Diversify product offerings & boost profits
Arriving on time, looking professional and keeping pools clean and clear are the basic requirements for retaining service contracts and no longer differentiates service firms from one another. One mistake can cause customers to switch to one of the many other pool service companies vying for business.
So, how can you create a competitive differentiation for your company? One way is to provide different levels of service.
Call it “Good,” “Better,” “Best” – “Basic,” Professional,” “Premium” “Silver,” “Gold,” “Platinum.”
Pool Troopers, a pool service firm servicing the Sun Belt region of the U.S. uses “Freedom,” Freedom Plus” and Freedom Plus Cleaning,” a word that is chosen because it reflects a part of the value that the company is selling its customers. They also specify the type of pool owner each program would best appeal to, so potential customers can determine exactly how hands-off they prefer to be about their pools.
Whatever name for the different levels of service, the “Good” option is suitable for cost conscious customers who have the time and ability to take on some responsibility for caring for the pool.
The “Better” and “Best” options are for those who want and are willing to pay for service options that do a more complete job and deliver greater protection as well as preventative maintenance against common pool issues such as scale and stains.
Offering several levels of service has a lot of benefits. It can certainly provide more profits. The “Better” and “Best” levels command more money, while the “Good” level captures the remaining market. With customer expectations made clear from the outset, it can decrease call-backs for problems. It can also differentiate your company in a competitive market.
Pool Troopers takes this approach and adds free use of chlorine generators to their service plans, which accomplishes two goals: It allows the customer to feel they are being provided with an extra goody and it allows their service company to spend less money on chemicals.
Thus, a “Good” level could mean simply weekly water chemistry testing and balance plus equipment monitoring.
A “Better” program might include weekly water chemistry testing and balance, equipment monitoring, wall brushing, emptying baskets and filter cleaning, plus the use of specialty chemicals.
A “Best” program might mean weekly water chemistry testing and balance, equipment monitoring, wall brushing, emptying baskets, filter cleaning, vacuuming, tile brushing and netting the surface, plus the use of specialty chemicals, such as enzymes and phosphate removers.
At each level of service, the very best high quality salt and pool chemicals can be used to prevent common challenges such as staining and scale, as well as building customer confidence.
Many customers are willing to pay more for service levels that use superior products if the benefits are visible: clear and sparkling water, stain, scale and corrosion protection, and minimal work on the part of the pool owner.
But as the pool expert, it is essential that you explain the differences between the levels, and the benefits of “Better” and “Best.”
Itshouldbeeasyenoughtorecommend the “Better” or “Best” program, as long as value-based selling principles are used. That means determining customers unspoken desires and communicating the benefits of the higher priced service that addresses those desires, so the customer feels he has made an informed decision. Their decisions may surprise you.
Value-based selling typically adds measurable benefit to service firms in one or more of the following areas:
• Growing sales
• Improving market share
• Enhancing customer satisfaction
• Cr eat ing a compet i t ive advantage Signing a customer to the ‘Best” level of service benefits both the customer and the service firm in several ways because it contributes to several of these valuebased categories.
It allows the service company to improve market share and create competitive advantage in the market place by differentiating themselves from other companies because at a minimum, only the best salt and chemicals will be used.
This, in turn helps enhance customer satisfaction and confidence that they are hiring a company with integrity.
However, going with the highest tier causes the highest level of customer satisfaction because it is what most consumers expect from pool service companies anyway.
This drives up the service company’s gross sales compared to the other levels.
Value-based selling is a broad topic, but the following are some of the key principles: Partner with suppliers to build your knowledge of the products you are using. Particularly if you intend to market your higher tiered programs in part through adding specialty chemicals to the package, it is essential to understand and be able to communicate their added value to your customers. And to do that, you will need to know all about the products. Many high-end venders of specialty chemicals provide training, support and technical assistance.
Next, don’t assume you know how much money your customers may be willing or unwilling to pay. And don’t assume that your customer knows what they want. Don’t make the mistake of being an order taker, and simply meeting what the customer believes they need.
Rather, service companies that are good at value-based selling believe consumers don’t want to maintain pools themselves and don’t know how to solve problems without help from an expert.
Draw your customers out with openended questions. When meeting a customer for the first time, ask about how many hours of work the pool owner likes to spend manually netting and/or vacuuming their own pools. If the pool owner has a realistic understanding that with the “Good” program, they will continue to manually clean their own pools, they will likely opt for the “Better” or “Best” programs.
Ask about the age of the pool finish and about how much longer they expect it to last. This can provide an opportunity to discuss the “Best” level of service, which would include the best level of long term protection of surfaces and equipment, as opposed to the “Good” program which will keep the pool simply disinfected and balanced over the short term.
You could also ask about bather load. If the pool sees a lot of action during the swimming season, the pool will probably benefit from the specialty chemicals included in the “Better” or “Best” programs.
These sorts of questions differentiate the needs versus the wants of the customer. While any program you offer may address the needs of the customer, their wants are better served by the “Better” and “Best” tiers of service.
Often, customers are willing to pay higher prices to satisfy their wishes along with their needs, and value-based selling can help service professionals identify those situations. Value-based selling results in better satisfied customers and greater profitability for the service company through greater sales and differentiation in the marketplace and ultimately customer loyalty.