On-site efficiency, customer satisfaction get a boost from the right automated equipment
By Julie Knudson
Technology has invaded the equipment market, and many service firms are finding better efficiency — and an increase in customer satisfaction and loyalty — through the use of automatic pool cleaners.
The team at All Seasons Pools, Spas & Outdoor Living in Orland Park, Illinois, handles just about everything. In addition to a brick-and-mortar retail store, the company also has a construction department that builds residential projects. “We do pools, spas, in-ground and above-ground [pools], plus a lot of outdoor living,” says Dan Lenz, vice president. Add in a service department that supports both residential and commercial customers, and All Seasons has its hands full.
Saving time, saving money
A good portion of the service department’s commercial business is routine maintenance. That may be simply checking water chemistry, or it could also entail managing a property’s filter systems and keeping the pools clean. For those properties that contract to have All Seasons on-site two or three times a week, vacuuming is a typical service component. “Because everything is time based,” Lenz says, “if we’re vacuuming commercial pools, then we have an increase in costs to the property because of that.”
Between the various regulations operators must abide by and the frequent cleaning and monitoring needs of property owners, Lenz’s team has found that automatic pool cleaners help save time on the jobsite and shave customers’ costs in the process. Their use also opens up additional opportunities to sell complimentary products and services. For example, because some pool designs put the water line inside the gutter, keeping that area scrubbed with an automatic pool cleaner can be a challenge. “We try to get people on regular diets of enzyme products for breaking down oils that cause that bathtub ring,” he says.
An investment that pays off
Prices vary considerably for today’s crop of pool cleaners, but the potential cost savings quickly add up for many commercial pool managers, “When properties see the benefit of having an automatic pool cleaner in that pool instead, especially where we’re there two to three times each week, it can pay for itself in less than a season in the cost difference,” Lenz says. The advantages are even more apparent to operators whose pools are only vacuumed on the days their maintenance vendor is on-site. “An automatic cleaner can be in the pool every day,” Lenz says. “The person taking care of it can put it in at the end of the day and take out in the morning, so the pool is always clean instead of just being cleaned a couple of days a week.”
Long-term usability makes the difference
Finding the right automatic pool cleaner is important, not just for fulfilling each customer’s needs but also for cost efficiency and long-term durability. One primary concern for many of Lenz’s customers is ease of use. How much effort does it take to launch and operate the device? A model that can be deployed and retrieved without a lot of fuss is particularly important for older users. “On some of the robotic cleaners, you hit a button and it climbs to the water line and waits for you to get it,” Lenz says. Whether it’s a senior community or the property manager just happens to be on the older side of the spectrum, he says a cleaner that doesn’t need to be pulled from the depths of the pool are often preferred. “It just makes it easier for them.”
Ongoing usability is also important. “Look for filter cartridges that are easy to remove and clean, rather than filter bags that can be difficult for users to manage,” Lenz says, adding that quick cleaning cycles are another plus. “They don’t have to be left in for six hours,” he explains. “If a storm comes through in the morning, the customer can throw it in and have the pool cleaned up before the afternoon.”