Defining a Service Agreement
Service agreements sometimes go overlooked in the pest control field, but many operators depend on them to serve as the foundation of their relationships with their customers.
With a service agreement, “you’re making sure that there’s a document that says, ‘This is how we’re going to do business together,’” said Dauphin Ewart, president of The Bug Master in Austin, Texas.
Service agreements formalize the understanding of the work an operator will do for a client and the process that will guide that work.
“It’s going to set down the terms between the two parties,” Ewart said. “It’s something that can clearly help somebody understand what you’re intending to deliver.”
Matthew Blanchard, CEO of Cedar Pest Software, said service agreements can play an essential customer service and sales role.
“By being able to create a service agreement that demonstrates the value you’re going to provide to the customer, you’re really helping to prime them for the effects that they’re going to see whenever you do more services on their property,” Blanchard said.
‘An easy flow’
Andrew Burress, service director, Natura Pest Control in Nevada, said the structure of a service agreement should have “an easy flow” and include details about the pests involved, a “what if” statement that explains what happens should the pests not go away, scheduled months of service, cost, terms and conditions, and signatures.
There can be a tendency to make service agreements too complicated, leading to confusion for customers. Burress said “less is more” with service agreements.
“Too many companies try to hide things in small font, or stipulations for a promise made,” Burress said. “Short and to the point fosters trust between the business and the customer, and should it ever get into a legal situation, less is best. Hard to argue or claim something as a customer when the contract is simplistic in its promises and obligations. When the contract is very easy to read, it tells a story that the business has nothing to hide.”
A one-sided service agreement is an ineffective one, Burress said. Instead, service agreements must prioritize both parties.
“Do not build a contract out to protect you and only you as the business,” Burress said. “A healthy way to view contracts is a mutual agreement between customer and company—both having ownership in the successful experience of protecting the home against pests.”
Daniele Collinson, director of client experience for Blades of Green Lawn Care and B.O.G. Pest Control in Maryland, said a service agreement should set expectations for the customer.
“Sometimes, there are things that the customer needs to do to help prepare,” Collinson said. “And I think it’s really important to add that to the service agreement, because they’re expecting us to eradicate all of their roaches, but maybe it’s a hoarder situation, and so they need to clean up so we can treat the areas to properly eradicate. That needs to be outlined.”
Do not build a contract out to protect you and only you as the business. A healthy way to view contracts is a MUTUAL AGREEMENT BETWEEN CUSTOMER AND COMPANY— both having ownership in the successful experience of protecting the home against pests.
-Andrew Burress, Natura Pest Control in Nevada
Blanchard said too many pest control companies do not use a service agreement as a marketing opportunity or a chance to “pre-sell” the value that they provide to customers.
“The service agreement is really there to help kind of posture up the services that are going to be done by the pest control company and get the customers to understand, ‘Oh, here’s the state of my property right now. And here’s why I need these pest control treatments,’” Blanchard said.
Blanchard said the service agreement can feature pictures, videos and notes to make a compelling case for the value a pest control company can offer, serving as “a final cap” in the sales process. He also said companies can use an inspection in conjunction with a service agreement “to sell the customer the services that are the most efficient for them.”
“It’s a hard art to get right, but whenever pest control companies do get it right, and they’re able to stitch this into their whole process really effectively, there are massive benefits to come from that.” Blanchard said.
Not everyone favors service agreements for all customers. Blades of Green only provides a service agreement when a customer requests one. The company primarily sells over the phone, and the company prefers to save the extra step for its sales team of creating and sending a service agreement. The company typically sticks to a verbal agreement and sends a welcome letter via text with details about the services it will be doing.
“If the customer doesn’t feel it’s necessary, then we want to keep moving to assist our next client,” Collinson said.
Experts agree that using a digital format for service agreements offers major benefits. With digital, tracking down an existing agreement is fast for operators “so you have access to it when you need it,” Ewart said. “If you don’t do it, it’s a lot more work to make sure you stay organized.”
Digital formatting also aligns with how consumer preferences are changing, bringing agreements to customers via email and text for easy access.
“It’s really important to have digital versions of agreements because we are in a digital world and people want things to be readily available at their fingertips,” Collinson said. “Paper service agreements are great for some customers, but I would say our average buying customer in this day and age wants a digital version. And if they’re trying to decide between you and the competition, they’re going to want the one that’s right at their fingertips—that they can access easily—versus the piece of paper that they left at home and now can’t find.”
It’s really important to have DIGITAL VERSIONS OF AGREEMENTS because we are in a digital world and people want things to be READILY AVAILABLE AT THEIR FINGERTIPS.
-Daniele Collinson, Blades of Green Lawn Care and B.O.G. Pest Control
Ewart said using digital service agreements, which can be partly automated, saves on the time and costs of printing and delivering documents and reduces errors when compared to the use of paper.
“For us, digital agreements are really about time and consistency,” Ewart said.
However, there are important details to consider. For instance, some companies miss that an agreement that is easy to read on a computer might not be so clear on a phone or tablet.
“Your HTML person should create different versions for different devices,” Burress said. “If someone is signing contracts on a phone, you know that they are always going to be in a hurry. They aren’t reading the contract all the way through, and where they sign should be as simple as a few clicks. That is the attention span that phones have helped create in our culture. Anything more than a few clicks to be done signing a contract and you are creating a pit for that customer.”
Although digital can be the preferred method, Burress does not believe it should be the only option.
“You should also have paper form contracts with a way to scan them into a digital copy for daily office use,” Burress said. “Making sure that your target market has the easiest experience is the key. I have a large population of older clientele that do not like digital and still want paper. The system you operate with in your business should accommodate both.”
A digital component of service agreements can seem daunting. Ewart said he knows some pest control operators who steer clear of the service agreements option that is frequently part of software packages.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people who don’t understand their agreements feature, but it’s incredibly powerful,” Ewart said. “I feel like a lot of people don’t do this because they think it’s really hard. For a fairly small investment of time figuring out how to make the agreements feature in your software work, you could basically change your life around this question.”