How do you get fewer callbacks in pest control after service?

Updated: Nov 17

Ant control can be a challenge for anyone, even experienced pest management professionals (PMPs). Success depends on identifying the correct species, finding the nest, determining the ideal treatment, and eradicating the colony.

No matter how long you've been in the PMP, you've likely encountered a callback (or two) in an ant management job. However, you can develop a strategy that will help reduce the number of recalls, ensure customer satisfaction, and even boost revenue.

1. Communication

There are many skills a modern pest control professional must use honestly to ensure a positive customer experience, says Cameron Brennan, owner of Brennan Pest Control in Pensacola, Florida.

He recommends talking to your clients, and being realistic about expectations. It is especially important when the source of the problem is in an inaccessible area, such as a neighbor's yard. If the involvement of neighbors is not possible, then communication becomes critical.

Explain the situation, offer possible solutions, and draw up a plan your customer can follow, he says. They'll appreciate your candor, and you'll spend a lot less time on the back end, backing away.

Brennan, an industry veteran who opened his pest management company in February, speaks from his experience. Once, a customer complained that all the ants had died. Now, he's educating clients so they know what to expect after treatment, too.

We're professionals, and we need to know how long our treatments will be effective, says Brennan.

Take the client on a tour of the structure and explain why it is important to remove favorable conditions, he says. Explain how simple steps such as cutting the lawn, keeping vegetation off buildings, storing dry pet food in airtight containers, cleaning grease on the top and sides of stoves, and cleaning behind and under the refrigerator will help keep ants away. Doing so will allow clients to own their positions for a lasting and positive outcome.

He says that being honest in all situations is the best practice. Earning a customer's trust one service at a time, and then maintaining that trust, is critical to future revenue and business growth.

2. Cooperation

For Schafer, ant management services during the high season represent about 20 percent of his company's revenue. In the event of heavy rain in the off-season, his company can generate up to

22% increase in ant service calls. Schafer attributes the increases to clients who don't have some sort of maintenance program: When the ants arrive, it can be a significant infestation that will generate one or two additional treatments, especially if not set up properly.

Even customers with maintenance plans need to collaborate with his technicians to help manage pests. He says preparation is key, as 98 percent of the time, problematic customers are the ones who have refused to comply with technicians' requests for better conditions.

Few of our clients think we need to do anything because we offer pest control. They hired us and thought it was entirely up to the pest control company to treat the ant problems, says Schaeffer. But we all know that success is a 50/50 proposition.

Convincing clients that ant management is more successful through their cooperation can be a challenge.

Most customers understand pest control is a process, not an event, but there are always a few who want an immediate fix, says Jana Clause, director of the Natura Pest Control office in Vancouver, Washington.

3. Education

Claus says her team explains the ant management process to clients, including how the results won't be immediate. Although technicians may be inclined to promise that the treatment will work immediately, clients will likely see an increase in activity for a short period before the ant population decreases, then stop completely.

It can be hard to give clients realistic expectations when they want a magic wand, says Klaus. It is better to be honest from the start than to make a promise based on false hopes.

Oftentimes, impatient customers may try to solve the pest problem themselves, which makes the task of the PMP even more difficult. Klaus says it's important to make it clear to the impatient client that using any other products during the treatment will slow down the process.

We've seen people heavily use window cleaners, bleaches and disinfectants to kill

She says the ants they see. When customers have an understanding of how non-repellent products work, they are less likely to fall back into those unhelpful habits.

It is also useful to explain the behavior of ant queens, describe the colonies, and determine what the products used will do.

Anytime we can educate our clients about this process, we find that it increases our success rate with them, she says. Being honest and giving the right expectations from the start is the best for us and the client.

4. Dedication

Allocating the right time to service and scheduling a follow-up service when needed is key to Jeff Weidhaas, ACE, Director of Technical and Safety Training, Bruce Terminix, Greensboro, NC.

Setting up follow may seem counterintuitive to a PMP, because most of us don't earn a penny for a return. Weidhaas says, but we don't make a penny for making the five angry service calls that come from a "ready to cancel" customer because we haven't fixed the issue either. I would invest in one follow-up to provide four additional service calls in any month.

Wiedhas says his company's ant services have continued to increase steadily over the past several years. Now, ants account for more than 75 percent of Bruce Terminix pest control revenue, and it's the main reason its clients—and more importantly—receive pest control.

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