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VOL. 126 | NO. 200 | Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mullany Outlines Goals For ServiceMaster Brands

By Bill Dries

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The president and CEO of The ServiceMaster Co. is pushing the Memphis-based home and commercial services company into new areas with digital technology.

Hank Mullany is the new CEO of Memphis-based The ServiceMaster Co.
(Photo: Lance Murphey)

But he’s also emphasizing consistency in interactions between associates and customers.

Hank Mullany has been head of ServiceMaster since February. He took the helm of a company that boasts seven brands, 8.2 million customers a year in 22 countries at 6,900 facilities and 24,000 associates, plus another 31,000 employed by ServiceMaster franchises.

“For consumers time is a key currency,” Mullany said this week in an interview with The Daily News. “People don’t have enough time in their day-to-day lives. They are looking for us to simplify their lives for them by doing it for them. … They want to interact with us the way they want to interact with us.”

Increasingly that means incorporating hand-held digital devices and smartphone apps, which allow associates to give cost estimates and write bills on the spot or allow customers to monitor the services on their own time and interact without any personal contact.

ServiceMaster’s Terminix brand has an iPhone app and a service platform for associates in the field, and the company plans to unveil a similar platform for its American Home Shield brand in March.

“This is game-changing stuff,” Mullany said. “It’s also increased the productivity of our associates. They don’t have to shuffle back and forth to the office. Hand-held devices are the future, whether it’s customers interacting with us or associates out in the field.”

As highly as Mullany praises Terminix, he came in as CEO with some very blunt complaints about the TruGreen lawn care brand of ServiceMaster.

Customers weren’t satisfied with the lawn care services and they had to improve, he said in his first earnings call as CEO with analysts earlier this year.

“I’m very direct – call it as I see it,” Mullany said of his earnings call comments that got a lot of attention.

He announced he was shifting the head of the company’s Terminix division, Tom Brackett, to temporarily head the TruGreen lawn care division. Then he moved a vice president of sales from Terminix into TruGreen in a shake up of TruGreen’s sales methodology that pulled back from neighborhood marketing.

“Basically we’re going around to homes and knocking on the door and talking about the service,” Mullany said. “We had expanded that beyond where it was optimal. That created a lot of disruption in our branches and made it tougher for our associates to do their jobs.”

Mullany said TruGreen has improved and the goal is to graft Terminix’s consistency from one branch to another in responding to customers about TruGreen.

“Terminix has done a great job in decreasing the variability from one branch to another,” he said. “And so much of the service industry is just decreasing that variability and getting good consistency.”

Mullany said the two businesses are similar but was quick to declare this isn’t a prelude to any kind of combination of the two.

“We’ve got a search on for the open president position and we’ve got a couple of finalists that are great leaders and I think would be a great addition to the (TruGreen) team,” he said.

Mullany came to ServiceMaster from retail as the executive vice president of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and president of Wal-Mart’s northern U.S. division.

“Other businesses I’ve run, I’ve found as the economy ebbed and flowed and moved up and down it had a dramatic impact on my revenue,” Mullany said. “What I’ve found here is that through the downturn in the economy … basically the team was able to hold revenue constant and improve earnings and cash flow in a very challenging environment. … If we lose a customer it’s because we made a mistake. It’s not the economy. It’s not the weather. It’s that we didn’t deliver on our promise. We didn’t meet our expectation. The economy has not hurt us dramatically.”

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