Weathering the Choices

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Whether to work or not to work during inclement weather, that is the question for service companies as they send out their truck fleets to do business each day. There are schedules to keep and money to be made. There are new customers with all sorts of weather related issues.

Today is an unusually wet day in southern California, where we expect “May gray,” but not downpours as we have had the past 24 hours.

In the rainy weather it is common to get calls from homeowners who hear rats and mice in the attic. Ants don’t like heavy rain as well. They sometimes feel that their colony is threatened and will move it inside, abandoning flooded areas. People stay at home in the rain and notice those inside problems readily. Those people will want inside service even while they tell you they will not have the outside treated and want you to make a second trip to finish what you started.

As pest control companies, our work often revolves around weather related issues and we need to be prepared for that. The strategy you use can have a huge impact on business. As mentioned, there are customers who will demand that you come out in any weather or specifically because of it. There are many pest control customers who will be very upset and angry for your having come out and servicing in the rain, feeling that the treatment was wasted.

The pest control company always needs to keep the 4 wins (management-workers-customers-community) in mind. Whose problems are we solving by sending our crews out in heavy rains and whose are we making worse? Short term, more revenues might (I say might) be generated by servicing in the rain. But in the almost immediate future, you may suffer angry calls and cancellations from rainy day services. Communications can go a long way to solving this problem. You can explain service on rainy days if you change your formulations to materials that activate and hold up well in the rain. After all, our liquid formulations are highly diluted. So using granules that are activated by rain water is logical. But a pest control company should never be violating pest control regulations regarding activities that would cause contamination of our waterways. If there is moving rain and winds, placing your crews out there will not only anger customers, but may also result in serious fines. When you keep your pest control crews out in this weather, you are not thinking about your customers or your community.

Pest control workers also have something to say about work under rainy conditions. They are on the front line. They know that customers can be lost, because they are the ones that hear it from customers at the door on rainy days. They are also the ones with injuries due to slipping on wet surfaces and sick days due to working in cold, damp conditions. They are the ones stressed out on the roads dealing with crazy drivers who make no distinction in their driving habits between rainy day and clear day driving.

If statistics show that driving accidents are up 100% on rainy days, you can be sure that accidents involving fleet trucks are also up 100%. That can mean truck damage, vehicle and manpower downtime, workmen’s comp injuries and even a potential Hazmat call.

So is it worth it? Each and every rainy day these thoughts race through my mind, over and over again. We all want to satisfy customers needs for timely and emergency services. We need the revenue. If schedules are backed up we’ll have problems on clear weather days too. So where do you draw the line? Weathering these choices could make or break your company. One rule we have at Heart Pest Management is to delay drivers from beginning their day until after rush hour on rainy days. Where traffic is insane, like Los Angeles, the delay could last until 10AM. We will also call all service staff in the middle of the day and order them off the roads.

Four years ago we experienced a workmen’s compensation injury during rainy day rush hour traffic, just 5 minutes from a technician’s home. That decision lead to the pest control technician being rear ended, receiving a severe whiplash injury and eventually recording a $200,000 workmen’s compensation claim for a neck injury. That money comes from profits. It takes a whole lot of rainy day work to make up those types of claims. And remember that, at least in California, where we have a “no fault” system, the default is to place the burden of claims on the employer. Workmen’s compensation rates are based on company statistical injury loss experience, not fault. Your automobile insurance will not cover injuries that are the fault of another driver in a workmen’s compensation claim. The claim will be divided between the other company’s automobile insurance carrier and your own workmen’s compensation carrier. But the real caveat is that many of those at fault drivers are non-insured or under-insured.

So consider carefully when and if you send out your drivers the next time it rains. Either way you may lose business, but some of your choices may hurt more than others. Ask yourself what is the responsible thing to do for others (your workers, your customers and your community). That will usually be a good guide as to what you should do for your company.

I encourage you to comment and share this post with others. Don’t be bashful, we don’t bite.

2 Responses to Weathering the Choices

  1. David says:

    Great words of wisdom. Enjoy the reminders of our industry.

  2. Gerry says:

    So good to hear from you on the Hearts Consulting Group blog! … and thanks for chipping in with your thoughts.

    Keep in touch.


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