Terminix is a $1bn revenue business unit of ServiceMaster, a global consumer services company. The business is the market leader in pest and rodent control services alongside Orkin. Terminix employs roughly 8,000 technicians who make over 15,000 visits to homes and businesses per year.
As Terminix has grown over the past few decades, there have been a number of technological innovations that have allowed the business to operate more effectively. Historically, when technicians began their day, they would have their schedules set for the day, and it would be very difficult to communicate if a technician was running behind schedule – something that actually occurs quite frequently in the pest and rodent control business, given the variability and lack of predictability across jobs. Technicians are now all given cell phones so that they can call customers if they are running behind schedule.
Simply giving technicians cell phones was certainly beneficial for customers by increasing communication and thus improving customer service. More recently, Terminix has developed an incredibly useful app for technicians that has given them greater transparency into their schedules and made their jobs much easier. A technician’s schedule is now uploaded to his phone each morning, which allows him to not have to come into the branch office each morning to pick up a printed copy – he or she can head straight to his first job of the day. The app also provides the driver with GPS directions to each job, helping make technicians even efficient in between scheduled jobs.
Terminix customers are also encouraged to download a customer app. The customer-facing app allows people to track the location of their driver to see exactly how close to the scheduled appointment time he or she will arrive. The app also allows customers to easily book appointments in the event of an emergency rodent or pest sighting. Finally, similar to the Uber rating system, customers are able to rate their technicians and provide feedback based on their visit.
There are still a number of things Terminix could be doing on the technical front to make their technicians more effective. Safety is one of the biggest concerns for Terminix management. Very unfortunately, there were two deaths associated with fumigation jobs performed by Terminix employees. There was also a situation in Puerto Rico in which a fumigation job was done improperly such that the family in the unit above the fumigated unit was poisoned. While none of the four family members perished, three were left paralyzed and brain damaged. The family had been vacationing with a U.S. Senator at the time, making the case very high profile in the media. In order to help prevent future issues, Terminix should consider creating mandatory safety checklists built into the technician app that the worker must complete before heading to the next job. Terminix should also consider building in some sort of visual confirmation requirement (i.e., technicians would be required to take and upload pictures) to prove that they have actually completed the proper safety steps.
Another feature that Terminix should consider building into the technician app to help improve safety is the inability to operate the app while technicians are driving towards a job. ServiceMaster paid over $20 million in insurance related costs in 2015, largely related to technicians’ poor driving records. One can only speculate as to the reasons for why Terminix drivers have had so many issues, but it would not be a stretch to suggest that by disabling their company phones (with the exception of GPS directions) while driving would improve safety records on the road.
Terminix has made great strides in utilizing technology to make their technicians more effective at their jobs. The consumer-facing app has also made it much more convenient for customers to book orders, track drivers and give feedback. However, Terminix should continue to invest in technology in order to improve its safety record.