Friday, January 9, 2015

The 'Uber-Effect' on Pest Control?

Many PMPs choose to forgo using any type of software, and stick to manual input methods when it comes to daily business tasks. Software exists in the field to make our lives easier, allowing us to focus more on the quality of work we perform everyday, as opposed to getting bogged down in repetitive or time-consuming tasks. 

There are a multitude of options for PMPs to consider when it comes to choosing a software solution for their business. One thing that's rarely taken into account though when making this choice, is what kind of features are customer-facing -- that is, what are functionalities available for the consumer to interact with, as opposed to just the service provider back in the office? After all, why choose a software solution that your customers might end up hating to interface with?

To learn more, we teamed up with Software Advice, a company that researches and reviews pest control software, for a new report that dives into this very topic. They identified the most requested technology preferences of residential service customers. These include the ability to track the technicians before they arrive at their scheduled appointment. The popular taxi-alternative Uber utilizes a technology just like this, which has catapulted them across the country. Another top-requested feature is a robust customer portal that includes online bill pay and appointment scheduling. Software Advice developed their report to help residential service companies identify and understand which software capabilities will not only improve the customer's experience, but possibly even motivate the customer to hire one service provider over another.

We spoke briefly with pest control market researcher, Justin Guinn of Software Advice, who compiled the report after surveying more than 8,000 residential service customers in the United States:

Considering the data from your report, what would you say are the implications that pest control business operators should consider?

“In short, residential service business owners, including those in the pest control industry, need to consider current and potential customers’ perception of their company. For better or worse, a typical measure of this is technology. While your business might be operating just fine with little-to-no technology integration, consumers might take this as an indicator of an outdated business. Nonetheless, our data points to the fact that they’d be more inclined to hire a business based on their software usage and offerings. For example, a majority of our respondents (58 percent) say the use of technician tracking capabilities by a service provider would increase their likelihood to choose that business for the job. This is a feature that allows customers to pinpoint exactly when their service provider will be arriving, whether it's on-time or even a little late. It eliminates the need to be home in that three hour waiting window for the technician to show up.”

What's one of the most surprising findings that came from the consumer responses?
“Surprisingly, over a quarter of our older millennial respondents (25-34 years old) indicated that residential service companies utilize technology poorly to improve experiences. This was surprising at first since millennials are supposed to be tech and software hounds... How could they not like it folded into their residential services experience? Well, a likely answer to why the data came back this way is that millennials have much greater expectations when it comes to the functionality of technology. They expect things to integrate and work seamlessly, not to mention, be aesthetically pleasing. The takeaway here is it’s not so much about simply offering the software functionalities to consumers, but having the right technology and software for your business and your target customer audiences. It’s about doing it right, whether that means signing a signature on an iPad, or paying a bill through an easy-to-use customer portal.”

What should be the residential service industry's priorities moving forward?
“Moving forward, residential service operators should consider the positive benefits of adopting customer-facing software; not just in terms of business operations, but also as a means of gaining a larger client base. More specifically, the industry should be targeting customer pain points that we now have the technology to fix. Technician tracking is a perfect example of this. I understand unexpected things can of course come up in the field that can have a domino effect and delay other jobs. But given the GPS technology available today, and the propensity of smart phones, reducing the window of arrival should be prioritized for the customer. This, for example, can have a multitude of benefits; both customer-facing and operational. Geofencing technology was highlighted in our study for this very reason. Essentially the same technology that connects Uber drivers to riders, geofencing is a tracking mechanism that sets digital boundaries in which technicians may cross in and out of. As they do so, their GPS enabled devices notify and log the information back to the main office. This is the technology that would enable the “technician tracking” functions that respondents said they wanted. Aside from notifying customers about updated arrival times, geofencing has many operational benefits as well.”

Find out more about the Austin, Texas-based Software Advice and the pest control software solutions they review, and check out their full report for further information.