How to Choose a Professional Exterminator Company
Selecting a professional pest exterminator company can be a confusing task. Services offered can greatly vary in quality in the professional exterminator industry. Companies also have varying service offerings. Some companies offer guarantees; some do not. Some perform general pest and termite control; others do not.
The most important first step is to select a company that is best for you. You want to feel comfortable with the exterminator company that you select. There are some criteria that you should consider as you try to find a professional exterminator company. The following three steps will help you screen professional exterminator companies.
Always deal with a qualified and licensed professional exterminator company.
Even though a company might have nice vehicles, attractive business cards, and sharply dressed employees, there is no guarantee that they are qualified to perform pest exterminating or pest management services. Most states require personnel to be trained and certified according to state requirements. Certification requires knowledge of pests and pest control or extermination. Some states require that the company is licensed depending on the regulatory structure. These are certifications and licenses are not occupational business licenses; these are licenses to perform pest exterminating services and are usually issued by the state agriculture department or structural pest control agency in the United States and the provincial pest control regulatory authority in Canada. Feel free to ask for copies of certification or licenses issued by the pest control regulatory agencies. Virtually all states require liability insurance as well. Don’t hesitate to ask for a copy of the declarations page of the insurance policy. Larger companies might be self insured and they can provide financial responsibility information. Finally, ask how long the company has been in business. There are stable companies which have been providing professional exterminator services for over a hundred years.
Only evaluate pest control companies that are members of national and state pest management associations.
Membership in national and state pest management associations show that the professional exterminator company has invested in the industry through funding training, public affairs, and research. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA), founded in 1933, is the only national association dedicated to the professional exterminator industry. To verify that the company is a member of the NPMA, go to www.pestworld.org. State associations are generally affiliated with NPMA and if a company is a member of NPMA, they are automatically a member of the state association. This applies to most state associations. Not all states have associations with about five sparsely populated states having no association. New England states have joined together to form a single association. There are also local associations which provide local training. Larger cities usually have local associations and these might not be affiliated with the NPMA or state associations. Ask if the company is not only a member of the NPMA and state but ask if the company is an active member and then verify that.
Consider an NPMA QualityPro company.
The exterminating or pest management industry has developed a voluntary program to raise the level of professionalism in the industry. Participation in this program means that the company has gone the extra mile by investing funds in additional training and record keeping beyond the requirements of the state regulatory agencies. The program requires that companies have proper contracts, educated and experienced service personnel, and will engage in best pest management practices. Selection of a QualityPro company provides that extra peace of mind for the consumer. Visit www.npmaqualitypro.com for more information.
Ways to Evaluate the Pricing of an Exterminator
Exterminating or pest management can be a very emotional topic. When ants, rodents, flies, termites, or roaches invade your space, there is a high level of stress. On top of the stress of the pest infestation or potential infestation, dealing with an extermination company can add to the difficulties. There are a few tips that can help reduce the stress and to allow you to make the best decision.
Realize that not all extermination services are the same.
Each company may have their preferred method of managing pests. There are multiple technologies available to handle pests and a good company will be able to explain their preferred methods and why they choose those methods.
For example, for subterranean termite control, most companies offer a baiting system which involves the installation of stations containing a bait material which the termites feed on and then carry to the colony to control it. Another choice is the traditional liquid treatment applied around the structure.
The third choice is to treat wood with borates. This can be confusing but ask about the exterminator company’s preferred methods and ask them why. Also, pricing will vary by pest. Control of termites using a traditional treatment may cost thousands of dollars as the materials and labor are extensive, while controlling a few roaches in a kitchen may cost a tenth of a termite job since time and materials are dramatically less.
Ask about training of the technicians and technical staff.
Larger national companies have award winning educational programs for employees which service your account. The courses include biology, customer service, extermination techniques, and safety. The best professional companies employ technical staff including at least one scientist trained in the science of extermination. Ask if the company you are considering has degreed scientists on staff and review the scientists’ resumes.
You might save a few dollars by using a company with no degreed technical staff, but you won’t have access to a scientist if the need arises.
Buy value, not price.
The price of extermination can be confusing to the average consumer, especially when they know that they can buy the control product at a hardware store for one tenth of what it costs to hire an exterminator. The main cost of services, just as with most service industries, is the cost of labor.
Today’s pest technicians are educated, experienced, and knowledgeable. They also must have properly maintained vehicles, insurance, state agriculture department licenses, and of course, costs associated with employees such as taxes, benefits, etc. Just as with any profession, the cost is not the material used but the cost of education and doing the job right. This is why it important to not just look for the cheapest company, but rather the most valuable to you.
Be wary of the exterminator who comes to your home uninvited and offers to inspect your house for free for pests.
While good and honest companies might go door to door as part of their marketing, do your homework. This suggestion is not just to protect your pocketbook, but to protect you as well. Inviting someone who you didn’t call can be risky, so ask to see their credentials from the company.
Company identification does not guarantee that the company is credible, but it reduces chances of being scared into unnecessary treatments by fly by night companies. Few pest situations are so urgent that you don’t have the time to make rational decisions. Don’t let anyone in your house if they don’t have a company identification. Feel free to call the company to confirm that their employee is on site especially if you never heard of the company.
