How Exit Interviews Can Enhance Your Termite Service

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How Exit Interviews Can Improve Your Termite Service

Scott Monds began his first day as General Manager of National Exterminating earning an ear from former termite renewal clients.

“I called her and asked her, ‘Why did you fire us?’ Basically, I was conducting exit interviews,” recalls Monds, who wanted to know what the company did wrong to lose the business. In 2015, he made about 200 of those calls, up to five a day, between his other duties for the Newport News, Virginia-based company.

Surprisingly, former customers welcomed the exchange opportunity, were generally friendly, and accepted Mond’s apologies for not correcting the matter before leaving. “The customers were very open to me and I could say, ‘Wow, I see a pattern here,'” he recalls.

Specifically, he learned: “We are much better at communicating with customers than what we do.”

He also recognized that assuming customers knew anything about termites was a huge mistake. He found that some past clients didn’t know what termites look like, why they are attracted to structures, what termite care entails, or why homes need constant protection from the pests.

“We have been in business for 45 years. We just got complacent and thought everyone knew what we were doing,” Monds explained, “to add value to the customer.

The loss of termite customers isn’t unique to National Exterminating. Pest control companies have lost an average of 21.5 percent and retained 78.5 percent of termite service customers over the past five years, according to the PCT 2022 State of the Termite Control Market survey sponsored by BASF and compiled by Readex Research, an independent research firm .

To improve employee retention at National Exterminating, Monds prioritized communication and made it part of the company culture. Since then calls from angry and confused customers have been “drastically reduced to almost zero” and fewer are late with payments, he said.

Better communication has led to stronger partnerships with clients who no longer see National employees as “just that guy or girl that crawls under their house once a year,” Monds said. Employees also learned to appreciate the power of good communication and how it can protect the company from liability, he said.

Monds shared with PCT five lessons he learned from listening to past clients:

1. Write reports in lay language

Customers don’t understand the jargon. For example, looking at annual termite inspection reports, they had no idea what an indication of “discoloration” meant for their home or termite protection.

“National is very fortunate to have employees who have been with us for 8-10-15-20 years, but that also comes with a small problem. The problem is everyone’s been doing this for so long they forget we speak a different language,” said Monds, who worked in the wholesale closet supply industry before joining National Exterminating in 2011.

To change this, termite inspectors have been trained to produce more detailed reports in language that the homeowner can easily understand, and to provide photos. This helped homeowners better understand specific issues that needed attention, such as: B. Standing water in the crawl space.

Additionally, inspectors began recording moisture levels in the reports, providing homeowners with a point of reference. “If you have 25 percent wood moisture content, that’s probably an issue” that needs to be addressed, Monds said.

At weekly meetings, staff discussed what made good and bad inspection reports and swapped samples from each.

© Boris Roz | Adobestock

2. Identify issues of concern

Don’t assume customers will read the inspection report even if it’s well written. Unfortunately they are discarded because life is busy. However, this also means customers are unaware of issues that termites may attract or that additional termiteicide application may be required in certain circumstances.

In exit interviews, people told Monds that if you had just told me, surely we would have improved our termite management or taken steps to fix the moisture problem. Instead, they were surprised and annoyed when swarms cropped up or they had to fix moisture issues while trying to sell the home, even though these issues had been documented in reports for years.

Now, National Exterminating office staff reviews each inspection report and addresses concerns with customers. They explain what the inspector found and ask if a senior inspector can come out to investigate further. Until now, it has been up to the customer to read, interpret and act on the report’s findings.

This extra note was incredibly successful. “That was the communication that customers needed,” Monds said.

3. Improve the inspector’s soft skills

Termite inspectors are not typically hired for their chatty and outgoing demeanor, but for their thoroughness and accuracy. “I realize they sometimes feel awkward talking to customers,” Monds said. And some of its inspectors were pressured by former employers to sell, making them less willing to talk to clients.

For the past five years, Monds has worked to make this group more comfortable interacting with customers. The aim for them is simply to let the client know what they saw during the inspection and if they found an issue of concern to ask if they could ask a lead inspector to take a look and offer a solution.

The approach is simple. “No pressure at all. That worked very well,” said Monds. In addition to termite service, National offers moisture control and wood repair services, and removes spray foam insulation to create termite inspection gaps.

4. Explain how termite treatments work

Many past customers believed the termite inspector performed the treatment during the annual inspection. Others believed that termite treatment lasted forever. They “just didn’t know” that eight to 10 years after the initial application, additional treatment might be needed, Monds recalls.

To fill this knowledge gap, National Exterminating began explaining in more detail what happens during the inspection, how long termite control lasts, and why additional treatment may be necessary (a termite infestation, soil disturbance, etc.).

Taking back the homes of long-time customers resulted in stronger termite protection and happier customers. It also increased revenue. In 2021, more than 660 existing termite renewal customers paid for additional treatments, a $354,000 boon to the bottom line, Monds said.

5. Take a public service approach to education

Homeowners probably don’t know what termites look like, and they certainly don’t understand how some choices can reduce their home’s termite protection.

This became clear when Monds learned that for 10 years, a customer was eliminating “those bugs,” aka termite hawkers, year after year without notifying the company, which is a requirement of National’s termite guarantee.

Customers are your partners, so you need to educate them, Monds reminded. To help, National Exterminating developed a flyer to show customers what a termite, mud tube, and small swarm look like in a window. It’s very visual and presented “like a public service announcement,” Monds said.

Likewise, the company warns customers about spray foam insulation: how improper installation can void their termite warranties, limit their ability to retire property, and prevent homeowners from securing termite/wet letters needed for real estate transactions.

Editor’s Note: PMPs must remember that label is the law when performing termite treatments. If you have any questions, contact the product manufacturer.

The author writes regularly for PCT.