Company also continues to grow Master Service Program
By Michelle L. Cramer
Pentair intended to take its time removing the pool equipment it manufactures from the internet. As of October 1, more than 1,800 Pentair product SKUs were scrubbed from online sales under the company’s TradeGrade policy, a program founded in 2016 that was recently updated to accommodate the large-scale change. Under the enhanced policy, Pentair provides an extended warranty on products purchased from and installed by a pool professional.
De’Mon Wiggins, vice president of the pool business unit for Pentair, says the company was careful not to make a rash decision about the products’ removal. “We did not want to do something that’s actually going to hurt any of us overall,” he says. “We wanted to be wise, thoughtful.”
The removed products include all Sta-Rite brand residential in-ground products and most Pentair brand residential in-ground products, including all automation, filters, heaters, heat pumps, lights and water features. Additionally, select automatic pool cleaners, pumps and sanitizers will be among the products included with the program.
Understanding it will be an adjustment for both consumers and pool professionals, Pentair is providing a grace period with online sales through March 31, 2020. After that time, TradeGrade products purchased online are subject to a 60-day limited warranty only.
“The reality is that [the products] shouldn’t be online,” Wiggins says, “but if a consumer were to find [a product online], we don’t want to penalize the consumer. We should at least offer that 60 days. We don’t want a dissatisfied customer.”
Wiggins says Pentair is moving products offline to prioritize safety and consumer experience overall, ensuring products are installed professionally. Before toughening the TradeGrade policy, Pentair gathered feedback from trade professionals and consumers alike.
Maintaining an online presence
While pool professionals who were selling products online must remove the ability for consumers to purchase them that way, Wiggins recommends leaving the product details on their websites.
“It’s still important for us to have a presence on the internet from a marketing standpoint to tell the consumer what we’re offering and what the products do,” he says. “But we want them to come into the store or call for a consultation. It’s extremely important for our pool partners who work hard to get that sale. It may be more beneficial for them to be more proactive or aggressive getting in front of that consumer and saying, ‘I know you’re looking at this. Let’s talk more about it.’ ”
Products that will remain available online are spare parts, a few pumps, the Kreepy Krauly pool cleaners, Clean and Clear filters and some above-ground pool products. These products allow the homeowner to maintain involvement in the care of their pool, and help Pentair pool partners maintain quality of service.
“There’s always going to be that personal touch because of the nature of what’s being put in someone’s home or backyard,” Wiggins says. “But the need for interaction through quick automation — which people are using in the home — is going to move into the backyard. That’s going to be more DIY-friendly, where a consumer can pick up a product, get it quickly installed and operating. We’re going to be very specific in what is DIY and what goes on the internet in the future.”
Incentivizing the trade
Pentair launched the Master Service Program in 2018, a tiered incentive program that rewards service technicians and dealers who invest in product education and training.
Many pool professionals understand the value of expanding their product knowledge, as well as their installation and troubleshooting skills, says Sue Robach, Pentair national training manager.
“We also know how challenging it can be to take time away from a small business, and how easy it can be to weigh the options and come down on the side of prioritizing the current workload over spending time to hone and develop new skills,” she says, adding that this program is Pentair’s way of tipping that scale so more pool professionals can get the education they need and want to better serve their customers.
The Master Service Program has three tiers: Pentair Service Pool Specialist (copper), Pentair Service Advisor (bronze) and Pentair Service Professional (silver). The higher the tier, the more requirements to achieve the rating. Once a participant has met tier requirements, they receive a gift package and an iron-on patch that promotes the tech’s status in the program. A top-level Master Service Professional tier is also in the works.
While the Master Service Program is not directly tied to TradeGrade, there are plans for doing so in the future. “It’s about protect, empower and grow and you’re growing by selling more products in the backyard,” Wiggins says. “We can track that and I think that will be an opportunity where we give additional benefits in different grades as we continue to raise the bar in the Master Service Program. So the [pool professional] would not only be proficient technically, but there’s a sales component that goes into that program we can enhance as we move forward.”
The updated TradeGrade policy, the launch of the Master Service Program and plans for future enhancements all work toward Pentair’s goal of customer retention and industry growth.
“We want to make sure more people are wanting a pool in their backyard and that they have more desire to add to the pool pad,” Wiggins says. “And if we’re doing that, then we all get to partake in the success of an industry and a market that’s growing. That’s ultimately our desire.”
“I admire the fact that Pentair has joined with the other manufacturers to help pool/spa service companies to compete fairly, and not have to deal with customers who choose to purchase online, then see if they can find someone to install. With Jandy being at the forefront and Hayward following suit earlier in the year, this is only a good thing for our industry. Thank you, Pentair, for taking this step!”Mike Tellegen
Owner, The Pool & Spa Medic
“I’m glad to hear Pentair has decided to follow along with the other two large manufacturers. I feel the main obstacle the pool industry had was internet pricing [on pool products] that was lower than we could get from our suppliers. Salt systems for example: The IntelliChlor IC40 from Pentair was nearly $200 cheaper online than our cost with SCP. Now we can counter by still offering great quality of service with a product we won’t have to hit bare minimum profit with just to compete. I’m excited about this news.”Don Clark
Service manager, Southernwind Pools