With many decades of industry experience under their toolbelts, our team has immense expertise to assist clients. In the following interview we spoke to Robert, a Rapid Solutions industry expert who has worked as our Technical Officer for close to 16 years. He provides in-house technical and business support to Rapid clients every weekday.
Access Robert’s expertise via 1300 309 169 or email [email protected].
Tell us about your experience in the property services sector
I started in the industry in 1989 and spent 15 years as a pest controller within several busy pest management companies. During that time I had plenty of experience in both the domestic and commercial side of pest control.
I have been a Technical Officer with Rapid Solutions for almost 16 years now. I would say my speciality is termites – detecting them, managing them and applying appropriate termite management systems.
My role is one of risk mitigation for both Rapid Solutions and our clients. It has involved contributing to changes in the Australian Standards for termite work, both the 3660 and 4349 suites, and periodically reviewing our paperwork. I ensure it not only conforms to current standards, but assists our clients to fulfill their duty of care in warning customers of the consequences of findings in their reports.
I have spent many years reviewing client documents, checking their reports have appropriate warnings and that Certificates of Installation are able to show detail of treatments that have been installed. Where necessary, I advise clients what should be included in their reports, treatments and certificates.
My role as a Rapid Solutions industry expert is an opportunity to share my knowledge with others in the industry. I have been on both sides of the fence and understand the challenges and opportunities our clients encounter daily.
What are some big changes you have seen over the decades?
One big change is the development of new-generation, better-performing pesticides and other chemicals used across the property services sector.
We’ve also seen the growth of more sophisticated and specialised application equipment, and a much greater emphasis on safety.
Although the business basics are similar, there have been big changes in termite management, with baiting becoming commercially available in the early 2000s. Also, termite and other pest investigation equipment has improved significantly with microwave detection equipment and thermal imaging.
What does your job as a Rapid Solutions industry expert entail exactly?
I am in an advisory position. A big part of my job is providing technical advice to our clients, and clients often like to run scenarios past me. The most common request from clients is support on paperwork, inspection and reporting techniques, and treatment methodologies across a range of different business activities.
I’m often trouble-shooting termite and other pest problem jobs, and also do some identification of bugs for our clients.
Sometimes you can be on the phone all day to clients. At other times it’s more administrative, such as keeping up to date with Australian Standards relevant to the many business activities Rapid Solutions insures. Or, I might be focused on providing advice and assistance internally. I always keep up to date with industry news and other important information, and of course complete regular paperwork and so on.
I also receive calls from operators in remote areas (and some not so remote) who just want to touch base with someone who speaks their language. This type of call is always welcome, and I get a great deal of satisfaction from this type of contact.
All our clients – whether builders, pest controllers, handymen, maintenance workers, agricultural ground crop sprayers, methamphetamine testers or carpet cleaners – they are always welcome to call and discuss any questions. If I can help, I will and if I can’t, I can usually advise who can.
When it comes to insurance claims, I always aim to assist our clients no matter what the claim circumstances are. I give plenty of feedback on why a claim has occurred, why it can or can’t be defended, and so on.
What are the top questions asked by clients?
I am always being asked about the methods for report writing. Whilst we have a range of tools and templates for paperwork, we see more and more technicians moving to digital platforms.
In 2019 we launched the first release of our new report writing app called Rapid Inspect, and many clients are enjoying using it for their report writing. We have a second release, with increased functionality, launching later this year.
I get asked a lot of questions about the many different pests our clients are controlling all over the country – cockroaches, rodents, ants and spiders, as well as more unusual bugs. However, generally, it’s about what direction they should take with treatments.
More often than not the question is focused on termites. Most clients will find their own way through dealing with cockroaches and spiders, for example, but they don’t want a recall on termites, so they call us to check the best approach.
I also speak to clients frequently about how to word what they’re trying to say within reporting paperwork. Making sure the wording they use is descriptive, accurate and not filled with acronyms or industry jargon, so it is easily understandable by their client, and they are using the correct terms for the pests.
From a physical point of view, I get questions like to what degree do they need to report building defects and other issues, what advice do they give customers when they can’t access areas they need to examine for a full inspection. Reporting on limitations is crucial to help avoid a claim.
Key factors potentially leading to claims include incorrect reporting on the inability to access areas, failure to make appropriate recommendations for a situation detected during the inspection and non-compliance with current standards.
Why do you think professional indemnity and general liability insurance are so important for business owners?
It is hard enough to make money in the first place. You don’t want to be just giving it away through a claim against your business because you don’t have adequate protections in place.
Even if you don’t find it difficult to make a living, if you have earned it then you should keep it. It is pointless to give it to someone else; instead, get the right insurance coverage.
What advice would you give for growing and/or managing a business well?
In terms of on the job activity that helps you grow a solid business, in my experience the whole opportunity lies in observation. Look out for the potential to do more work for a client. For example, if you are there to do a rat job and there are spiders everywhere, there’s an opportunity.
Also consider what repeat business you can generate if a property might benefit from regular, proactive treatments.
It is simple to keep your eyes open, to make that a habit. Just because you are there to treat weeds in the driveway doesn’t mean you can’t look for a chance to upsell or form a long-term relationship with your customer.
What advice would you give business owners for avoiding insurance claims?
It is all about providing value to your customers. Be thorough in carrying out diligent inspections, treatments, cleaning and other work.
Whatever treatment you are doing or are there to quote for, make sure your inspection is thorough. If you don’t know what is there – pests, building issues, stains and so on – you can’t treat them. For example, in pest management, there is no point in treating the house if the spiders are in the vines on the fence. Be aware of your environment.
Know your Australian Standards, understand the record keeping requirements of your state or territory and, most importantly, write clearly when reporting. If you are using hard copy paperwork ensure your duplicate copy is legible by anyone who will read it – yourself later, your office staff or, in the unfortunate circumstance that a claim should arise, your insurer. Your paperwork is often your best defence.
Without going overboard, ensure there is enough detail for your customer to understand what’s going on. Whether that is your treatment proposal, your limitations or when recording what you’ve treated.
Always make the best recommendation in your inspection report. Do that first, then allow your customer’s requirements to change what is done. Always record what was discussed and how the limitations you encountered, or that were imposed on you, changed the treatment.
Initial and ongoing training is also very important. Licensed professionals require national units of competency for their licence and need to gain field experience with experienced people. And the industry changes all the time, so it is important to stay abreast of changes and upskill to remain in touch with this ever-developing and evolving industry.
Other than performing your business activities well, insurance is the main buffer – it doesn’t stop claims, but it provides the opportunity to work through them and mitigate financial risks.
Tell us something about your life outside of being a Rapid Solutions industry expert
I love lawn bowling and gardening. I really enjoy home life, where we have a number of cats. I picked up two Main Coon kittens recently, actually. We also used to breed border collies.
Want to take advantage of Rapid Solutions’ industry knowledge?
If you are a Rapid Solutions client and have a question for Robert, call 1300 309 169 between 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday or email [email protected].