Charles BairdI have received calls from numerous pool service companies over the past few months lamenting their low service rates. They find increasing service rates extremely difficult or nearly impossible. They just cannot get their customers to break open the piggy bank and pay a few more dollars.  

Many service companies are also experiencing rate difficulty when bidding new customers. They have a very low conversion rate because they ask for a few dollars more than the pool owner was paying to a previous pool tech. A negative response from a customer or potential customer can create a great deal of doubt concerning rate improvement or the initial service fee offered in your bidding procedure. If you find yourself in this boat of self-doubt, keep the faith. There is hope. 

No Excuses

The problem with self-doubt is it steals your future. If you do not have faith in your ability to accomplish something, you are already at a disadvantage. If you believe you are going to fail, more than likely you will. 

The excuse most often heard from pool companies that are afraid to charge what they’re worth is “the economy made me do it.” If you have ever used the economy as an excuse for not being more successful, you are in the same boat as a large number of other “good” pool technicians. I say “good” pool technicians because it is not necessary to be a “bad” pool technician to experience doubt. Doubt has a way of attacking even the most productive individual at one time or another in his or her lifetime.

Another excuse used by pool service companies for keeping their rates low is competition. While it is almost always true you can find a competitor charging less, it is also true there are competitors charging a great deal more for their services. They are easily identified because they usually drive the best trucks and appear happier than most techs. They are also some of the most envied businessmen in our industry.

Whether you are worried about the economy or competition, there is one giant step you can take to diminish the effect of both on what you charge for your services. You can separate yourself from the herd.  

You must understand that the way pool owners view service technicians is extremely important. If all pool techs are assumed good, it is very easy for a pool owner to believe he can find another one with little or no trouble. If all pool techs are assumed bad, it is easy to believe it doesn’t matter who services his pool. He can always find someone else to perform the same lousy service for less.  

The only way to separate yourself from the herd is to be different. You separate yourself from the herd by providing an inspection sheet and a newsletter, something almost nobody does, by the way. This adds additional perceived value to your service. These things cost you almost nothing, but they help bind the customer to your company. 

The newsletter informs the customer about new innovative equipment and ideas in the industry that may save them money or protect their pools. The inspection sheet helps a customer budget for an upcoming repair. If you’re doing these things, when you raise your rate or charge a little more for a service than usual, the customer won’t be so quick to complain or discontinue service.  

Work Less, Charge More

Once you add these extra value tools to your service, you may still find it necessary to look for additional ways to overcome the price cutting pool tech when approaching the thriftiest pool owners. This is no problem for the contemplative pool tech. 

If you are trying to get a higher number for your service and a homeowner says he will not pay more than $85 per month, ask him if he would like to pay $75. If a homeowner says he will not pay more than $75 per month, ask him if he would like to pay $65. There is a point where this becomes unrealistic and you must be aware of your service fee needs before you bid your first customer. 

If you cannot compete with other pool men charging less, then charge less; but also cut your services. Many times a homeowner will automate to save money on the monthly service fee. Either automate the customer and charge less for your weekly service or do what the really big guys are doing and cut your service back to every other week. This will work for most pools in most areas, but not all. You may find it necessary to make some service adjustments for different seasons. Whatever the case, find a way to make the abbreviated service work, if it is needed. 

If a homeowner has been paying $90 per month for weekly service and you pitch him on $75 for every other week service, most of the time, if it is sold properly, the customer will take it. It is just human nature. Customers are willing to try anything new if it means they can save money. However, once you make the commitment to service and the pool owner agrees to your price and schedule, regardless of your price or schedule, you must provide a service that is acceptable to the pool owner. If you do not, you cannot blame your bidding procedure for the failure.  

If you are going every other week and charging $75, this would equate to a monthly service fee of around $150 for weekly service (remember, you still have the chemical expense. If you are not charging for chemicals, you must be careful how low you drop your rate). In this scenario, you make more money and you have a happy customer. You have also reduced your service time and now you can service a greater number of pools in the same amount of time. You have also increased your monthly service fee by reducing your monthly service fee. You have beaten the price-cutting pool guy. Checkmate. You win. 

There is always a better way to operate your pool service and repair company to experience greater profits. The key is not to become defeated before you take the first step, and to keep an open mind when looking for innovative ideas. 

Charles Baird is the owner of One Stop Pool Pros, Lake Forest, Calif., and president of National Pool Route Sales.