheet that has information one person is going to update on Google Docs,” he describes. “If you pin that in a Slack channel, anyone else from the team can go into that Slack channel, check out that document and update it. So, it’s kind of a cool way to partner those technologies and make it faster to share information.”
Of course, Slack is just one of many collaboration software options on the market. There’s also Fleep, Swipe, Trello, Workzone and Google Hangouts, among others.
4. Innovative pest control software
Most pest management companies use some type of operational software to organize their routes, improve workflow and manage the overall business. Of course, not all pest control software options are created equal.
Ewart works with a relatively new pest control software called Fieldwork, a Chicago-based provider. “I’ve been able to work with them pretty closely to hammer down a real paperless experience,” he says. By creating a paperless workflow, Ewart says his company saves tons of time and reduces the probability of mistakes.
“There are a lot of handoffs of information during our workflow,” he explains. In the past, his office employees would create a record for each new customer and email it to a salesperson, who often had to duplicate efforts and add more information. This document would be sent around numerous times, with various employees adding, rewriting or changing information. “All that takes a bunch of time, and there are always opportunities for error every time you transition,” he says. “What we’ve tried to do is look at a paperless solution as really a way to streamline it. Now, when the person in the office takes down a customer’s information, that generates a lead that the salesperson uses. As the salesperson generates the agreement, they access the data that the office already put in. So, they’re not having to duplicate data entry or rewrite anything. Then, all the customer service folks have to do is accept the agreement and schedule those work orders.”
The most effective pest control software should eliminate unnecessary steps and simplify workflow. “It’s really about improving work processes and carving out the unnecessary stuff,” Ewart adds. “That’s the way that I try to approach technology. I think it’s important that you start by looking at the processes and then ask what technology would make this better—rather than start with technology and try to find a way to plug it in.”
5. Marketing magic
Not only does modern technology allow businesses to streamline their processes and work more efficiently. In many cases, it also gives companies the ability to reach a wider range of customers—namely via online advertising and marketing tools.
“We do a lot of pay-per-click advertising because that’s a tool we see clients using,” Ewart explains. These days, many businesses tap into pay-per-click (PPC), sometimes called cost-per-click (CPC), to drive more traffic to their website. Every time their ad is clicked, the business pays the website owner or a network of websites (think Google) that is running the ad.
However, Ewart stresses that PMPs should use caution before launching a major PPC campaign, particularly if you are an online advertising rookie. “PPC advertising is pretty expensive, and if you don’t have good data on it, you can spend a ton of money,” he explains.
Ewart says his company uses a data tool called HubSpot, an inbound marketing and sales software. “HubSpot can do a gazillion things from running marketing to tracking performance on PPC campaigns,” he says. “It’s somewhat complicated to use. So, if you don’t have any expertise, I wouldn’t recommend you use it because you’ll end up spending a bunch of money on it too. But finding a way to efficiently spend in those avenues is really critical.”
If you’re interested in running an online ad campaign, but you’re a PPC novice, you might want to turn to the experts. There are countless digital marketing specialists and agencies who would be happy to spearhead your PPC campaign.
“I think the technologies around advertising are changing really quickly,” Ewart adds. “So, if marketing is one of the things you care about, it’s important to keep up with the marketing technologies and trends.” A digital agency can help you do just that.
Not ready to dive into a full-fledged PPC campaign? There are plenty of affordable, easy-to-use marketing tools that could help you stay top of mind with current customers. “For instance, there’s MailChimp, where you can just send email campaigns to your clients and let them know what you’re doing,” Ewart says.
Ever-evolving tech trends
Of course, these are just a handful of the tech tools available on the market—and new offerings are emerging every day. While you may be tempted to purchase every cutting-edge technology that catches your eye, don’t fall into that “shiny objects” trap. Take time to carefully choose the right tools for your business—and more importantly, take note of what technologies your current and prospective customers are using.
“I think there are some cool and inventive things we can do on our side, but I still think the more important part of technology to pay attention to is on the buyer side,” Ewart says. “How do your buyers behave and what technologies do they use? It’s critical to pay attention to how your clients use technology and know where that’s going. Today, if you’re still advertising in the phone book, you’ve been left behind.”
By Amy Bell