A pool owner recently called for an estimate for weekly pool service. I went over there, checked it out and gave her a quote of $140 a month.
She was visibly taken aback. “Wow, you’re really expensive!” she said.
So I ask her what she’s currently paying. “Sixty dollars a month,” she said.
“Well, how do you like it?” I asked. She shrugged her shoulders and didn’t say much. “So why are you looking to switch to a new service company?”
It was like a light switch went off. She started rattling off a bunch of things: “They don’t show up regularly, my pool turns green all the time, they don’t ever answer the phone, they’re only here for five minutes a visit…”
“Well,” I said, “That’s the kind of service you can expect for $60 a month.”
You see this again and again in our industry — people trying to pay peanuts for quality service. And they seem genuinely surprised when it doesn’t work out.
Let’s take a look at why $60/month pool service is a bad idea, not only from your point of view, but also from the customer’s point of view too.
THE SERVICE SIDE
To put it bluntly, $60/month is just not sustainable for a pool tech.
There’s 4.3 weeks per month, on average, but for this example we’ll just use four weeks as a baseline. Sixty dollars a month from a customer means you’re getting $15 a stop. That’s before anything else comes into play, like the costs of your gas, vehicle maintenance, equipment, chemicals, insurance, taxes...the list goes on. If you’re operating correctly as a legitimate business, you can expect to take about half off the top of your revenue to cover all that.
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So now you’re down to $7.50 a stop. If you’re spending 30 minutes at a stop — which you should be if you’re doing quality work — you’re making $15 an hour net. And that’s only if there’s nothing wrong with the pools you visit. I’m based in Florida, which has pretty large pools that often remain uncovered, so at some stops I find myself spending 45 minutes to an hour working on a pool. At $60/month, spending extra time at your stops significantly cuts into your profit time.
From there, you have to do a lot more pools to make money. You’re looking at 20 to 30 pools a day just to make any kind of money. You’re far more likely to deal with burnout, which is a legitimate concern when you’re doing so many pools. And because you’re doing so many pools, you don’t have time to dedicate to the clients that call with a question or need you to stop by because their vacuum is not working properly.
Your clients really expect to have everything taken out of their hands so all they need to do is enjoy their pool — why else are they paying for service? But at a lowball rate, they’re going to quickly learn how little their service covers. They’re going to start giving you bad reviews and before you know it, you’re out of business, all because you’re trying to offer the cheapest price. You just can’t sustain quality service for that rate.
THE CLIENT PERSPECTIVE
Sure, a client is going to be happy they’re paying $60 a month. (At least, they are at first.) But at the same time, they’re expecting you to do pretty much everything. I have one client who has bad knees and has a hard time cleaning out the baskets in between our visits, so during the leafy times of the year, I drive over there and empty it for her to help eliminate equipment problems. That’s something I’m able to do because I’m priced right.
Even if I make an extra stop out of the week here and there, I’m still in the green, whereas $60/month services are just not. Clients want you to take care of everything. They call you with questions, they send you emails, there’s all kinds of things they want from you, and if you’re priced right and not doing a million pools a day, you can give them that time.
Going back to the customer I gave the estimate to — she listed off a bunch of issues with her service company, all of which I could solve with my service, but there’s a price to pay for it. You really get what you pay for in this industry, and I always explain to potential customers that cheap isn’t good and good isn’t cheap.
So once I explain that, it starts clicking with them. Then I say, “You know, why don’t we do a trial month where you accept the service at the rate I asked for, and if you’re not happy, just pay the rate and we’ll leave on good terms.” Once I explain all of those things, it makes them more comfortable. Probably eight times out of 10, I convert those clients.
That woman I mentioned at the beginning? I signed her on as a client. She was paying $60 a month before, and now she’s going to pay $140. Why is that? Because she’s going to get quality service and enjoy a problem-free pool.
Those $60/month people are really killing the industry because it teaches clients that every company should be priced that way. And that’s just not the case.
I take care of details and make sure it’s done right. There’s no way I can train and license myself, operate a business and provide good service for $60 a month. That’s just not happening.
Charge appropriately. Figure out what the market rate is in your area. In my area it’s $85 a month for typical full service. I don’t even walk into a backyard for less than $120 or $130 a month. If you don’t know what a good rate is in your area, call around to other businesses and ask; that’s the best way to figure out what the market bears in your location.
From there, your goal is to get to a point where you’re getting some jobs, but not every single one. If you’re going out there, bidding on every single job and getting every single one, you’re bidding too low. (The basis I use is every 10 estimates I go out on, if I land two or three of them, I’m priced right. You just have to do some trial and error and go from there.)
So charge what you’re worth. That will allow you to provide better value to your customers, keep your schedule a little more free and make more money at the end of the month. It’s a win-win.