One of the best parts about being in pool service is that every day is different. You never know what you’re going to do — or who you’ll meet on that day’s route.

In my years in pool service, I’ve come to realize there’s several types of service customers. If you're lucky, you'll get what I call "average customers," who are known for their ability to schedule work and pay their bill after you have completed the requested work.They're friendly (but not overly so), understand that time is valuable and generally leave you to your work.

But as any service tech knows, "average customers" are pretty rare. (Like one out of 1,000!) Let's take a look at some of the more common customer types in the pool industry. 




1. The Gatekeeper
If you've gone to a house for a service call, only to find a locked gate and no way to the backyard, you've got a gatekeeper on your hands. Be sure to check both sides of the house as well as the mailbox in case they left a key for you. Knock on the door at least two times before calling the customer to remind them again about your scheduled visit today. Politely decline when they ask you to climb the fence. One cancelled visit is understandable — but multiple canceled service calls to the same address indicates he or she is a chronic gatekeeper; if you want to continue service, you'll need to ask for a key to the gate.

2. The "Perfectionist"
The perfectionist is not difficult to spot — you'll know it when you get to their house and they tell you to not park in the driveway, despite the fact that it's large enough for six service trucks. There will only be one access point to the pool area, and it will be located on the far side of the house. There will be a direct path to the pool side, but this area will be "out of bounds" due to a Japanese maple sapling that is currently recovering from a light wind storm. The perfectionist customer will explain in great detail about their previous life as an engineer, or unrelated skilled trade, and proceed to instruct you (incorrectly) in how to perform each mundane task of your job. Any project completed for a perfectionist customer will take at minimum twice as long as any other customer and will result in multiple complaints about 92 percent of the time.

3. The Duffman
The Duffman is always wearing flip flops and Hawaiian shirts that are never buttoned. His skin is leathery like a Christmas turkey, and he is always home when service is scheduled for his pool. He will be drinking before, during and after your arrival and will try very hard to get you to join him. Duffman is a great customer and never too picky about the work being completed, so long as it does not interrupt any parties he has planned — of which are many. Duffman pays his bills when he wakes up, which is sometimes days or even weeks later. Duffman only complains when the beer is running out. 




4. The Cougar
You know you have a Cougar when every man in your company knows her name and address by memory. She is aggressive, sultry and somehow has near-constant, minor problems with her "leaky pipes" that need attention. If working on a swimming pool and you notice someone wearing a bikini or loose fitting housecoat who also happens to be doing a lot of unnecessary "bending" while gardening, you're likely in the presence. If you find yourself confronted by a cougar, complete your work in a timely and efficient fashion and exit the property while walking backwards, maintaining eye contact the entire time.

5. The Big Tipper
When this guy needs a service visit, crew members aren't afraid to fight each other for the job. The Big Tipper will receive at least double the care and attention of any other customer. While not inclined to complain, a big tipper who has lodged a complaint will usually result in the pool technician equivalent of the bat signal, followed by an army of eager service technicians crawling all over the property.

6. The Retiree
For many pool techs, the Retiree is the bane of their existence. He'll find you within one minute of your arrival to the property and will not leave your side for the entire service call. What makes this so difficult is that he is exceptionally nice in most cases and you want to treat him like family...but he moves like frozen molasses and is as fragile as a porcelain vase. Being retired, this customer spends most of his time hoping he finds a broken pool component so he can schedule a service call and spend the entire day regaling you with stories of his youth. 




7. The Widow
The Widow can be identified immediately for her tendency to frequently explain how "overwhelmed" she is with her pool. She'll require constant hand holding for even the most simple tasks. At the same time, she is inclined to heavily scrutinize any work estimates you provide and monitor your work from the upstairs window with the blinds closed. Be patient and gentle when working with the Widow, as she's likely to improve over time and develop into either a Perfectionist or simply an average customer.

If you have a Widow who has developed into the Duffman, party with her because she sounds awesome. 





8. The New Guy
The New Guy is completely lost and complains about it a lot. If the pump pressure is too high or low, or if the filter trips the electrical breaker, you're going to hear about it. He's also known for asking the same questions every time he talks to you, while never listening to the answers you provide. When working with the New Guy, write down notes to give him — if you run pool schools and have pool care guides on hand, leave one with him.

Finally, the New Guy is likely to call and complain about the service he received while not remembering which of the 30 companies he called actually came out and did the work. Have fun with that!

9. The Hardass
You know you're dealing with a hardass because they're yelling at you. Usually they've had a negative experience with another pool company, and they feel justified in yelling at you because of this. While furious, and near to purple in color, this customer will still want you to perform your work — he just wants to yell at you for a bit while you do it. Avoid confrontation with a hardass at all costs as beating a customer to death reflects poorly on your company. Any publicity is good publicity...except for being featured on the front page of the local paper for murdering your customers.

10. The Ghost
Nobody has ever seen the Ghost, but just about every pool company has one. These customers are never at home day or night, weekend or weekday. They schedule all service via email and prefer to pay their bills online or via check. Ghost customers are fantastic for pool companies and service technicians since there are never any distractions or voicemails to return. 



11. The Handyman
When working on or around a pool belonging to the Handyman, be sure to wear safety glasses at all times. Keep long hair tied back. Long pants and sleeves are recommended. A handyman will repair his pool with whatever inconceivable materials he has on hand and great care should be taken to avoid getting injured when attempting to interact with "modified" pool equipment. The Handyman is very likely to complain about "ridiculous prices."

