Countless Commercial pools have been left reeling from the pandemic.
Many public and hotel facilities have been shut down for months. Some have reopened at limited capacity and with heightened restrictions, but a number of them remain shuttered. With the effects of these closures trickling down through the industry, pool pros have been forced to make decisions about how they can help bring the commercial pool market back to life.
“For my area, very few pools have totally reopened,” says Daniel Brodersen, formerly the commercial service manager for Millennium Pool Service in Springfield, Virginia. “A good portion of outdoor pools at rec centers, splash pads and water parks have opted to just skip this entire season. I’d say our commercial division has lost 30% to 40% of our normal workload for the summer.”
One might assume that with day-to-day maintenance at a standstill, pool pros could shift their attention to long-put-off upgrades and repairs. However, Brodersen says this hasn’t been the case. Many local governments have implemented spending freezes, which means this type of work is also on hold. Fortunately for Brodersen, his company has a residential division, so much of the commercial manpower has been shifted to accommodate the increases in that area.
For Katie Crysdale, founder of Lakeview Aquatic Consultants Ltd. in Okotoks, Alberta, Canada, staying in the game requires being creative with the way you provide services, and setting clear boundaries of what you are and are not willing to do in terms of the business model: For instance, deciding whether you’ll work with clients who aren’t wearing masks. “Pool professionals need to be sensitive to what their clients actually need, as well as the social climate of the region,” Crysdale says.
If you’re creative right now, you’re going to be successful at bringing in revenue and keeping your employees, Crysdale explains. She recommends looking for unusual jobs clients need done. While they might be outside of the scope of what the pool businesses usually provide, pool pros can use them to maintain relationships and keep employees working.
“If somebody said, ‘Can you make me a mask?’ that’s not what I want to do, but if for some reason that helps my clients and I can make the right money off it, I’ll do it,” Crysdale says.
Brodersen agrees that being open to shifting roles during these unusual times is an important aspect of working toward recovery. He has even seen his own role shift to more of an advisor for the time being.
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“We’ve gotten a lot of requests to come inspect pools at health clubs and swim schools who have unfortunately permanently closed,” Brodersen says. “In these situations, I’ll call the owners of other clubs or schools who are opening another location and let them know of the possible availability.”
Additionally, many of Brodersen’s clients have expressed difficulty getting answers from local health departments, so he takes it upon himself to call or visit the PHTA, which is headquartered less than 10 minutes from his office. “If I don’t know the answer,” he says, “I’ll at least point them in the right direction.”
Brodersen has found the pandemic has opened up a few opportunities to provide added products and services. “At some of the locations that are currently open, we have added extra service visits, provided extra cleaning products,” he says. “This pandemic has also brought a light to more commercial pool operators asking about UV or ozone systems as well as chemical controllers.”
As far as helping businesses recover, Brodersen says they’ve discussed payment deferrals and other options with some small businesses still working to get back on their feet.
Overall, Brodersen sees this time as an opportunity to build and maintain business relationships.
“The best thing I’ve been able to do for every one of my commercial clients is to simply let them know we are here for them,” he says. “Answer texts, respond to emails and phone calls. If I get a call from a client and I happen to be in the area, I’ll swing by and, if nothing else, just make an appearance. Even the clients who are closed for the year, I’ll still reach out to periodically and just check in with them, see how they’re doing, ask if they need anything.”
Building customer connections is something that Crysdale also feels is key to helping the commercial pool business come back. “Now’s the time to build long term loyalty,” she says. “You can provide solutions, because everybody’s stressed emotionally and physically — whatever you can do that provides value to your clients, they’ll remember.”