For extensive jobs, get several quotes and choose the company that is best for you. Also, when you do sign a contract, there is period by law when you can change your mind. Protect yourself by not making a mistake.
Exterminator Companies: A Snapshot of the Exterminator Industry
The exterminator industry, also known as the structural pest management industry, is made up of over 20,000 companies in the United States alone. These companies are engaged in the business of performing exterminating and prevention services to homes, workplaces, manufacturing plants, hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and transportation vehicles. This industry is generally not involved in agricultural extermination of crop insects.
Pests addressed include termites, ants, roaches, flies, bed bugs, occasional pests, stinging insects, rodents, wildlife, and stored product pests as well as others. Experts estimate that the size of the industry is about $7 billion US annually. Most of the companies are small family owned firms with ten or fewer employees.
Entry into the extermination industry requires proper licensing by the state typically and also requires insurance. Most states require a basic exam to prove that the candidate understands biology of pests and extermination safety as well as regulations. Most states require re-certification periodically which is considered minimal update training. Requirements to establish new businesses are minimal and re-certification usually requires a few hours per year.
Larger more established companies have company training which goes far beyond state requirements. There are company credentials for employees who have completed the training. The most sophisticated programs are nationally recognized and include satellite and video training by in-house scientists.
The industry trade journal publishes a list of top 100 companies each year based upon declared sales. The following is the list of the top ten companies not necessarily in order of receipts but by region and revenue range.
Top national extermination companies in North America with revenues of over $1 billion US include:
- Orkin Pest Control (and sister companies) offering commercial and residential services in the US, Canada, and globally through franchising
- Terminix International which offers residential and commercial services in the US including some international franchises
National companies with revenues of $100million US to $350 million US:
- Ecolab offering commercial services to institutions such as hotels
- Steritech , offering commercial services in most of the US
Regional companies with revenues of $100 million US to $350 million US include:
- Rentokil/Ehrlich Presto-X, a European company entering the US market with acquisitions in the northeast and Midwest
- Massey Services offering residential and commercial services in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Georgia
- Cook’s Pest Control serving southeast states
- Arrow Exterminators, serving the southeast
- Terminix Services, local franchises serving certain markets in the US
- Clark Pest Control, serving California and several western states
The remaining companies on the industry top 100 list range from $92 million US to under $5 million US. This means that the rest of the 20,000 plus companies in the US and Canada have sales of less than $5 million US. The average exterminator companies are local and might serve multiple counties or even multiple states or provinces if working near state or provincial border lines.
5 Things You Should Ask Your Potential Exterminator
What does the service cover?
Your expectations might be different from what the exterminator able to provide. Even though most people don’t like to read contracts, a contract or agreement is the best way to make sure that each party, consumer and exterminator, have documented roles. Agreements are usually available for regular service or a long term commitment such as a termite contract. Makes sure that you read the contract and make sure that you understand the fees, whether it is renewable, how long it lasts, which pests are to be controlled, what services the exterminator will provide, and what your responsibilities are. For example, for bed bug work, consumers may be required to remove sensitive items, pull back carpet, etc. The value to an agreement or contract is that it reduces the chances of surprises by either party.You also should know if there is a guarantee. Exterminators control pests that can reinfest quickly. Any agreement should specify whether the exterminator will come back at no charge if a reinfestation occurs or if there is a nominal charge for a call back. Also, the agreement should note if there is a time limit on the call backs.
University websites can help you understand the biology of the pests in your area. Education is the best tool to prepare you to work in tandem with your exterminator to make sure that you have a pest free domain. Some universities also offer pest identification in case you are wondering whether a pest is one of concern.
How long have you been in business?
While number of years in business is no guarantee of the best service, experienced companies are less likely to go out of business or to disappear before the work is done. A long term experienced company with a known name is less likely to perform lower quality work. After all, they have a reputation to uphold.
Isn’t all exterminating service the same?
While it might be surprising, there are many details that can be customized for the needs of the customer. For example, if a customer is concerned about exposing children or pets to pest control products, the company can design a program which will minimize chances of children and pets being exposed. If a customer wants a long term contract, the services might vary for those needs. Exterminating is quite different from other services like plumbing where repair of a pipe is the same. Exterminating, though, can be designed specifically for the needs of the customer, especially when pest prevention services are sought.
Do you utilize Integrated Pest Management?
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a process where the exterminating professional assesses the pest pressure and potential, implements control or prevention measures, and then monitors the effectiveness of the controls. Today’s best exterminators utilize IPM methods in all accounts. IPM takes the place of the old days of spraying in broad areas and today targets specific sites and pest situations.
Does your exterminating company have insurance?
Virtually all states require general liability insurance to cover bodily injury and property damage which might occur during extermination services. This insurance includes any damage such as breaking a window to injury of occupants if they trip over equipment. While claims are very rare in any extermination services, the company must be able to provide proof of insurance. Feel free to ask for a copy of the declarations page to make sure that the company is named specifically, and that coverage limits are listed. Don’t forget to make sure that the dates reflect that the policy is current. The only time that proof of insurance should be waived is if the company is self insured at which point there is no insurance policy but rather a statement of self insurance. Self insurance is utilized by the larger more financially stable companies. The advantage of self insurance is the there is no third party insurance policy which may expire or be cancelled.