There are thousands of ants - black, red, crazy, army, fire, leafcutter and carpenter ants. Chasing those small six-legged bugs around can make a pest expert buggy, and sometimes insensitive to customers. But it shouldn't.
"Not everything about our business is about killing bugs," says Michael Dean, business partner at Barrier Lawn and Pest Inc. in Nampa.
Becoming a pest control expert is not as simple as grabbing a can of bug spray, flypaper and ant traps.
Experts take classes from the Department of Agriculture, earning certification and renewal credits.
Dean says it starts with background and education - being able to identify the problem and understand proper control measures and application. That's the simple part, he says.
It's what comes before the customer's call that really matters, says Dean, along with his brother and business partner, Kirk Dean. Together, they decided great customer service produces new customers.
That point is illustrated by a customer review on Barrier Lawn and Pest that a home health care professional recently posted at bbb.org . He wrote to thank the technician who treated his clients' carpenter ant problem.
The reviewer wrote that his clients bought common ant traps for home use, but they weren't certain if this was the right remedy.
"In talking with Mike at Barrier, he said he would go out free of charge and take care of the problem," the customer writes. "When he arrived, not only did he put the traps out, but he also sprayed around the whole house after he talked with them."
What Mike Dean discovered was that the couple lived on a fixed income with limited finances. The ants were a minor concern; peace of mind in knowing their home was safe was the major concern.
He says: "For us, we kind of keep it really simple. We have a formula for how we deal with our customers. Always answer the phone, show up on time and be there after hours. It shows we're always dependable."
The customer feels their home is the most important home you have to work on that day, and Barrier employees are taught to respect that feeling.
Technician training includes how to communicate - not simply address issues, but talk with the customer. Listen. Learn about their issues and concerns and investigate.
"And then, reporting on those issues back to them," Dean says.
Feedback is essential, he says, because it completes the communication circle: "It's not how to kill an ant or take care of a spider problem, but focusing on how we communicate. That's what sets us apart."
Dean says any number of businesses put customer service at the forefront, but for a small business, it's how to survive.
"On a daily basis, we're talking about how to deal with and meet the needs of the customer and how to address it," he says. "You try to do the simple and basic things, like answering the phone - it pays off."