Pest control experts say educating customers is the hardest part of bed bug control.
However, your ability to get rid of the pests will be far greater when you have their help as an informed partner, whether it will prepare the site for treatment or stop the bed bug reintroduction cycle.
Bringing customers on board is a special skill of Tom Sieminski, owner of the Pest Control team in Sayville, NY. He’s a former high school biology and chemistry teacher and once an educator, always an educator, he says. “I still teach,” he adds.
Like many in the industry, Sieminski got involved in pest control “accidentally”. The teacher wanted to make more money and started buying and renting houses. He asked his friend, who carried out pest control on these properties, to teach him how; The friend said he couldn’t, but encouraged Sieminski to take the certification course. It didn’t take long before Sieminski carried out pest control as a “moonlight” task for his school colleagues. When he retired from class in 2002, he entered pest control full time. He now has five technicians and works in New York City and Long Island.
HAVE THE CONVERSATION. The most important conversation Sieminski has with customers before starting work with bed bugs. Here he sets expectations and explains the biology of bed bugs so that they understand the reason for mattress covers, the timing of follow-up examinations and “why the dryer is your best friend”.
He allows one hour for this interview. Customers ask a lot of questions and you have to be able to answer them all, he emphasizes.
“I make sure I am patient and I listen to your questions. I sense their fears and try to make them feel better. When you make someone feel better, there is a greater chance that they will trust you, listen to you and follow the instructions you gave them, ”says Sieminski, who learned this by coaching youth basketball.
He suggests five steps to get customer support:
1. Say you are sorry. If someone calls and says, “I think I have bed bugs,” Sieminski’s first response is, “I’m so sorry this happened to you.”
“I give them my empathy first. By the time I say that, I can already hear her lungs expand and she say, “Oh, thank you for telling me you understand what I’m feeling.”
2. Tell me everything. Next, Sieminski asks the customer to tell him everything and not leave anything out. He wants to hear the customer’s story. For example, where the client recently visited or who visited her, how she traveled when bed bugs were first noticed.
During this time, “I put everything together, kind of like a detective,” he says. Sieminski thanks the customer for sharing and asks if it is okay for them to ask some questions now. He then becomes “the one who overturns the stones that they forgot to tip over”. The most important questions he asks include which rooms the customer sees as hotspots, where the suitcases are stored and in which cupboard items can be quarantined. “I’m starting to get them to see me doing my side to prepare for what I need to do,” he explains.
3. Link treatment to fault biology. When Sieminski explains how the treatment works, he not only says that he will spray the XYZ product here and put the ABC product there. Customers don’t understand what this means. Instead, he explains how his treatment strategy synchronizes with the bed bug biology. In this way, customers can clearly see why they are using products in certain areas, why they are being checked, why mattress covers are being installed, and why items need to be placed in the dryer in high heat. It uses simple terms (not technical jargon) and explains what the treatment will do.
“Then I say to them, ‘Are you feeling better? ‘and usually I get, “Yeah, I feel so much better now that I’ve talked to you,” he says.
4. Explain their role. He then asks customers to check the bed bug information on his website, but not to confuse their internet searches with his Masters degree. Then he laughs and says that at the end of the week he will send the client a quiz “so they’ll know I’m still a teacher” and that they have some homework to do.
“I also try to teach my clients that they have to become part of the team” and that they have responsibility for the treatment to be successful. Sieminski is asking customers to download the website preparation guidelines from their website. If they cannot or do not want to prepare themselves, he tells them he understands and that arrangements can be made for his team to prepare the site.
5. Discuss the price last.
Finally, Sieminski visits the residence for an inspection. “I’ll give them the price at the very end when I’ve finished the inspection,” he says. He also takes time to answer additional questions from the customer.
“We take care of very discerning people,” says Sieminski, whose wealthy customers include professional athletes, celebrities, lawyers and doctors. While his bed bug work comes entirely from word of mouth, many PMPs emphasize the benefits of the service in their bed bug control marketing efforts.
According to the PCT 2020 State of the Bed Bug Control market survey, sponsored by Bayer and conducted by the independent research company Readex Research, certified technicians (61 percent), excellent control (57 percent) and a service guarantee have key marketing messages (49 percent) and free inspections ( 44 percent).
The author is a frequent contributor to PCT.