A pest control entrepreneur tells Siti Syameen Md Khalili how technology can help improve service quality
WHEN Stephen Liu started his business in 1985, he was only 24 and newly wed. The maverick Liu not only quit his job a few months after his honeymoon but he also managed to convince his wife to leave her job and help him start a pest control company.
“Our parents did not like it. Even my boss asked if I was sure I wanted to resign as I had just got married. I then convinced my wife to help me, which was the right step forward. After all if you can’t convince your wife, how can you convince your customers?” asks Liu, CEO of Ridpest.
The company gained 30 per cent in net profit in its first year of operations and today, it continues to grow. It has its headquarters in Wangsa Melawati, Kuala Lumpur, a sales outlet, and three other franchise offices in Selangor and Johor.
To compete with nearly 400 other pest control companies in the country, Ridpest’s unique selling point is a “double money back” guarantee for termite extermination.
“When I started, I had four years experience in pest extermination products and services. I’d seen what pests can do to hotels, restaurants and homes. I believed there was a market for good pest control service,” says Liu.
There are many types of pests, from mosquitos and ants to cockroaches and rats.
Business is brisk. From its headquarters alone, some 20 Ridpest technicians are assigned each day to conduct extermination services according to zones, while its sales team goes out to secure new clients. Another team handles customers’ calls and inquiries and two more employees are dedicated to telemarketing.
To manage its operation, Ridpest uses a cloud-based, end-to-end system called ProLive Core.
Replacing the manual method of doing things, the system enables the sales team to key in customers’ pest problems and to produce quotations on the go via its complementary Android app. The customer then views the quotation via email and signs a servicing contract. After this, the customer’s data is relayed to the technicians and servicing appointments are set. Complaints and special requirements are also easily documented into the database.
General manager of Ridpest, Joshua Leong, says: “Our operations are greatly enhanced by this system as we can schedule appointments for clients, manage servicing hours and routes as well as collect data such as the time required for each servicing session so that we can quickly schedule services for the next month. The data helps us become more efficient at managing service, clients and our employees as we go along.”
He adds that the company decided to invest in information technology and software 15 years ago. It spent 10 per cent of its profit on IT investment in the initial stages.
“As we progressed and the system is enhanced further, our IT expenditure has now decreased to just three per cent. It may seem expensive in the beginning but in the long run, the decision has helped us become more efficient and enabled us to keep in touch with our customers’ needs,” adds Liu.
Another technology that the company has adopted is the use of thermal cameras.
“This detects heat so we use it to look for signs of termite activity behind wooden surfaces such as wood flooring, cabinets, door frames and such. Using a thermal camera allows us to properly identify the location of the termites so that we can place baits in strategic places. It saves cost and avoids unnecessary drilling,” says Leong.
He adds that the company believes in continuous IT spending in order to build a stronger brand.
“We are now spending on social marketing strategies and we have benefited a lot from many Google products. Our emails are backed by Gmail, while our schedule is on Calendar. We also spend on Adwords campaign and we’re looking into YouTube next,” he says.
In the effort to make Ridpest as a respectable global pest management company, Liu hopes to offer more efficient, eco-friendly and innovative solutions to customers.
“We will continue to improve our services so that we can continue to satisfy our clients,” he concludes.