Taking care of the things you can control in business is the best way to be prepared for events that are beyond your control. This philosophy proved its value to Bruce Morgan, owner of Atlas Exterminator based in Cockeysville, Maryland.
Back in 2005 and 2006, the housing market collapse challenged all Certified Sentricon Specialists™. For Atlas Exterminator it was a major hit.
“A large portion of our termite business was doing real estate inspections. I had two guys doing eight or more inspections per day, and we were getting one termite job out of every 10 inspections,” Morgan says. “We did this business right and enjoyed a steady volume for years. But when the housing market collapsed, we lost more than half of that business almost overnight.”
Atlas Exterminator suddenly was top-heavy on company overhead.
“The only thing that kept my head above water was the reliable income stream from renewals of the Sentricon System,” he says. “Our retention rate was more than 90 percent. We had put a lot of effort into retention. Focusing on customer satisfaction produced a loyal income base.”
One factor to gain a 90 percent retention rate is the Sentricon® System itself, Morgan says. Sentricon is clean, reliable and cost-effective. For all those reasons, liquid treatments for Atlas have dropped from half of the company’s termite work to less than 10 percent today.
Another big customer retention factor is communication, he adds. The company’s 700 customers who use Sentricon need to be reminded of the value of the service.
When Atlas Exterminator was using Recruit® IV termite bait, it was natural to tie customer communications to the quarterly service, Morgan says. When Atlas Exterminator moved to Always Active™ technology with Recruit HD bait ― to take advantage of the service efficiencies ― an alternative way to stay in touch with homeowners was needed. Morgan’s solution was quarterly postcard mailings along with two service visits per year, one mandatory service and a second optional one.
Postcards mailed every quarter use content provided by Dow AgroSciences to remind homeowners the Sentricon System is in place to protect their property. The important thing is to mail them each and every quarter, Morgan says.
The annual service inspection is the main opportunity to inform homeowners about the service status. Atlas Exterminator uses PestPac software to generate an automatic report that details what the inspection found, the past service date, the current service date and next service date.
“Our service reports are not a cursory-type thing like a door hanger with boxes that have been checked off. All that tells you is that someone hung something on your door. Our reports are detailed. Each Sentricon station is inspected and the results by station are on the report. A customer could actually see if we missed a station. The reports state if there has been activity or if bait has been replaced. We feel this is beneficial to take a little bit of time and effort to give detailed information,” Morgan says.
One quarterly postcard offers homeowners the option to have a termite inspection on the inside of their home. These inspections are done during the winter months when termite work slows and, for the sake of consistency, by the same technician who services the Sentricon stations around the home. Inside termite inspections are a big opportunity to meet with homeowners face to face.
“Our goal is ongoing communication with the customer,” Morgan says. “Building trust is critical, especially when there is so much competitive pressure. The customer is paying for top-level service, so we are there for them. If someone has an issue, we are responsive. And our communications reinforce that fact.”
Today, the housing market is stronger. Morgan says one opportunity is reselling the Sentricon® System to new owners of an existing property where it is already in place. To help do that, the company offers the home buyer the option of a discount for a single payment or a payment plan, if that is what they prefer.
Despite the ups and downs of the housing market, Morgan says Atlas Exterminator enjoys a retention rate of 92 percent for the Sentricon System.