There are several reasons Paul Oliver of Patriot Pool and Spa (Austin, Texas) is this year's Pleatco Perfect Pool Guy. Some of them were listed by Howard Smith, CEO of Pleatco, at the awards ceremony in Orlando.

"When we made the calls to Paul's references in the final judging stage, every single person commented on his great customer service, honesty and integrity. They universally testified that he is one of the most passionate and dedicated pool guys in the industry," he said.

But above all, the word that defines Paul Oliver is "communicator." This year's Pleatco Perfect Pool Guy understands the importance of sharing information on the job, both with customers, other technicians and the home office.

Q: What are some of the things you do to foster communication?

A: We communicate everything in real time. We don't leave door hangers made of paper; we send our reports electronically through email so they know immediately when we were there, what we did and especially what we ran into that might not have been expected. In that case, I'll send them something like, "Hey, we discovered a leak in this pump. I can get a technician out here by this afternoon if you want. I've already turned in a repair request, and you will be hearing soon from our service manager."

When I'm coming out to fix something, we have a standard two-call protocol, where we call to let you know that we're on our way, and the work that we're scheduled to do. And then once we wrap up, we call to tell them we're done and what we did.

Q: What's the payoff for all that time and effort?

A: Pool owners are always worrying, "Can I trust these guys?" and when we communicate well with them and walk them through everything, it gives them a sense of comfort and trust.

It really heads off problems, and it takes a lot of the fear out of owning a pool when pool owners feel like they're in control.

Q: What's the best thing about your job?

A: Troubleshooting. I love figuring out what's going on, why something's not working. People will call and say, "Hey, my pool doesn't work." And they're anticipating a really big bill. But if you can quickly figure out what's wrong, and not just start trying a bunch of things, that really helps.
Like for instance, this customer's pool light wasn't working and they said, "Go swap out the light."

And that was going to be something like $800. And I told them, "Hey, I totally realize why you think that's the problem, but let me look into this a little bit. And I started just checking a few things with my multi-meter, and it turned out to be a $6 switch from Home Depot.

On the other hand, in that same situation, if you just swap out the light, pay all that money, and then it still doesn't work, then you're like, "Oh…"

I just really believe wholeheartedly in the troubleshooting method, which is, "Follow the evidence."

Q: What has winning the Pleatco Perfect Pool Guy award meant to you?

A: Honestly, I'm still in shock. I've just been blown away by the caliber of the people who have won this before me. And it's really made me want to get better at my job — to be worthy of this.

It's been such an amazing experience. And I know it sounds funny to say it, but the Pleatco people have really been like family.

Scott Webb is Executive Editor of AQUA Magazine.