Stacking the odds in our favour: Understanding the extent of the problem and setting the expectation for the client
Often the constraints we work with determine the extent to which we can deploy all of the available control methods. That’s what makes ant control challenging and why successful ant control is rarely achieved by DIY remedies. That is great news for us as Pest Professionals but in no way makes it easier for us to satisfy our client’s expectations. For example, some sites do not allow us to deploy residual sprays because they are sensitive in nature (e.g. hospitals) or restricted by their construction (e.g. units). We often find there are limited voids in which to deploy dusts or simply the source of the ant problem is outside our jurisdiction.
What do I mean by that?
Many ant species have the ability to forage large distances and we can often find that the ant problem we are being asked to address is coming from outside the property boundaries which we have been asked to manage. This immediately creates an imbalance between our ability to achieve control and our client’s expectations.
As discussed last issue, ant control whether it be, domestic or commercial in nature has no silver bullet. With ant control consistency to approach is the key to success.
Whenever we approach a job we must address a number of important questions.
Why have we been called there?(What is the problem in the client’s eyes?)
You may find that the client wants the ants controlled just inside and are not worried about outside. As the pest professional, it may be important to treat outside if you believe the source of the internal problem is from outside. However if you determine that the ant activity outside has nothing to do with the internal problem this will immediately reduce the scope of the treatment. In this situation, why treat these areas if the client doesn’t expect or require it.
Where and when do they have this problem? Ants are not always visible all day. For example a restaurant may only see them during and after food preparation. An appointment first in the morning may only show part of the problem.
Ask your client what their expectation is of the service?
This is really important to understand so that once your inspection is complete you can determine the likelihood of achieving this result OR allow you to reset their expectation.
It is now time to conduct your inspection. As pest professionals and business people, time is valuable and the temptation is always to pull the trigger before inspection but I cannot emphasise the importance of this step enough. As little as 10-15 minutes of intense site inspection (more is always better of course) will be invaluable in determining the extent of the infestation. Starting where the problem was reported by the client try to answer as many of these questions as possible
Why do you think they are there?
If it is a food source what type of food is it, sugar, oils/fats, protein?
Where are they coming from? Look for trails. Are they just inside, outside coming inside, or outside only?
Combining at least these 2 bits of information together along with the physical attributes of the ants themselves will go a long way to identification.
We are now in a position to predict possibly where ants maybe nesting. (single site or multiple sites). If we find the location of the nest/s we have a far greater chance of success and will likely control the infestation much faster than if we try to control an ant infestation remotely. We can also predict the size of the infestation/colony
We are now in a position to address the following and communicate our plan with the client?
· Why they are there.
· What are they feeding on.
· Where are they coming from and possible nesting locations.
· The extent of the infestation.
· Set the expectation of the client.
If the expectation can be met, armed with this knowledge you will be confident of predicting a favourable outcome to the client. However, if the answers to some of these questions are not able to be determined, at least you can begin the service by setting a realistic expectation with the client.
“I have determined that you have an infestation of White-footed Black House Ant. They are attracted to the spills created around the coffee machine and the post-mix taps. They are coming to feed on the sugar in these areas. I know that this species is coming from next door and possibly beyond. They can travel large distances and are a complex colony species with to deal with. Without being able to treat nesting areas directly we may not be able to control the colony. However, I can deal with the ant problems in your building and provide some immediate relief. We can improve the sanitation procedures around the machines so they are not so attractive and with some regular services we can manage the problem for you.”
As you can see, the expectation with the client has now been set. Under those conditions you are confident of delivering the result and the client is clear what the goal is you have in mind. If there is a problem with your proposal (and there could be), you are now at least in a position in which to work from. The alternative of listening to the client and “pulling the trigger” (i.e. putting in place a standard treatment program) sets the expectation with the client of success no matter what.