Explaining Risk to Customers
Explaining risk to your clients is perhaps one of the most difficult activities wildlife control operators are involved in. Not only is the topic difficult explained but you also run the risk of exposing you in your company to liability. Concretely, how do you balance the need to get your clients attention with the danger of scaring the living daylights out of them?
The solution to this difficult problem is to employee a multifaceted approach. First, you must have a clear grasp of the nature of risk. Risk can be described in the following equation risk equals chance of occurrence times severity of incident. To provide an example, the risk of driving a car involves several variables, 1. What is the likelihood of you being in an accident? Multiplied by 2. The likelihood of you suffering death or severe injury. In wildlife control operator work, the risk that this bat has rabies is a function of the percentage likelihood of that being rapid times the risk of potential injury. But as you know would rabies while the incidence is low the severity is high being that death.
The second element of explaining risk is to have clarity about the relative risks involved. This is perhaps the most difficult element of the risk dilemma. There are just too many variables to account for to have any level of certainty. For example how severe is the potential disease risk posed by bat guano in an attic? In most situations is probably quite low. But for people who have low immune systems or cracks in the ceiling or will be going up in disturbing the attic looking for Christmas gifts, the risk can be quite high. Nevertheless, this essential that you as a professional grasp the potential risks your client faces.
The third task is to be able to explain the risk to your client and in a way that they can understand. The challenge is that clients want 100% certainty. And certainty is something wildlife control operators can rarely give. When I ran a wildlife control company, I rarely spoke in definitive or absolute terms. Too often I found that wildlife make liars of us all. Now I don’t want to overstate the case. Raccoons don’t fly beavers don’t climb but we should be cautious of becoming arrogant in regards to what wildlife would or would not do in most circumstances. With that caveat in mind, I try to provide a mental image for clients to show that there are different levels of certainty. I usually tell a story or ask a question such as when I am dealing with clients fear about whether a skunk will spray or not I usually respond by saying, “Probably not.” When the client does not look happy with this answer I provide the following illustration. I asked them, “Do you know your neighbor?” They usually respond, “Yes.” I then asked them, “Do you think your neighbor will rob you tomorrow?” They usually respond, “No.” I then respond, “But are you sure?” My point being is that even though the likelihood that their neighbor will not rob them tomorrow is low, the chances of their neighbor robbing them, still exists. In like manner my certainty regarding the behavior of a skunk is very secure. But it’s not 100% guaranteed.
Much more can be said about explaining risk, but I hope the aforementioned tips will help you. Just keep in mind, be careful what you say, as wildlife can make a liar of out of us all.
About the Author
Stephen M. Vantassel is a certified wildlife control operator who helps individuals, businesses, and agencies resolve wildlife damage issues through training, writing, expert witness, and research. His latest books are the Wildlife Damage Inspection Handbook, 3rd edition and The Practical Guide to the Control of Feral Cats. He can be contacted at wildlifecontrolconsultant at gmail dot com.
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