12. The Unicorn
Rare and majestic, the unicorn customer is one that cannot be missed. They are inclined to offer, or even bring unannounced, various foods and refreshments. The rarest of unicorns will even endeavor to prepare fresh baked goods that must be hungrily devoured upon sight. Should you be lucky enough to encounter a unicorn in the wild, be sure to offer prompt and friendly service and remember your "yes please, that would be great!" mantra. A unicorn is more likely to deliver a tray of baked goods to the store than complain about service. This could be due to the personality of the unicorn, or it could also be that no pool owner that baked fresh cookies has ever received poor service in the history of mankind.

Did I miss any? Comment with your thoughts.

Steve Goodale is a second generation swimming pool expert located in Ontario Canada. You can learn more about Steve, as well as swimming pool construction, maintenance and repair from his website: SwimmingPoolSteve.com.

Steve Goodale is AQUA Contributor of AQUA Magazine.
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Would like to add a certain personality to the idea- not exactly a customer, but - We call him or her "Mr. Helpful". This is usually someone working at a customers house such as a gardener, painter, roofer, electrician or may oftentimes be a house guest visiting your client.
Sometimes in the spring our crews will be working at a pool, and will leave the hose running slowly in pool to add water with the intention of returning later that day, or even the next morning to vacuum pool with pump or to backwash, and this is of course when we discover that the hose was turned off 5 minutes after we left by "Mr. Helpful". He will usually proudly state that the last crew that was there forgot to turn the hose off so he, the gardener or house painter did it if for us.Of course in this instance we do not have the water we need or planned on.
Or, you may set up a small garden hose sump pump to lower water, or to keep pool de - watered for painting or etc., and you return to find this was unplugged by Mr. Helpful. Again, he will tell you that someone left the pump plugged in and he unplugged it because he did not want it to burn out. That was nice of him, except that we can not do the job as intended due to his meddling.
Overall regarding your article, very funny and quite true!
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Dan Harrison - PoolAndSpa.com Wednesday, 04 January 2017
That's a real good one PM Pool !!! So true...
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Dan Harrison - PoolAndSpa.com Thursday, 22 December 2016
Steve, you could add "The Getcha" to your next list. Very populous in New York state, the "Getcha" customer is always home, in his million dollar house, with his Mercedes, BMW and Porsche, and when presented with his monthly service bill, he always tells you "Thanks. I don't have the money on me right now, but I'll getcha next week." But sadly he rarely does. Servicemen like to work at the Getcha's house, because it is usually in a great area and is well maintained. The Getcha will always let you do any work you suggest that his pool needs, however after completing the work the Getcha will normally say "That's great. Just put it on my tab and I'll "getcha" next week." But beware of the true feral nature of the Getcha. When cornered and told that if he does not pay his bill his service will be put on hold until he does pay, the Getcha almost always gets very mad and wild, and can transform almost into a Jekyll and Hyde type creature in a moment's notice. Use caution when confronting a Getcha at this point. Slowly back away and head on out as soon as possible. If you further enrage the Getcha by asking for money, he may use his ultimate deadly weapon against you by yelling "You know what? If you don't trust me to pay, then just cancel my service and I'll take my business elsewhere". If you are attacked by a Getcha like this, seek immediate medical attention! Then go back to the office and give all his invoices to the single nicest person who works with you. After 6 or 7 phone calls over a period of days, the Getcha will always eventually pay. But "the circle of life" will continue, as the Getcha slowly begins to mount up yet another huge bill.
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great read!
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you nailed it! I enjoyed reading it.
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Love my precious and rare unicorns!
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40 years ago during my first 2 weeks, I had met all 12 of these people. I do believe there may be one more to add to the list. The guy that read about how to fix it on the internet and has no problem telling you exactly how to do it. ( Of course replacing the pump seal will help maintain a perfect PH! It was on google)
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Dan Harrison - PoolAndSpa.com Tuesday, 20 December 2016
Great list Steve! Very true descriptions of most of the pool customers I have ever dealt with, for sure!
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I love this article. I'd like to add at least one more: The client who instructs you or "helps" you while you are hard at work as if they could do the work themselves. So many times they just gum up the works with their dominant or know-it-all attitude.
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Swimming Pool Steve Tuesday, 20 December 2016
I would have liked to include this customer profile but every time I tried to write about it I would get so angry I would be shaking too much to type
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First, if anybody criticizes you for presenting our customer as stereotypes then they need to get a grip on their life and find the humor in their work. Second, I have several additions to the 12 categories but I am short of time right now, but will give you one sub-category of the Hardass:
How to recognize a "Hardass" when the call comes in? The initials "LTC" precede the name. The abbreviation stands for Lieutenant Colonel or Lieutenant Commander, either way they are sure to be "hardass".
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Swimming Pool Steve Tuesday, 20 December 2016
You know I never even thought of breaking down the hardass category into a series of sub-categories. Great idea - thank you!
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Great Stuff, Steve. We were all laughing over here when we read this.
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Swimming Pool Steve Tuesday, 20 December 2016
Couldn't be happier to hear. Thanks Scott
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Swimming Pool Steve Tuesday, 20 December 2016
So happy to have this article featured here - thank you! I hope that some other industry professionals can comment and remind me about the common customer profiles that I forgot to include in this list. I would love to make a part 2!