Pros’ methods vary when writing estimates
By Kim Patterson
Not everyone provides service quotes to customers in the same way. Some go through a checklist with the customer over the phone, while others send a technician to do a visual inspection. No matter the method, there’s no denying that some sort of assessment ahead of time is crucial. No customer likes to find unforeseen costs when they get their bill, nor pool company see unexpected issues eat into its margins.
For Todd Crowe, director of operations for Pool Scouts in Virginia Beach, Virginia, the type of service quote done depends on the relationship between customer and service provider. “Across our system, we have done both,” Crowe says. “In certain markets, we use our professionalism to win over customers with an on-site visit. Service quotes over the phone are generally done for existing customers we [already] know.”
In the case of a pool company that builds pools as well as services them, the decision to use one type of service quote over another often comes down to the condition of the pool and whether it was originally built by the company.
Mason Guarino, vice president of South Shore Gunite Pools & Spas Inc. in North Billerica, Massachusetts, follows this type of protocol: “Regarding general cleaning of a pool that is in usable condition and was built by SSG, we have a flat rate plus chemicals,” Guarino says. “If a customer calls with a pool we did not build, there is a consult fee where a tech will visit the pool, check current conditions and report back to the office.”
It’s also policy at SSG to only service pools the techs can service to the company’s standards. “If the pool has an odd type of equipment, is in disrepair or has obsolete equipment, we will offer alternative options so we could service it, but may refuse the service if it cannot be done as well as we like to,” Guarino says.
While there are certainly instances where a phone quote can work, says Sean Ruble, owner of J.F.Y. Pools in Elgin, Illinois, it’s not typically the best practice. “Seeing the job is the best way for us to get a feel for what we are walking into,” he says. “If we are booked and have limited time to see the job before being contracted for it, we always ask the customer to text or email as many pictures as possible, as that definitely gives us a better idea all around.”
The average pool owner may find it tricky to assess their pool maintenance requirements beyond answering some very basic questions. Guarino says that, without an accurate assessment a phone quote can easily lead to disappointment and frustration for both the customer and the service provider. Instead, Guarino suggests a more personalized option. “We find a paid consult is a much better fit,” he says. “The consult is almost a pool inspection to allow you and your customer to know exactly what their pool needs.” In the end, pool companies should choose the type of service quote that provides the customer with the best overall experience and the servicer with a profitable pool. No one wants to begin a customer/service provider relationship feeling dissatisfied. “It’s best to be very transparent on any fees associated with your services,” Crowe says. “Many customers are price sensitive and hate surprises associated with additional fees.”
Items to Include in a Service Quote
- Overall cost of chemicals, supplies and services, providing the total cost of service
- Length of time the quote is valid: Be clear about how long the quoted price is available
- Service days: The customer needs to know what they’re getting into, so provide the variable service frequency options and cost for each
- Payment terms: Clearly state when payment is expected and in what manner
- Note anything not included in the quote: List any extras that may come up that would be over and above the quoted price, like the cost for openings/closings, additional specialty chemicals or emergency service calls