“How is Tinkerbell doing?” This one question—asked of a customer when a Rottler Pest Solutions employee called to schedule service—made the customer’s day. The pest control company was asking about the wellbeing of the customer’s 50-pound Rottweiler—but it also showcases the type of customer experience the company strives to provide.
The family-owned, soon-to-be third generation business has 220 employees, of which 130 are field technicians. The company’s definition of an excellent customer experience is simple, says Ashley Heavrin, director of customer experience. “They call us because they have a problem, and we are the experts who can solve that problem,” she says. “When we are at their home that day or the next, and we take care of the problem, they are happy with their experience.”
But there is more to a great experience than just eliminating pests, admits Heavrin. Making sure they deliver the value they promise—fast response, pleasant interactions with employees and a consistent experience with all contacts at the company—are important, she adds. “We are big on metrics and measure all aspects of our customer interactions,” she says. The data is displayed in scorecards that are reviewed by the executive team and shared with mid-level managers in all weekly meetings.
Managers take the information back to their techs in their meetings. “We celebrate our accolades and evaluate our negative feedback to discover how we could have made the customer’s experience better,” says Heavrin. Some of the key metrics for Rottler are:
- Time to answer phone calls—the goal is within 30 seconds
- Time to service after initial call—the goal is within 24 hours
- Number of callbacks
- Customer reviews
When customer reviews are included in metrics, don’t just stop at reporting the number of positive versus negative reviews, recommends Heavrin. “I take about 45 minutes each day to read every customer review because sometimes a positive review also mentions something that would have further improved the experience,” she says.
Throughout 2020, customers were not meeting technicians in person when they arrived onsite, so Heavrin noticed a trend within positive comments that indicated a desire to see what the tech found. “Based on these trends, we are starting to have techs take photos and share them with customers,” she says. The company is also making some database changes to support storage of the photos for a period of time so techs can review them at subsequent visits.
Just sharing photos with customers is already having a positive effect, says Heavrin. A recent review from a customer with a wasp problem: “Chad made the whole experience worth it even when I’m all the way in Minnesota and my wife was at work. He sniffed out the issue we were having with the wasp, identified where they were coming from and went to work. Sending pictures of confirmation and his communication was with the upmost respect. I recommend this company to anyone having any insect issue. Very professional and yet makes you feel comfortable that things will be ok.”
In addition to carefully reading customer reviews and tracking trends, become a customer, suggests Heavrin. “Go to your website and see how easily you can find information on services or scheduling,” she says. “Also, ask your employees for feedback because they know what customers are asking for and what they need in order to help customers.”
Heavrin has found that Rottler customers “love their techs.” Every effort is made to keep technicians with the same customers and to make sure that customers know the name and receive a photo of the tech before their arrival. “We also encourage our techs to go above and beyond when possible, which strengthens our relationship with the customer and improves their experience,” she says. Examples of excellent service include changing a light bulb when the tech notices a burned-out light in a basement they are inspecting or bringing a trash can up to the house. “We also ask techs to include notes in the customer file that help every Rottler employee personalize our interactions with the customers,” she adds. “That’s how we know one of our customers has a very large dog named Tinkerbell!”
CUSTOMERS ARE THE REASON FOR THE BUSINESS
When Andrew Richardson started Edge Pest Control 13 years ago, it was easy to evaluate a customer’s experience and take steps to ensure that it was an excellent experience.
“It was just me and my truck,” explains Richardson, founder and CEO of Edge. “The challenge is maintaining an excellent, consistent experience as a company grows,” he says. Edge has grown from one person and one truck in Colorado to 19 locations as far west as Portland, Oregon and as far east as Chicago, Illinois. The company serves 110,000 customers with nearly 600 employees.
His company’s growth and continued success is a simple philosophy that “the customer is the reason for the business.” Richardson explains, “We are here to take care of the customer, not complete a set of tasks, provide a product or make a sale.” While every department interacts with customers differently and has a different perspective on the customer experience, everyone’s role affects our ability to take care of the customer’s needs, he adds.
“A couple of years ago, we had some new vehicles delivered, but there was a delay in getting the vehicles registered and licensed,” says Smith. “We were able to use this situation as a real-life example of how the delay impacted our service specialists who needed the vehicles and customers who needed services.”
“We meet weekly with leaders at all levels to review our customers’ experience,” says Mitch Smith, COO of Edge. “When a customer has a bad experience, we look at our processes to find out what we could have done to prevent the bad experience.”
A key to identifying opportunities to improve is to understand each step of the customer’s journey, from the initial call to the completion of service. One of the more common errors made in customer service relationships is the transfer of a customer from one department to another to resolve a problem. Smith says that they want customers to know that if they are talking with an employee in the billing department and mention that they still have a problem, they will finish the call with the reassurance that “Edge will take care of this.” In this example, the billing department employee has the authority to reach out to service to schedule the follow-up visit—requiring no transfer of the customer from one department to another.
Training, CEO talks and regular meetings always discuss the importance of everyone owning responsibility for customer service, says Richardson. “Because the goal is to provide an excellent customer experience, we pay attention to handoffs from one area to another,” he says. “For that reason, we have overlapping responsibilities for different roles.” For example, sales personnel are not just evaluated on sales but also on whether or not the service was completed. “The service specialists are also responsible for completion of service, but we want our sales staff to understand their responsibility as well.”
An excellent example of an Edge employee taking responsibility for the customer is the story of one service specialist who showed up to perform a service at a customer’s home. It was a rural area in the midst of snow country after a significant snowfall. “He was able to get his truck to within one mile of the customer’s home and could go no further,” says Richardson. “He grabbed his equipment and walked to the house.” Needless to say, this employee won employee of the month, he adds. “The employee said he did not want to have to call and tell the customer to reschedule because a delay was not what was promised to them.”
BY SHERYL S. JACKSON