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Disrupting Pest Control: Using Technology to Iron out the Bugs

Ryan Robertson, co-founder and CEO of Bittn, shares how their 21st century customer service allows them to outsmart bugs and their competition.

It wouldn’t be incorrect to suggest that the pest control industry has become a little bit outdated. It’s one of many industries that hasn’t really changed for several decades, so we thought we’d take a fresh look.

At Bittn, we started with a vision to be different. We really wanted to ‘challenge the norm’ — it’s actually one of our key values — and to be a purpose-driven business. We knew the pest control world was outdated — stuck in the 1980s and ready for something new. We developed a goal to help shape the industry for today, rather than doing things the same way they were done 40 years ago.

That goal has shaped our brand positioning, our customer engagement and the technology we chose to make it a reality.

We’re also changing the way pest control is carried out and the products used. Until now, pest control has meant covering homes with toxic chemicals. But these toxic times are over. Instead, we use science combined with the latest technology to get rid of pests. That means delivering pest control with precision.

The result is a great improvement for families, pets and the environment. We call it Smarter, Safer Science and in terms of purpose, we think that’s about as good as it gets.

How we changed customer experience

It was quite an exciting moment when we decided to evolve Bittn into a national brand. We wanted the brand to be different, to be special.  We recognised the opportunity to really change things. The bugs haven’t gotten smarter. But we have. 

We wanted to smash existing market expectations, but actually it began quite simply by listening deeply to what customers wanted.

We began by redesigning service delivery. We did customer research to better understand what our customers wanted, looking at it through a modern—day lens.

That meant creating customer journeys that worked with people’s lives, rather than the old style of service that involved customers waiting around at home for a technician, who may or may not show up on time (or at all!).

It meant offering real—time alerts around potential appointments or unavoidable delays. It meant the customer getting on with their job, while we do ours. Excuse the pun, but essentially we were getting rid of all the things that bug people about dealing with pest control businesses. 

We also looked at how we onboard and communicate with customers. Whether we’re working with a new home builder, a strata manager, a real estate manager or a consumer home owner, the communication absolutely must be personalised. For this we planned a transformation, in partnership with Salesforce.

How we use Salesforce Field Service

We’re going through that transformation right now. Over four months we’ve migrated every key department. We use Pardot for marketing, Sales Cloud for our sales team and Field Service, which was implemented in partnership with ProQuest Consulting.

The integration of all of this customer data has allowed us to leverage workplace optimisation to intelligently assign jobs to the right resource. That has been critical. When you’ve got a client on the phone and you need to give them a time option, you can’t just physically scour through a schedule to find a time.

Being able to have available appointments automatically appear has been really important. We can create business rules, automating appointments by location, time or expertise.

We can now guarantee that every part of the business is speaking to each other. We can also guarantee personalisation of communication no matter how or when a customer gets in touch with us, across their entire journey and lifecycle.

We’ve used Salesforce Field Service for everything from sales appointments to service contracts. One of the biggest areas of improvement has been around sales. Salespeople are fantastic at selling, but they’ve traditionally had a difficult time scheduling. Previously, we’ve had clients who want to buy, but can’t find an appointment. That has now completely changed.

A single click, thanks to the power of AI, offers all available appointments. That changed things for us overnight.

Our emergency response time has improved across the board because we’ve been able to correctly schedule the right technician to the right job every time, even when technicians work across two time zones.

This has heavily benefited our recruitment process. When we talk to candidates we’re even able to guarantee more time working in their local area rather than long, frustrating drives. The technology allows us to reduce their travel time and optimise their work time, which is good for everybody. 

In the first 60 days we saw a 30% decline in travel time. That has a real impact not just on revenue but, more importantly, on the quality of the work and the amount of time our technicians can spend with customers to design tailored solutions.

The bottom line

How has our tech—fuelled customer obsession worked out so far? Very well, actually.

Our growth rate is more than ten times the industry average. 

Within pest control, average business growth is between zero and three percent. We’re averaging 30% to 50% growth year on year in an industry worth $1.5 billion. That is a result of our dedication to customer experience, and the tech we’ve employed to make it real.

We’re only using cloud—based products, so scaling and working from anywhere is not a problem. 

I think back to when I first stepped into business, having barely turned 18 and we had two calendars on the front reception desk, one for new appointments and one for renewals. Our records were kept in spreadsheets and vital customer data was hidden in emails.

Then I realise many businesses still run that way. 

More exciting than what the tech has already done for us is what it will do in the future. We’re looking at how we can expand our use of AI and machine learning, and what we’ll be able to do with Einstein Vision will be huge.

It’s a very exciting time for us, and for the industry. Watch this space!

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