Many years ago I was giving a seminar at the Pool Industry Expo in Monterey, California when one of the attendees made a comment that gave me a window into the mind of some of the pool service techs in our industry. His comment came when I was explaining the three basic services: chemical service, special service, and full service. I was explaining that the best service, the most profitable for time spent, is a special service.
The reason behind my belief is that you can charge a customer much more when there is some physical aspect to your service; something more than just adjusting chemicals, and something less than a full-service program.
A special service consists of adjusting the chemicals, cleaning the skimmer basket, cleaning the pump basket and backwashing the filter when necessary. This middle service takes a very small amount of time but allows you to charge a greater amount because of the physical activity associated with your service.
The attendee’s comment came when I was explaining that the most profitable customer is the customer who pays a full-service rate but his pool service is structured where you spend almost as little time on his or her pool as you spend on a special service pool.
The most profitable full-service customer is almost a special service customer, but you are responsible for keeping the pool clean. You are not responsible for cleaning a special service pool. The attendee thought that charging a customer a full-service rate, and providing less service was dishonest. He said, “it is like going into Starbucks, paying for a large coffee and getting a small coffee.”
The problem with his assumption is that pool service is subjective. There is no designated guideline for any pool service. Some pool techs include vacuuming a pool in their full-service program and some do not. Some pool techs include chemicals in their full-service program and some do not. Some pool techs include filter cleans in their full-service program and some do not.
There is no standard guideline for pool service. Therefore, you cannot make a leap from honesty to dishonesty based solely on what is included in one’s service program. It appears to me that the attendee’s perspective is that all pool techs not including everything in their full-service program are dishonest. This is not a view held by me and hopefully a view not held by a majority of pool service techs.
One of the rules to a more profitable service company is to maximize income while minimizing service time. While raising rates is an imperative necessity, the second half of the rule is important because service rates have been held so low for so long that it is difficult to move rates up to where they should be in the short term. Some pool service techs are still providing full service for $50.00 per month. Therefore, rates must presently go up to a point where the customer is still comfortable with the rate he or she is paying and the time it takes to service a customer must be reduced so more customers can be serviced in a shorter amount of time. Time minimization provides the pool service company owner with an additional increase in income without actually raising the customer’s rate to a point where it becomes untenable for the pool tech and unbearable for the service customer.
Time minimization also gives a pool service company owner another way to increase employee or subcontractor pay without taking a bite out of the bottom-line. If subs, or employees, can service more pools in a shorter amount of time they should receive a pay increase. Some may disagree, but I believe it is the duty of the pool service company owner to continually search for ways to improve the life of those who work for him or her. If you can improve your profitability, you should improve employee or sub pay. If you can improve the life of those who work for you, without taking a bite out of the bottom-line, you should have a better crew and a more stable business.
Automating your customers is one way to achieve time minimization. Automation can help eliminate the constant need for vacuuming. You cannot, as the attendee did call another pool tech dishonest for smarter business practices. Nowhere in the pool service industry does it say full service MUST include vacuuming, chemicals or filter cleans. It is, however, an unwritten rule that full service does include keeping the pool clean. If vacuuming is necessary, then vacuuming is necessary. However, it is a percentage game. If 98 out of 100 pools no longer require vacuuming because of smarter business practices, and 2 out of the 100 do, then you are 98 percent better off than you were before you changed your service program to eliminate vacuuming.
It is also an additional benefit to the customer if you can keep the pool clean and keep the monthly service rate lower. It should not matter to a customer what is included in your full-service program as long as the pool is kept clean. If a customer wants you at the location for a specific amount of time, perhaps it is time you went to an hourly rate. When an hourly rate is suggested to a customer, the customer will almost inevitably fall back onto the fixed monthly service fee.
We must stop looking at every new idea for increased profitability with a jaundiced eye. We must stop looking for the negative aspect of every new idea in order to rationalize our limited success. For those of you who take a new idea and make it work, or at the very least mold it to fit your business, I say, good for you. For those of you who look for excuses to remain mired in self-doom and gloom, I say, the sky is falling.