APCs: Cleaning Up In The Backyard

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Automatic pool cleaners boost a service tech's productivity in the backyard, which directly leads to revenue growth
Automatic pool cleaners boost a service tech's productivity in the backyard, which directly leads to revenue growth

The more pools a service company cleans, the more money it makes. At the same time, service techs can add top-line revenue by taking the time to look around the backyard for additional sales opportunities.

But how do they find the time to clean more pools and sell equipment? One way is by being more efficient in the backyard through the use of ingenious pool cleaning machines that work independently to remove debris from a pool — aka "automatic pool cleaners."

Incorporating APCs into cleaning routines gives a service pro those extra minutes in the backyard to look around for additional selling opportunities, to add finishing touches to the job that can build customer loyalty or simply to clean more pools.

The Magic Of Efficiency

Most companies offer a standard level of service that includes cleaning the pool, checking the water chemistry and ensuring all the pool equipment is working properly. Generally, the number of pools signed up for this basic package is proportional to revenues, and most companies try cluster as many of them together as possible in order to optimize the use of time and maximize the revenue per hour. In this situation, an APC can be used to great advantage, says Russell Koch, Backyard Vacations Pool & Equipment in Medicine Hat, Alberta, a construction company that also offers service to customers that request their help maintaining a clean pool.

"Using an automatic pool cleaner is especially important when I'm working on several pools in the same geographic area," Koch says. "I put the vac into the pool and return four hours later. It only takes 20 minutes to put the vac in and take it out, but I still get my full base rate for an hour of work. And it would take at least an hour of work if I were to have to remain at the pool to vacuum and clean it manually."

photo showing an automatic pool cleaner
Steve White of Underwater Pool Masters in West Boylston, Mass., takes advantage of an automatic pool cleaner to speed up the job of pool maintenance.

All Seasons Pools in Orland Park, Illinois, uses that APC time-savings to sell more product, according to Dan Lenz, vice president. "We save at least 10 minutes per pool with a battery-powered vac," he says. "Those 10 minutes allow our service professionals to chat with the pool owner about upgrading to salt chlorinators or variable speed pumps. Or it allows our pros to take notes and tell us about other products that could be replaced on the pool such as old fiber-optic lights."

All Seasons' service operation is enormous, so even though the APCs save just a little time at each pool, the total payoff is substantial. "With over 6,000 customers that we service annually, saving 10 minutes per pool can yield incredible profits from replacement parts. And replacing old equipment or parts is a key revenue stream for our service department — which is the largest department of our company. When our service guys have time to see that the fiber-optic lighting in a pool isn't working properly or that the lighting is just emitting a very faint glow, it opens the door for us to contact the pool owner and explain the benefits of replacing their fiber-optic lighting with new LED lighting, not only to save on electricity, but more importantly to improve their pool lighting and enhance their night-time pool experience.

These minor upgrades can often start the ball rolling for more renovations down the line, Lenz says. "We find that once you replace the colored lights, it's easier to start the conversation about using automatic control systems and other automation devices to improve their pool experience. Automation systems have become a huge revenue stream for our company that simultaneously builds loyalty among our customers, as we help them simplify their pool maintenance and enjoy their pool more."

Spot Cleaning

Many pool professionals are also now carrying battery powered cleaners in their trucks to quickly spot clean pool areas that are regularly dirty — areas like steps and cuddle coves that accumulate and show dirt. These are especially handy at beachside pools, which are prone to the build up of blowing or tracked-in sand. Chris Morelli of South Strand Pool Maintenance in Surfside Beach, South Carolina uses a battery powered automatic pool cleaner to tidy up those areas without losing time.

"Most of the pools we service are right on the beach and are always filled with sand," he says. "We have a staff of six, and five of them use the commercial grade Pool Blaster Max CG battery powered pool vacs — they are terrific for getting the sand out of pools. Using this type of vac saves us time so we can get more pools cleaned faster.

"This is especially important to our business since most of the pools we clean are in rental homes in the summer and we clean the pools between renters. That means that we can sometimes hit one pool three or four times in one week. Once we started using this type of vac, we found we had more time to pursue other business. We spend at least 20 percent less time using this vac, rather than the traditional vac with hose which takes too much time setting up and putting away."

With customers peering into the backyard watching pros use the devices, it's not surprising to fine that techs that use automatic cleaners on the job can end up with a profitable sale, as their jobsite has become a convenient demo site. Lenz says his company has been able to retail a substantial number of the units directly to service clients.

"This can be an appealing product for the pool owner who really wants to keep their pool as clean as possible between service visits," he says. "We found that 90 percent of our sales of this product come from our existing customer base."

Comments or thoughts on this article? Please e-mail [email protected].

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