Los Angeles PestPac User Meeting

This morning I’m in Los Angeles attending a PestPac technology meeting. It’s been too long since I last did a detailed analysis of PestPac software and felt it was time to get curreent. I’ve been using PestPac since 2002, having been an early west coast PestPac software evangelist.

Before the internet came to play a huge role in driving pest control service advertisement, it became a tool for internal customer service relationship management. Over the years I have advocated PestPac internet based software for any growing pest control company.

Few people within the industry have a clear understanding of information technology. It’s just not the forte of the typical pest control owner/operator. Many of the people I meet in the pest control industry are afraid to hand over a critical part of the business to an outside entity. They feel it is too critical to hand over to others, even if they are not as knowledgeable as the tech guys. While I can understand that argument, I don’t buy it. It is so much harder to keep business software running on a local platform than to keep it with a company with over 100 employees dedicated to this piece of software and the management of pest control company data. If a problem develops, PestPac is on the hook to make good and recover/restore data fast! But in 10 years, I only recall one occasion when the system was down for more than a few minutes. Can you say that about your own computers?

I love PestPac visual router, which has allowed me to reroute drivers frequently, in ways that non-users can only do once or twice per year. I also love the Voiceshot module, which allows a company to send out computerized messages to customers en mass, a task that could easily require full time workers dedicated to the task of outbound messaging.

Today, I’ll be looking closely at Pestpac’s add-on commercial services module, which could help us properly manage an expanding commercial department at Hearts Pest Management. I would also like to re-explore the GPS integration, without which I have found much of the GPS data available to a company gets ignored. Having data on your computer is good, but best is to have an integrated package that situates data on the screen where you need it when you need it. I also hope that PestPac will be presenting simplified and unified mobile services using common tools from companies like Apple. Unfortunately, PestPac hasn’t aligned with Apple as they should, being the absolute leader in end user appliances. Personally, I’m not comfortable with pest control service technicians being required to have multiple personal contact and service management devices in their trucks that need to sync up with corporate data. Hopefully I will be seeing comfortable, compact devices that without convaluted rigging will be able to manage PestPac data in the service vehicle real-time.

I drove up today from San Diego and arrived at 5:30 AM to beat the Los Angeles traffic. Now that I’ve got you posted, I can go over for breakfast. Wish me a productive meeting and I’ll report back later.

6 Responses to Los Angeles PestPac User Meeting

  1. jackson says:

    It was fantastic of you to present great points and supporting reasons.

  2. Gerry says:

    Thank you for reviewing my thoughts on Pestpac.

    Regarding the mobile application, I am still looking for less expensive alternatives. The PestPac recommended mobile device is an astounding $700 to $1500. Although it is not a product of PestPac, I am making a fair assumption that PestPac is making a commission when the purchase is made through them. I could be wrong about that, but I just don’t understand why they would pick such an expensive platform. One of the major costs of the mobile platform is the addition of yet another satillite connection with monthly fees. So we are looking at cell phone fees, mobile worker satillite fees and of course GPS recording satillite fees. Now it is possible to set up your cellphone as a mobile Wi-Fi and avoid additional satillite fees for the mobile work form system. You could likely tie the workform device to the mobile Wi-Fi or as I am thinking, I could connect a very nice Apple laptop with the capability to capture a signature. The value of the PestPac handheld is that by syncing data, the bulk of the entry is done quickly off-line, but the value of having a fully functional computer the dimensions of an iPad operating on the mobile cell phone Wi-Fi to me outweigh any benefits of PestPac mobile. That’s just my opinion.

  3. Robert Cody says:

    I wasn’t previously aware of this software package. I and my fellow workers will have to investigate this matter- it sounds like the PestPac system is a worthwhile investment. Much obliged for sharing this.

  4. Gerry says:

    Well, I’m glad I could be of help. I don’t think you’ll be sorry. I started with PestPac as a 2 man company in 2002. Now we have 12 employees. You can grow with it all the way to the top. Major pest control companies are using this software. They have hundreds of corporate accounts, if not more. For a mid-size company I recommend that you house the data at Pestpac’s server site. There is an option to house it at your office…. NOT!

    On another note. I checked out your website. Very nice. I see that you too have been testing out the Ford Transit Connect. I have one in service in Orange County, CA. I am happy with the gas mileage and with the advertising advantage of the Transit Connect. I am finding quirks that the service departments are not familiar with, requiring extra trips to the shop. We have had repeat problems with the brakes, dispite being well within weight requirements. The vehicle also gets odd water leaks into the cab. The ladder configuration is slick but expensive. The truck sits so high that it is necessary to have a sophisticated system to drop the ladders to the sides of the truck to make the ladders accessible to a person that is not exceptionally tall. Additionally, the conversion of a van to separate out pesticides was a lot of work. I don’t know how well that will go over at the time of vehicle sale. This truck is made in Turkey and while the van has been successful in Europe, I think it will have better acceptance in the U.S. market if and when Ford decides to manufacture the vehicle here in the U.S.

  5. Mike Flanagan says:

    I am really surprised to hear that you only have had PestPac go down for a few minutes once in ten years.

    Our system has been nowhere near this reliable. We have ~40 licenses, and I would say that the service goes down on average about once a month. To be clear, I am certain that pestpac is down, and not our internet or network.

