Managing your pest control contractor

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Your first thought might be – why would I want to do that?
But are you making the most of your money and ensuring you’re getting the service you think you’re paying for?

When you buy anything you want to get good value, therefore it stands to reason that if you know a little about the service that you are paying for, it will be easier for you to ‘run the ruler’ over it from time to time.  It’s standard business practice after all, and comes under the banner of good housekeeping.  The consequences of ineffective pest control can be damaging and detrimental to your business, so here’s a few pointers to help you police your pest controller and establish if they are the real deal.

Detailed survey

This should be undertaken before any work starts.  A professional pest controller would spend time looking in all sorts of out-of-theway places where pests could hide.  A site survey is really important to establish:

  • The size of a problem
  • How it should be tackled
  • What contributory factors exist (hygiene and pest proofing issues)
  • What ‘self help’ advice can be given to the prospect/client
  • What health and safety issues exist on site.

A good survey will take a reasonable period of time – it’s not a five minute job and certainly shouldn’t be done over the phone.  Ensure your contractor is taking the time to survey!

Routine visits – make sure you get enough

The industry standard for routine pest control inspections/treatments tends to be eight visits a year.  Common pests can reproduce every month or so, therefore a good inspection on a six or seven week basis will find signs of new pests, and a ‘nip it in the bud’ solution can be delivered before the problems gets out of hand.  The routine visit frequency needs to be relevant to the pests that are either active at the time of the survey or that are likely to become an issue, ensuring a precautionary system is set up to detect and control.

If you have been sold on the need for 8 visits a year – evenly spaced to interrupt common pests breeding cycles, make sure that this is happening.  However there has been a move by naive companies to quote for lesser frequencies of routine visits – therefore enabling them to present a lower quote.  Simple?  No – not really.  It may be cheap but if you consider the breeding cycle issues of pests this may actually be placing your business at a higher risk of pest problems.

Planned follow-up visits for infestations

If a pest problem is discovered on a routine visit, remedial work done on that visit should not be deemed ‘enough’ to cure the issue, and further follow up visit should be made a week to ten days later to ensure the problem has been dealt with.  The danger of failing to return for a follow up visit will make getting to the root of, and solving the problem, even harder.  This could also cause a pest to consume a pesticide, but not enough to eliminate it (known in the trade as a sublethal dose), which in turn can lead to tolerance and eventually resistance to the pesticide.  In general terms, to not follow up on an infestation is unprofessional and bad practice.

Regular inspections of all areas

This may include the cellars, roof voids, false ceilings, storage areas, back office, front of house and manufacturing areas.  This takes time, so please be prepared to pay a reasonable sum for a good quality job. Beware and stay away from quotations that seem really cheap, because quite simply the job will not be done properly for such a small amount of money.  It won’t be done for very long at that rate and the price will either be revisited fairly quickly or ‘extras’ which cost the earth will begin to appear.  Or (and it has been known) the company doing it on the cheap will simply go out of business – meaning that you have to go through the hassle of finding another company all over again.  Ever heard the expression ‘buy cheap, buy twice’?

Inclusion of detecting devices/monitors

Good pest control is NOT about placing bait boxes – it’s about what is happening in between them.  It’s all down to the ability to spot signs of pest evidence, therefore beware of a pest controller who arrives on site solely asking to be shown where the bait boxes are.  Bait boxes and insect detectors are important, but they have to be seen as a monitoring device that aids the pest control measures/regime and not simply the sole pest control measure.

The contractor has a torch close to hand

Finding pests involves looking in dark, obscure places, so to do this properly your pest controller needs to carry and use a good quality torch.  This is perhaps the most important tool of the trade.  The other real basic requirements to find pests are ones that don’t actually cost anything – they are eyes that see and knees that bend, and a thought process that is constantly asking “Where are they now?”  With respect to locating pests, bearing in mind that many pests are nocturnal and to control them you have to take the pesticide to the pest, rather than just putting baits out and hoping the pests are going to find them.

Wearing gloves

Pests are vectors for all sorts of diseases (e.g. Weils disease contracted from rat urine which, if it gets into an open cut, can cause some nasty illnesses including damage to the liver and kidneys, or lead to jaundice) so it makes good sense for your pest control contractor (who engages with pests and pest harbourages many times a day) to wear good quality disposable gloves.

Regular reporting from your contractor

A legible report should be produced and discussed with the relevant member of your staff.  Unfortunately, in many occasions the responsibility for the ‘report book’ falls down the chain and ends up with a secretary, a security guard or even a cleaner.  The contractor should raise the profile of the work that they are doing and ensure this file is kept with a senior person in your organisation – senior enough to authorise relevant remedial works to address pest problems.

The pest risks to a business change with the seasons and sometimes day to day, so there will always be something that your contractor could and should be advising you on to reduce pest risks.  A company that never speaks to you about a concern that they have could be labeled as simply ‘going through the motions’ and concentrating on delivering the number of visits that are set out in the contract but no more.  Does this service level sound familiar?  Your contractor should provide non-cost or very low cost observations/comments to protect you and your business.  These are everyday occurrences and it’s always a little odd to see a report book with no recommendations in it for years, so make sure you’re checking yours and that your organisation is acting on the professional’s recommendations.

Professionally trained personnel

Look for evidence that the contractor you use (or consider) takes training seriously.  The old adage of ‘if you think training is expensive, try ignorance’ applies.  A good trade association, such as BPCA, insists all members prove they have the required training and qualifications, so check if your contractor is a BPCA member to ensure they meet proper training requirements. Trained contractors kept updated with industry relevant knowledge are more likely to deliver a good quality piece of work when they visit your site.

Ask for copies of training certificates for the service team that will be visiting your site, along with copies of that year’s training plan.  If you want to be extra picky, ask for copies of the points that your service team have achieved so far that year in their Continuing Professional Development (CPD) scheme.  All of these requests should be easily dealt with by your contractor.  Finally, make sure you contractor has intimate knowledge of any industry standards you need to abide by, such as the BRC or supermarket guidelines, so that they can meet and exceed these rigorous standards.

Expect to keep the same technician

The quality of the technician that comes to visit on a pre-determined frequency is absolutely vital.  This technician should be (90% of the time) the same person.  If you are getting a new person three or four times a year what does that say about your contractor?

If the technician you normally see changes (and there could be legitimate reasons for this) how does the new technician know what the intricacies of your site are as far as the pest control situation is concerned, the key staff involved, and other considerations such as health and safety? Good companies will get the outgoing technician to accompany and ‘handover.’   This is not a luxurious approach – this is a responsible practice and is supremely customer focused.

Quality assurance checks

Check that quality is being delivered out in the field by periodic site checks made by the technician’s manager.  This should be an added benefit (within the cost) of the service agreement.  Client satisfaction questionnaires can take place over the phone, often these will be towards the start of a contract period but good companies will repeat this throughout the business relationship.

References

Have you been provided with references relevant to your organisation?  Ensure these are current clients of the contractor.  Most importantly, ensure your pest control contractor is delivering the service you’re paying for.  Service staff that visit your site should:

  • Carry out an excellent pest control inspection – (not just checking baits)
  • Maintain pest monitors on site in a clean, palatable and effective condition
  • Carry out any relevant treatment for pests activity found
  • Provide relevant recommendations to reduce pest risk to your business – this may mean additional cost, or may not
  • Foster a good working relationship with you, the customer – after all, you pay their wages!
  • Ensure you understand the ongoing need for such a vital public health service

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