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When young Eris Hess took over the family business supplying pest control chemicals and equipment, without any background in either, his learning curve was steep. Today Agserv is a major supplier to Australia’s pest control operators. Patrick Hess was an executive at chemical giant Ciba-Geigy’s Australian operation, when he acquired their application equipment arm Agserv in 1974. He soon acquired Victorian- based distributor Rudducks and launched Queensland pest control agent supplier QSR, to strengthen the Agserv brand, which is now a major supplier to Australian businesses.

Clients are mainly urban-based, including councils and government health departments, keen to rid themselves of unwelcome populations of termites, cockroaches and myriad other dirty and destructive insects.

When Patrick passed away in 1986, his son Eris was only 14 years old, so Agserv was managed by Ken Davidson in Sydney and brother-in-law Jim Westhead at Rudducks in Melbourne. Both men were to become Eris’s technical mentors during his learning period.

“After university I worked at Rudducks in sales and marketing and then Optus before heading to London for a job in personnel recruitment,” Eris says. In 1997 he returned to Agserv in Sydney “to help out for a few months”, but the Davidson brothers had other plans. The next year he became managing director. “I met my future wife and stayed,” says Eris, who was named after the first Bishop of Melbourne.

The business has evolved from an even mix of chemicals, application services and equipment, to principally supplying Agserv Pty Ltd chemical products to Australia’s 7,000 pest control operators in 1,500 businesses. Agserv offices in the Sydney headquarters, as well as Melbourne, Brisbane and Newcastle are manned by 16 staff, who also provide technical support, training and advice to operators. A small offshoot, Altis, sells termite reticulation systems.

“Our customer service strategy has successfully grown turnover 15 to 20 percent year-on-year since 2005, including the global financical crisis period,” says Eris. His mum Marjorie is pleased, as although never active in the business, she remains the majority shareholder. His sister Margaret sits on the company’s board too.

Pest control industry chemicals and practices are increasingly under pressure from a vigilant regulator, and Eris has served on the board of AEPMA, voice of the Australian professional pest management industry, in an ongoing dialogue with government. The regulator’s vigilance has also paralleled a return to natural chemicals like pyrethrum, which is extracted from chrysanthemums, and traditionally imported from East Africa but now grown successfully in Tasmania. “This takes the industry full circle, 70 years back, as demand has moved away from more toxic synthetic chemicals,” says Eris.

 

Succession planning in the Hess family isn’t an immediate priority, but with 12 grandchildren coming through, the future is looking bright.

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STOP THE CALL BACK!

 

12 Ways to Avoid the “Call Back Curse”

We’ve all been called back on to look at a job we thought had been 

completed at one time or another. Call backs are the curse of the busy 

pest controller. Rushing from one job to the next, especially in busy 

summer months, we can sometimes forget to explain something or even 

miss a vital part of a process trying to be on time. 

Call backs not only put a dent in your profits, but can also affect your 

relationships with clients and their view on your service. Great 

preparation and a solid process can be the difference between calling 

once and doing a great job and going back inconveniencing both you 

and your customer. 

Expert pest controllers Grant Curry, Rowan Gregson and our own 

regional manger Richard Lawrence have shared their expertise for this 

guide. 

As my father always used to say, “measure twice, cut once”. 

1) Have the correct expectations been set from the beginning? Good 

communication with the client from the initial call is essential to set 

realistic expectations. 

2) Timing of jobs is crucial so ensure wind, excessive heat, sunlight and 

time of day are taken into account when booking the appointment. 

3) Review customer records and customer history on usage of 

materials and quantities, also any problems previously experienced.

4) Always provide realistic and genuine estimates. Low estimates to get 

work ALWAYS end up costing you reputation and money. 

5) Do you have the right chemicals and tools for the job? Create a 

simple pre-flight checklist before you leave the office, this will ensure 

you have everything you need prior to leaving.

6) Ensuring your equipment is in great working order is essential for a 

trouble free site treatment. Always clean and maintain your equipment 

well and it will look after you in return. 7) Ensuring the customer fully understands their problem is essential in 

reducing call backs. Explain what you are going to do and what the 

likelihood of success is and whether a follow up treatment is advised. 

Creating a simple flyer to give to them “You’ve just been sprayed for 

XXXX”, can educate and encourage them to make contact in a set 

amount of time with a stamp. 

8) Create a service tick sheet. This is a thorough step by step process of 

your service you provide to ensure you are not missing anything on 

site. 

9) Ensure paperwork is easy to understand and complete. Ensure all 

materials, when and where used as well as the details of your warranty 

are clear. 

10) Always ask if their is anything else they need to know, if they are 

happy and even if they have any other issues they would like you to look 

at prior to leaving. 

11) Communicate after the job to understand how your services are 

seen by the public and improve where possible. Ask for reviews that can 

be used in marketing and pass them on to the business. 

12) Regular “tool box” meetings where all pest controllers input their 

experiences on a regular basis to improve the service for customers.

Unfortunately, even the best laid plans can fail due to human nature on 

both sides. 

If you have followed all of these and you still get a call back, let’s 

minimise the pain a little. Uncover what the problem is prior to returning, 

as you may not need to go back at all. 

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