Everything looks different in the age of COVID-19, including routine home maintenance and repair services.
Three Topeka companies weighed in on how their business practices have been altered by the pandemic and what they’re doing to keep consumers safe.
Have customers been expressing concern or asking about health and safety precautions during the pandemic?
Dennis Bowser, owner of Countryside Chimney Sweep, said, “It’s 60/40. Some will shake your hand because it’s good luck to shake a sweep’s hand, and then we’ve had probably 10 percent cancel their annual appointment and then reschedule six months to a year out.”
Bowser says he’s made it a habit to ask customers what makes them comfortable before entering a home. Some customers prefer to be outside while the work is done, while others aren’t concerned with precautions at all.
“Starting with the phone call to Countryside, we figure out how the customer feels,” Bowser said. “We make a notification on our form before we arrive.”
Dan Beal, president of McElroy’s Inc., said McElroy’s has taken a proactive stance to possible customer concerns by establishing guidelines for all of their service calls. Technicians inform the client that McElroy’s is following prevention guidelines in response to the coronavirus. They also reassure homeowners that they are not sick or showing symptoms of fever, cough, or shortness of breath and will be following 6-foot social distancing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The health and safety of our employees and customers has always been a paramount value at McElroy’s Inc., so we employ stringent policies and procedures that allow us to meet the essential needs of our customers while keeping them and our employees as safe as possible throughout,” Beal said.
Terri Belisle, co-owner and technician at All Seasons Pest Control, says, “Most clients who call us aren’t nervous. They honestly want this take care of. One customer opened the front door for us, then went out the garage door until we exited from the front door. We had zero contact, and then she paid me over the phone.”
What precautions is your business taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19 when entering customers’ homes?
“We normally ring the doorbell and step back the 6-foot mandatory distance,” Bowser said. “If we haven’t asked over the phone, we ask the customer how they feel, then if they do, we mask up, glove up. If they don’t, we go.”
According to Bowser, Countryside Chimney Sweep technicians carry masks with them at all times on the truck, as well as hand sanitizer. They provide single-use drop cloths for each residence they enter that are then discarded between jobs.
“It’s pretty much how the customer feels. We’re prepared to do whatever makes the customer feel safe,” Bowser said. “We try to treat the public with respect and make sure all of our customers are happy and satisfied with whatever they need to have.”
Per KDHE guidelines, McElroy’s asks clients requesting service calls about their possible exposures to COVID-19 and quarantine restrictions as well as whether anyone in the residence is showing signs of illness or has traveled to at-risk events or locations recently. If a client is required to quarantine for 14 days and needs immediate service, McElroy’s notifies the service technician.
“When arranging service calls, we follow a detailed customer-health-and travel survey protocol to help assess potential risk,” Beal said. “Even if a customer is symptomatic, their need for working air conditioning, heat or plumbing remains essential. In such cases, our technicians can volunteer to provide the service. Extra precautions, on the part of the customer and our technician, will be carefully observed.”
All McElroy’s technicians wear gloves and face masks before entering and while in client homes and discard dirty air filters when necessary in the owner’s personal trash bins. At the end of each service call, the technician no longer asks clients to sign on a personal device, but instead initials for them and then sends the call summary report via email.
“Dealing with the possibility of infectious diseases has always been a part of our business,” Beal said. “Consider the circumstances involved in taking care of sanitary plumbing issues, for example. So our technicians have always had access to, and been thoroughly trained in the correct use of, personal protective equipment. From simple gloves and face protection to Tyvek suits and full-face respirators, we are prepared for most any situation.”
Belisle says All Seasons Pest Control is taking precautions against the spread of COVID-19.
Technicians wear face masks and maintain distance from customers, as well as change foot-covering booties and gloves between each service call.
For some pest control issues, Belisle says, it may not even be necessary for a technician to enter the home, but pests such as cockroaches do require in-home treatment.
“It depends on the problem they’re having,” Belisle said. “We can do an outer treatment, but for some things, it’s impossible to do. I want to keep myself healthy, but I also want to make sure I keep my customers healthy. We do everything we can to ensure our safety as well as the customer’s to provide a service.”