    I think pestpac is a really terrible piece of software. I have found it to have many bugs (will log me in multiple times, which uses licenses, will be extremely slow several times a day).

    That being said, there isn’t a better pest professional piece of software available, and we have tried several.

    The only thing worse than having PestPac is not having PestPac.

  6. Gerry says:

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Pestpac.

    Ok, so it might be a slight exaggeration that Pestpac virtually never goes down, but it’s not much of one. I have been seriously…. extremely happy with both the lack of down time and with system availability.

    While our system does not have nearly the number of users yours does, I do speak not just from my 10 years with Pestpac, but also from a prior career of 15 years in information technology.

    Here are a few thoughts to consider.

    Have you ever noticed that the Google home page comes up faster than the Yahoo home page? Google has taken a minimalist approach to their home page. It’s almost bare. Now, Yahoo takes a maximalist approach. When you arrive on the Yahoo home page, it comes with news, weather, hot topics, etc. It will naturally take more time to organize and distribute that data to your screen.

    The same is true with Pestpac. If you are requesting a blank location screen, it’s going to be fast. Think of Pestpac as a limited resource, a car battery if you will. All the resources on that battery will drain it. If 40 CSRs are searching each for single location code information, it will be quicker than if you have 40 CSRs searching for people by their last names… and their last names happen to be Smith or Wallace or Kim, names that could easily return hundreds of locations. My name being Weitz, will return 1-2 names from a quick search. There’s a difference.

    Over the years, I have noticed that CSRs each think differently about how to access information. One CSR researching an order problem will go first to a location screen, type in a location and then pull up an order. Another one will go to the appointment screen, click on a location and then bring up an order. Yet another will enter the customer’s last name in location. There is always one way that is most efficient. And while Pestpac gives you multiple ways to access data, perhaps it is good to get an understanding from Pestpac as to the most efficient ways to access data and what activities will most drain system resources.

    With regard to multiple sign-ons for one person, I think you need to explore with Pestpac the conditions that cause this to happen. The obvious reason is one person logging in multiple times. So why do they do that? Perhaps one answer would be to have custom code created that checks for multiple sessions or perhaps a custom administrative screen so that you are constantly aware of licenses being used rather than discovering this only when the system is overloaded with users. By creating this code, you could also better monitor who is using multiple licenses. (People do need to be trained to log off Pestpac properly. There may be, or should be, a method to define a non-use timeout feature that you can manually alter, i.e. 5 minutes of non-use to time out of Pestpac). It is usually a minority of employees who use the system inefficiently and hog system resources. Perhaps some of these options already exist in Pestpac, but if not, sometimes you just have to kick in some bucks to create that bit of custom code. I would mention that before requesting custom code from Pestpac, you should ask how it would impact their conversion to .net based software. This is a total overhaul of their software. I don’t know what will happen to custom code in place as they head to the .net release of Pestpac.

    I would ask the CSRs who have logged in multiple times why they are doing it. Perhaps they are working with multiple customers or simply not wanting to look through various windows for the customer data, so they open up a new session? I don’t see why a CSR can’t simply save a screen and then flip back and forth between “Location History” for example. In summary, I suggest working with Pestpac to help explore the methodology with which CSRs are using the system to look for improvements.

    Now everyone is not using the same Pestpac features. It is very possible that certain features are not as well designed or efficient as others. For example, I don’t use the Sales Lead system. Perhaps you do. It might be that certain features are draining the system resources. You should check this possibility.

    I would also further examine physical data storage issues. Where is your Pestpac server? Are you on a shared server? Is it more or less efficient than other Pestpac servers? Perhaps a dedicated server would be helpful?… though I think the software usage, education and training is the first option.

    What do you use for connectivity to the internet? Do you have a dedicated T1 line? I understand that your internet provider and method of connection applies to all internet access and you are getting good access outside Pestpac, nevertheless, the bulk of information being pulled at your center is from one data point. I’m not a hardware guy, but you should examine network usage information. Your internet provider should be able to provide you with reports on that.

    Just a word about Pestpac. As you imply, you can’t live with it but you can’t live without it. Where else will you find over 100 technology professionals working together on one pest control software product, supporting it and constantly expanding its’ reach. We each benefit from many upgrades that happen without additional cost as Marathon Data Systems listens to its’ users and responds in order to keep their product highly competitive. It’s less frequent that you experience the “I’ve got to have it” moment when you decide to personally impliment a feature at your own cost. Another thing to consider…. Our companies have grown. Where else will you find pest control software that will grow with you from a one company solution to a national company without a conversion?

    I find the price point for Pestpac to be excellent for leading edge industry software with no hardware or maintenance headaches on my end. It’s their headache and they get paid a fair price for that. Their support team is there for you by email cost free. I have rarely had to use phone hours and almost always I’ve been able to keep it within my alloted support quota. While I’ve attended regional technology meetings, I haven’t attended any Pestpac conferences. If you haven’t gone, perhaps it is time to represent yourself there. But I think the best bet would be to put together a list of organized concerns and ship it by email to them. Get some structured responses with recommendations and plan from there.

    Mike, I hope this helps. BTW, I don’t get paid by Pestpac!

    Hope you conclude 2011 with good results and that you have a great 2012 pest control season.


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