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.

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.