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Pest management partnership: characteristics of a good pest management company
Patricial Hottel, BCE, writes…
A successful partnership between a pest management firm and a food facility can span decades. When the right pest control company is selected and retained over the course of years, the seasoned knowledge can reap multiple benefits in the prevention of pests. But how do food facilities know if a pest control company is the right fit for them?
A food facility must consider a variety of characteristics they'd like in a pest management company. Then they need to evaluate different providers before selecting a new pest management provider or enhancing services with an existing provider. Finding a pest control company that satisfies the facility's specific criteria can lead to a desirable, long-term partnership.
Customer service is important in the day to day pest management experience and even more critical when issues arise. How will the firm perform when there is a problem? Will the response be timely with an important sense of urgency? These are questions to consider when examining a company's customer service performance record, which can help predict how responsive they will be to your needs. Evaluation metrics can include NPS scores, social media reports, and even more valuable, personal referrals.
Is excellence the expectation? How does the pest management company verify expectations are met? A firm should have individuals assigned to quality assurance. There should be formal processes in place including scheduled reviews of documentation, program maintenance and an assessment of effectiveness. At minimum, an audit should be performed annually, but complex facilities will require more frequent reviews. This can be conducted by dedicated individuals, management or a combination of the two.
A common question that pest management professionals receive from food plants is: "What's new that can help improve our program?" The pest management firm should be dedicated to finding the best tools and solutions available for clients. A recent innovation trend in the industry includes the use of electronic pest monitoring equipment. These sensor alerts provide information on pest activity and basic pest behavior 24/7. They can be useful in uncovering the root cause of a pest problem. Additional benefits of this technology includes increased safety and time saving when monitoring hard to access areas like upper beams, interstitial areas and roofs. This eliminates the need for required fall protection and lifts to access these areas. Sensor alerts can also reduce traffic in sensitive production areas or labs where special PPE may be required to enter. Like electronic monitoring devices, there have been new developments in LED light traps and pest monitoring cameras as well. Pest management companies that are on the forefront of testing these technologies should be strongly considered as a pest management partner as they will be early adopters of new tools and strategies to enhance your service.
Along with the best in tools and strategies, pest management companies should have well-trained and knowledgeable service specialists trained and supported by designated technical and training staff. The skills of board-certified entomologists may be needed when more advanced identification of insects, insect fragments or pest evidence is found. These types of services can be particularly important during questions of product contamination. Pest control companies with technical staff can also assist in services like training and development.
Good written and verbal communication skills will be required to build a successful pest management partnership. The specialist performing the service must have good communication skills along with the right systems to support accurate and timely communication. Pest management firms will vary in the type of documentation packages offered. Electronic documents can provide easy access to the records, whereas some programs will offer superior trending capabilities. Look for systems that make the data easy to access and provide quick snap shots of pest activity through visuals like graphs.
Service offerings and capabilities:
Pest management is not just insect or rodent control. There may be a need for controlling birds, vegetation or wildlife. In the food industry, the ability to fumigate is also important. Seek a company that is multi-faceted and skilled regarding these ancillary services.
As you would expect from your own employees, a safety-first attitude is needed from the pest control specialist entering your facility. Reviewing safety performance and ensuring the pest control company has the proper safety credentials to operate equipment, such as lifts, that may be needed on site should be part of the screening process. The specialist should be trained and in compliance with safety requirements, like confined space entry and lock out tag out.
The pest management staff will need to understand and comply with food plant related regulations. This includes good manufacturing practices and the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The pest control specialists will be required to comply with these laws as they relate to personal practices and formulate programs to keep the facility FSMA compliant. The pest control firm will also need to be licensed and abide by all laws relating to pest management.
Last, but most importantly, trust is one of the most critical criteria of a good pest management provider. Assurance will be needed in ensuring the program will be delivered as promised. That doesn't mean client oversight is not needed, but it can reduce the burden. However, it's important to remember trust is not one sided. The pest management professional will be part of the team like every other facility employee. Together, all pest management program participants will share the responsibility, so it is essential to instill trust. Not only must the food facility be able to trust that their service specialist will effectively execute the program, the service provider must also have trust in the client to fulfill their part. A program will operate effectively when both sides are engaged, capable and executing their roles. The ability to trust that both parties are equally invested and performing as required, is essential in a longstanding pest management partnership.
2nd July 2020