Partnering with automatic pool cover professionals for service and installation
Home builders often partner with companies that specialize in plumbing and HVAC systems. This keeps builders from needing experts within their company to handle the HVAC and plumbing installation and service. Much like home builders, pool builders and servicers also find it beneficial to partner with automatic pool cover specialists both for the installation and servicing of automatic pool covers. This is especially true for pool companies that struggle with finding skilled employees in today’s tight labor market. For those who want to continue to provide their clients with service and maintenance of their automatic pool covers, partnering with a company that specializes in all makes and models of automatic pool covers is the ideal way to ensure your client’s pools remain safe by keeping auto covers operational all year.
Growth of automatic pool covers
Automatic pool covers are quickly becoming the preferred option for covering swimming pools in today’s marketplace. Not only do automatic pool covers allow pools to be easily opened and closed at the push of a button, but they also provide the ultimate safety cover for pools that aren’t in use. However, automatic pool covers do require a certain amount of technical skill, both for installation and maintenance. “All of our service techs and installers complete a rigorous training program and are exposed to every possible installation or service challenge before they are considered qualified,” says Allan Horwood, owner of Pool Patrol in Canada. “Even our most experienced technicians, including myself, run across scenarios never anticipated.”
Horwood’s company provides automatic pool cover installation, maintenance and service to pool owners. “To become a real expert in automatic pool covers requires installing a lot of pool covers,” he says. And it’s hard to develop in-house talent on just a few covers a year. “Unlike the installation of a pump or a filter, every installation is a little different,” Horwood says. “I partner with many pool builders as well as retailers and pool service companies who want to ensure their clients’ pools are safe, but they realize they don’t have the in-house expertise to service and maintain the automatic pool covers.”
There are a growing number of pool professionals specializing in the installation, service, maintenance and repair of automatic pool covers. This is driving builders and servicers across the U.S. and Canada to outsource their automatic pool cover business to the experts.
Some pool builders or servicers can figure out how to install an automatic pool cover. They follow the instructions and get it to work. But what they probably don’t know is how to anticipate potential issues and may not install the cover to make those future maintenance calls fast and easy. Once again, it’s the experience of installing and servicing the covers day in and day out and the ability to plan for what might happen in the future that makes outsourcing the cover installation and maintenance so logical.
Builders and servicers often neglect to tell the customer there is a certain amount of maintenance required to ensure the cover works properly over the long run. With all the other water chemistry and other maintenance issues to explain to the consumer, the automatic pool cover can get overlooked. Therefore, having the phone number of a service company that specializes in automatic pool covers is key.
As with any installed product, the question that pool professionals need to determine is whether they should sell and install the automatic cover or sell it and outsource the installation. This comes down to evaluating the competencies of your company, as the installation requires a high level of skill, as well as whether it’s more profitable for the staff to be installing automatic covers or to be spending their time elsewhere. Outsourcing allows builders and servicers to concentrate on what they do best.
“I have a builder that does 30 pools with 30 covers. He won’t sell a pool without one,” explains Horwood. “This builder is far too busy selling and building pools and doesn’t have enough staff to train in the intricacies of auto cover installation and service. As a result, we work together closely and I ensure his clients are happy with their pool investment long after he has left the backyard.” Horwood reports that many of his builder partners continue to profit on the initial sale of an automatic pool cover without ever having to directly touch the product themselves.
Service, repair and maintenance know-how
Service and maintenance are a part of any automatic pool cover. Some pool companies might prefer to service the covers, while others would prefer to outsource. Again, it all comes down to looking at your business, your market and the profitability of taking on the installation and service of automatic pool covers.
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Fortunately, there are now many pool cover companies throughout the U.S. that exclusively install and maintain automatic pool covers so it’s easier for pool professionals to subcontract this portion of the job. This allows them to easily offer automatic pool covers and still profit from selling them without having to train or hire additional staff to install and maintain these covers.
Once pool professionals start outsourcing the installation and maintenance of their automatic pool covers, they can focus on their core business — whatever it is that they do best. In a seasonal industry, the goal is to get as much done as possible in those short summer months.
Often, it is not so much the installation time involved, but the intricacies, inventories, service parts and details of maintenance that can require post-installation visits. Automatic pool cover professionals can handle all those little adjustments that need to be made after the initial installation of the cover, saving builders and servicers extra trips and headache.
It can be quite common for automatic pool cover specialists to receive new clients from their builder partners. “Sometimes these builders lose their installer, so they pick up the phone and call us,” says Horwood. “Other times, they are just so busy building, renovating or servicing pools that they are too busy to have their crew spend a day installing an automatic pool cover.” Horwood says often the servicing of automatic pool covers isn’t because the builder did a faulty installation, but rather that the builder just doesn’t do enough installations a year to know some of the tricks of the trade that help avoid problems down the road.
Pool builders and servicers are also not aware how difficult it can be to repair an automatic pool cover. It’s one thing to try to troubleshoot and repair the mechanism, but it’s quite another to try to fix the ropes or the vinyl material of the cover. These are items that cover specialists deal with daily, so it’s fast and easy to get the consumer operating their cover again. However, this could be a major headache for a servicer that doesn’t have the expertise in its staff to handle this type of service call.
For example, one of the most common calls for repair is that the cover no longer glides or opens and closes. Often this is caused because the retainer or track along which the cover glides has been smashed down, which occurs when the concrete above the track is so heavy that it compresses thin retained track over time, reducing the space and keeping the gliders and ropes from being able to pull the cover open and closed. Unfortunately, fixing this problem often requires breaking the deck to replace the track. “Those [of us] that specialize in auto-cover installation realize a thicker, stronger retainer can be used during installation to avoid problems like the smashed track,” explains Horwood.
In addition, if a builder discovers they need a part to fix the problem, they need to order the part and wait for it to arrive before going out on a separate service call to fix it. However several automatic pool cover specialists keep parts for all makes and models of auto covers on their trucks, so the situation can be resolved in hours, not days. This keeps the customer happier, the pool safe and, in the long run, the customer is more satisfied with their pool experience, which reflects positively on the builder who solved the problem by calling their automatic pool cover service partner. This quality service keeps the homeowner loyal to the builder or servicer for other product sales.
Keeping homeowners happy with their investment in their pool links directly to how much enjoyment they get from the pool, not how much trouble or time it takes to maintain the pool. Our job as an industry is to make the experience of owning a swimming pool a hassle-free and minimally time-consuming process. Outsourcing automatic cover installation and maintenance to the experts is just one more avenue toward customer satisfaction.