An unexpected benefit

Tuesday, 01 December, 2015

An unexpected benefit

Field Service Business editor Dannielle Furness spoke with Visili Tsoutouras, Director at AllState Pest Control.

Field Service Business: Tell me a bit about AllState Pest Control.

Visili Tsoutouras: AllState is a family-owned business. Dad started the company in 1986 and I joined about 12 years ago. I started out as a technician, moved to office sales, then field sales, and eventually took on a management position and progressed to managing director.

FSB: Your background in the field must provide valuable insight when it comes to making business improvements.

VT: Absolutely. All successful pest control companies have someone at the top who understands the intricacies of the business. Naturally, you have to be able to manage people, but you also have to understand what happens out in the field, the challenges faced by the techs and what the impact is on everyone back in the office as well.

FSB: How many field staff do you have on the road and what is the geographic spread?

VT: We have a total of 18 technical field staff, as well as four sales field staff, who will follow up on quote requests and provide customer service. We have people on the road across South Australia.

FSB: What about the back office — how many are supporting the mobile team?

VT: We've got another seven staff, four of whom are directly supporting the team out on the road.

FSB: At what point did you realise that you needed to implement technology to streamline your processes, or to better manage the dynamic between the in-field and office teams?

VT: Day one, but I spent years researching it. I looked at programs developed specifically for the pest control industry, from local offerings to the US. All of them were about 70% there, but nothing quite hit the mark. It came down to small stuff — say, the ability to take two photos of a project when we required 15. Most of the products on the market were rigid and couldn't be adapted to meet our needs, or modifications were added to a list of potential future improvements, which may take years to come to fruition.

FSB: What helped you narrow down your requirements? Was it customer expectations or internal drivers, such as wanting to optimise service performance?

VT: Actually, it was a bit of everything. We needed to implement something that was all-encompassing. We didn't want three different platforms for each area of the business. Some of it was customer driven — particularly from the commercial sector. Commercial customers expect pretty specific things, including trend analysis reporting, and they want online access to that type of information. Some industries are really specific — such as the area of food safety and the corresponding auditing requirements. We see commercial as our biggest potential growth area. Equally, though, it was driven by internal needs. We only have so much control over pricing, so we need to find efficiencies within the business — wage costs keep increasing, so we needed to find ways of keeping other costs down. Obviously this is achieved through automating processes where possible and removing mundane, monotonous tasks — who wants to photocopy, scan and file in this day and age? The solution we eventually went with (MyFLO) either immediately addressed, or was easily adapted to fit, our needs.

FSB: What's the greatest challenge for your business moving forward?

VT: For our business it's wage pressure, above and beyond everything else. Of course we have other costs, such as chemicals and vehicle costs, etc, but the big one is wages.

FSB: How do you ensure staff churn remains low?

VT: We've never had an issue with staff — our people tend to be loyal. We have noticed, however, that implementing a new software solution has given our mobile team a sense of autonomy. They feel they have ownership and are able to benchmark themselves against their co-workers on things like customer feedback. At the same time, management has complete visibility. It's been an unexpected benefit.

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