SOI Service Report: Pillar of the Industry

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As these pages make clear, 2019 was a great year to be taking care of pools and spas. Over 90% of respondents were in a very comfortable spot, reporting either increasing or stable revenues. Times were so good that a number of people said that they were voluntarily reducing their customer base or culling the bad ones in order to reduce their workload and make life a little easier.

Having that choice speaks volumes about the state of the service industry in 2019. Back in 2010, you never heard anyone say that.

We tracked a number of issues to see if they're getting better or worse over time. Internet retail competition and finding labor were the biggest pains, showing steady growth in severity since 2015. We also tracked the growth of business tactics among respondents such as online billpay (up to 46% now from 26% in 2017) and remote monitoring of pools (up to 27%).

Looking for a summary quote among the many thousands of messages sent to us in this year's SOI survey? This one stands out as a good representative of the overall tone of 2019: "We had to turn down business because we couldn't get to it fast enough. Just not enough workers."

But those are just a few highlights. Dive in for the whole story.

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Industry Spotlight: S.R. Smith

The service sector has been a dependable pillar supporting the entire pool and spa industry for decades. AQUA spoke with Greg Russell, director of product management, S.R. Smith, about the strategies service companies can use to best serve their customers' needs.

AQUA: There has always been a natural tension between the homeowners' need to upgrade old equipment and their reluctance to spend money. How can a service company best present the case for needed repair?

Greg Russell, S.R. Smith: The homeowner has made a significant investment in their home and in their pool. They purchased their pools so they could enjoy being outside, having fun with their kids or grandkids. If over time the pool has a few things that need fixed, discuss with them how they can bring it back to the days when it was the highlight of their home. Talk about how making improvements and updates to the pool helps maintain its value and can help control ongoing maintenance costs.

As part of this discussion, it's helpful to understand how the pool is being used. We often see that as a homeowner's children get older, the pool doesn't get used as much as it once did. If this is the case, it provides a great opportunity to talk about the value in enjoying the pool as a piece of the landscaping, rather than just looking at it as something that the kids once used.

Repairs can fall into a couple of different categories and how you talk to the homeowner for each could be a bit different. The most urgent repairs relate to making sure items that are in or around the pool are maintained in accordance with manufacturer recommendations. For items that aren't working as designed, it is more urgent that these be addressed. Let the homeowner know that you saw the issue. Explain to them why it is a concern, and let them know that proper operation is always a concern for you. Provide a solution which resolves the situation for them.

In cases where the repair is less critical: Let's say, for example, the homeowner had a lit water feature in the backyard that when it worked, was great to just sit and watch and listen to after a long day at work. But now, it's broken and no longer holds the same appeal. Get the homeowner thinking about how great it would be to have that going again, to have that great ambiance once again in their backyard. Then provide them with some options. Maybe you can just get it working again. Or perhaps you can make it even better with more lights or colors.

AQUA: Where are the best opportunities to make that case?

GR: The best opportunities are most often those things that provide the most value to the homeowner. They are the ones ultimately paying for the repair or upgrade, so they need to feel good about making the change and spending the money. Examples would be things that can reduce the customer's ongoing pool expense, like a more efficient pump or moving from incandescent lights to 12-volt LED lights.

New lights are one of the most dramatic changes that can be made to a pool. Doing this will really enhance the visual appeal. As I said before, if a pool has lost a bit of its luster because the homeowner's needs have changed, why not add some new light colors and shows? Then the pool is a central piece of their home's landscaping they can enjoy.

There are also times when new regulatory changes may require a homeowner to make updates to stay in compliance, such as with the forthcoming variable-speed pump rules. In these situations, it is a good opportunity to explain to the homeowner what is changing, and then provide suggestions on how they might keep up with the changes.

AQUA: In performing equipment upgrades, the name of the game is efficiency. How can companies save time on maintenance and renovation jobs?

GR: S.R. Smith has created numerous products that are designed to easily address a customer's particular need, while making it a straightforward job for the service professional.

In the 90s and early 2000s, many pools were upgraded to fiber optic lights, which at the time gave the homeowner a way to have colored lights, which was a great feature. Unfortunately, as these systems age, the fiber does not transmit light as well as it once did. The PT 6001 and PT 6002 products were created to be a direct replacement for those black illuminator boxes. When combined with the new Mod-Lite, it is possible to retrofit most old fiber optic lighting systems in just a few hours. When the job is complete, the homeowner has many more colors than they had previously and will likely save money on their electric bill. In addition, they will have the reliability of LEDs.

Another product line that is great for renovations is our Artisan Series rails. They are designer-inspired and are a great retrofit option, as they will fit into existing deck anchors. The rails are a simple replacement that provides a great updated look for the homeowner's pool.

We also have some great options that can be added to the pool with very little labor. One of our most popular new products is the SlideAway removable pool slide. Because it is portable, the homeowner can have it out when their kids or grandkids want to use it, but not take up deck space when they want to entertain.

Other great pool enhancing products would include our line of in-pool loungers and tables. The lounger is a great addition to a sun shelf, and another very popular product is our table designed to fit into existing umbrella anchors.


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