Editor’s note: Cascade Pest Control still has its main office, but has found “small” offices that can serve many technicians in certain areas. Kurtz Treftz, superintendent of Cascade Pest Control in Snohomish, Wash., said it helps with supplies, but it also creates a new environment for technicians, field managers or Others provide a landing zone. Treftz shares his experience with this transition in the following feature.
When pest control—or most home service companies—first started out, it was usually operating out of the homeowner’s home. That was certainly the case with the 1979 Cascade Pest Control. But over time, if the company grows and adds personnel, then a suitable commercial office will be required.
However, unique to service companies, very few of the company’s clients visit the office location. The job—in our case, exterminating insect and rodent pests in the home—is performed by technicians using a service vehicle.
As the service company grows, so does its fleet.
The best service companies pay close attention to the needs of most customers. They focus on a professional approach to their work and develop high-quality service products that bring value to people.
Striving to respond quickly to customer needs, ensuring the good character of service personnel, and “correcting mistakes” when mistakes occur all contribute to the success of a service company.
If the company succeeds in providing a valuable service, it will continue to grow. This growth included growth in the number of service technicians, service vehicles and the company’s service area. Over time, it becomes difficult to get every technician into the office every day. In fact, getting supplies for various technicians, servicing their equipment and rigs, and other issues can become quite a pain.
Communications and Paperwork
When Cascade first started, there were no mobile phones. We started with pay phones and within a few years invested in a commercial radio system. A radio with a special antenna was installed in each truck, and a large antenna was installed on the roof of the office.
At that time, mobile phones were on the rise, but they were bulky and could only make calls. Every minute of calls and services is expensive. Having a radio in our truck – even though we share the “channel” with other companies – has been a huge bonus.
Obviously, now that each of us has a cell phone that supports voice calls, text messages, and even video calls, it makes communication very easy — and almost constant.
Additionally, the cell phones or tablets carried by our service technicians are essentially mobile data terminals with active access to account information, schedules, maps, and more. Paperwork is disappearing. Cash collection is at least discouraged, if not unacceptable. A paper check is OK – if you can upload an image of it and deposit it directly. Of course, charge card accounts handle most of the money processing.
But beyond that, using digital client company agreements and paperwork is virtually virtual.
But with that comes the issue of monitoring, resupply and maintenance of the equipment. How do you do this with as little disruption to their service plan as possible, allowing them to stay in your client’s home or business to take care of them?
After all, this is the company’s livelihood. As your service company and the scope of its services expand, it appears that you will encounter certain limitations and limitations.
Creative and Mandatory Solutions
COVID-19 restrictions are forcing video conferencing in one form or another – forcing creativity. However, information is not lost when connecting several geographically dispersed service technicians. Phone calls are great, but glitches after more than two or three participants. Need to manage web-based meetings for large groups.
It helped, and it still helps; however, there was still a need for “face time”—literally, spending time in each other’s presence and having direct training or mentoring.
Renting storage space for household items is a good first step. This “pre-distributes” all supplies to two or more locations, where field workers can stop by regularly and get what they need, when they need it. …near their line. Supplies and equipment are available.
Dedicated equipment can be stored for those occasional, unique services, or it could be a matter of temporary spare equipment that three different technicians rely on on a daily basis. That way, if a person’s device fails, they can replace it reasonably quickly and move on.
Multiple office spaces also help. Although more expensive and harder to justify, there are definitely advantages to having two or more small office spaces where your field supervisors, field salespeople or distribution coordinators can work.
Small offices are perfect for technicians with nearby routes to stop and call, especially when working on a cold, wet winter day or a sweltering summer day. Managers who work strictly out of the vehicle have some serious limitations when they need to keep accounts, interact with technicians, or report to superiors.
It was important to provide field managers with a space to meet, make calls or work with technicians without having to go all the way back to corporate headquarters. Typically, what we found at Cascade is that a small pilot office in another city might have a service manager using it for the first half of the day, and a salesperson or distribution coordinator working there the second half of the day.
Cascade Pest Control works great at times and intermittently at other times. Growth in the services business has not been a steady upward trend. In fact, what might be most noticeable is the sudden vertical step you arrive at that seems unmanageable.
If a pest management company chooses to evolve, it will inevitably encounter stages of development which, unless mastered, will somehow cease to be effective. Utilizing technology and a service center or micro office are legitimate tools that can be called upon.
The challenges of growing a company are many, but a constant focus on possible ideas is critical. At Cascade, we may consider certain solutions for weeks or months, and many ideas may not end up being worth the investment. Thinking outside the box can provide the occasionally needed answers.