For many spa retailers, customer service doesn’t end once the sales transaction is complete. To retain consumer loyalty, many dealers continue to follow up with their clients, offering maintenance and repair services throughout their spa ownership. Nevertheless, a dilemma persists: should retailers hire their own technicians or contract outside services?
Whether you employ an in-house service department or outsource, you need to hire technicians who contribute to your business. Today, we’ll explore the benefits of hiring smart when it comes to service technicians, including lower costs, boosting revenue, and building customer loyalty. Providing quality, long-term customer service requires certified training and expertise; don’t make the mistake of hiring underqualified, inexperienced technicians.
Hiring the Right People
Whether in-house or outsourced, you need to hire an effective service team to meet your clients’ expectations. Finding the right people isn’t always easy, but there are steps you can take to ensure you hire help that can adapt to your needs. The three main points to look for include:
- level of service experience;
- level of sales experience; and
- willingness/interest in ongoing professional development.
Before bringing on new technicians, you should be familiar with their professional backgrounds. Unlike sales positions, service positions are much more labor intensive. That being said, you want to find an employee who has experience in technical labor and is familiar with challenges of physical work. The person you hire doesn’t necessarily need hot tub experience–that can be taught–but he or she does need a comparable work history.
Ultimately, you want a consummate professional, not someone who treats the job like a paid vacation. An experienced, qualified technician should approach any field with an aptitude to learn.
The person you hire doesn’t necessarily need hot tub experience–that can be taught–but he or she does need a comparable work history.
When looking for new service technicians, you should also consider any sales experience the candidates have. After cross-training your technicians in sales, they can apply their expertise to upsell customers and push parts and accessories while in the field. In the hiring process, you should find experts who have an affable quality and can communicate well with clients.
Lastly, you want your service team to be experts in what they do. In order to achieve this, many retailers look to train and certify their technicians to improve their quality of their service as well as its reputation. As more states require CPO certification for pool and spa technicians, operating without the proper accreditation is bad for business.
In the hiring process, you should not only plan for, but encourage on-the-job training. This ensures new technicians perform at your standard of excellence. Additionally, in-house training facilitates a closer relationship with your service techs, helping sustain better productivity and employee retention.
Go Straight to the Source
Knowing where to look for the best talent is a challenge for many retailers with limited training resources. For many industries, including pool and spa, HVAC, and automotive retail, finding qualified service technicians has become increasingly difficult. Simply put: there are very few workers in the labor force with the necessary training for highly skilled service jobs.
However, there are ways to seek out qualified service technicians without the need for an entire hiring department. Speaking with FitSmallBusiness, a group of business owners from a variety of industries share hints in tracking down better employees. Though they present many ideas, these are the most useful for hot tub retailers:
- Look beyond the immediate area.
- Reach out to local trade organizations.
- Recruit at community colleges and technical schools.
If you’re struggling to find help in the region, then look outside it. By expanding your search, you can increase the labor pool and bring the talent to you. There are dozens on online job boards and social media tools to help you connect with job hunters from around the country.
You can also connect with the various pool service trade associations, such as the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP), to find the local chapter near you. Often these organizations can connect you with an entire network of certified technicians, as well as training resources and more. In going through a trade association, you know their members are trained, certified and experienced.
When it comes to recruiting, your local trade schools are invaluable resources when you need to hire specialized technicians. You can speak with recent graduates looking to start a career or sponsor a tent at a student jobs fair. These methods may seem old-school, but they’re effective when you don’t have a large hiring budget and need new talent.
In-House Technicians Can Boost Your Revenue
Establishing an in-house service department can be an opportunity to increase revenues, improve customer loyalty, and boost sales. Through effective hiring and training, your business can integrate service and sales into a cohesive, profit-generating operation.
In a 2014 issue of Spa Retailer, Dave Riley, a retail business consultant, took a close look at how in-house service departments affected revenue. In his article, he discovers that retailers who charge more for service visits tend to log more billable hours than those with more affordable rates. Interestingly, his analysis reveals that companies who charge more also spend less running their operation. Ultimately, service departments could be even more profitable if they weren’t underutilized and undervalued.
Sales and Service Call in One
Having your own service team allows to take your sales strategy into the homes of your customers. With direct access to your clients, your service experts can be a valuable marketing tool. Not only do they know and understand your product, they can explain to customers how to get the most out of it.
Integrating your sales and service teams can increase profitability and consumer loyalty.
In a July H2Insider piece, we discuss how integrating your sales and service teams can increase profitability and consumer loyalty. They reveal how service technicians themselves are selling points, highlighting that clients won’t have to worry about the maintenance of their new spa. Furthermore, you’re more likely to be the first to receive a call when clients need new parts, filters, chemicals, and more.
In the end, a service team improves customer loyalty. In effect, your business becomes a one-stop shop for spa owners. Through continued, dependable service, these customers are more likely to return for future purchases.
Safety Net for Slow Sales
When the economy is slow, your sales inevitably take a hit. However, your service offerings can help make up for lost revenue during downturns. Though you may not be selling as many hot tubs, you can ensure that the ones you’ve already sold continue to satisfy your clients. If you retain these customers in tough times, you increase the chances of future sales opportunities in better circumstances.
Outsource to Save Money
Some businesses aren’t ready to make the plunge into establishing an in-house service department. Whether sales are struggling or you’ve just opened your doors, outsourcing your service team can help lower overhead costs while providing greater access to capital resources.
When you don’t have to supply the resources and capital to house your own service department, you can use that excess cash flow toward other facets of your business. Outsourcing your field technicians allows you to focus on the retail end of operations while you provide your customers with reliable maintenance service. Additionally, your contractors absorb the burden of hiring costs and the associated risks.
Despite the advantages of outsourcing, you risk limiting your potential for growth.
Outsourcing also increases your access to more technology and better equipment. Service agencies maintain their own tools, including repairs and replacements. Again, for smaller retailers this can be a valuable resource when capital is limited. This allows you to provide more clients with a greater number of services despite limited operating capabilities.
Of course, there’s no on-the-job training required when you outsource service. So if your business doesn’t have the resources to sufficiently train and certify its service team, your customers can still have access to dependable technicians. Presumably, your outsourced contractors are fully trained and certified without having to put your time into it. As a result, your customers receive dependable service from qualified experts.
Yet, despite the advantages of outsourcing, you risk limiting your potential for growth. Though you save money, you also have less control over your business. If your hired technicians are not performing up to your clients’ expectations, there’s little you can do to remedy the situation short of terminating the contract, which would leave you without a service department. Furthermore, outsourcing creates managerial redundancies and inefficient communication, resulting in slow response times.
Building a Team
Ideally, your service department should be a natural extension of your operations, integrating sales and customer support into a fluid business model. However, the success of your service operations hinges on finding dependable help and establishing a cohesive team. Before you outsource, discover the opportunities a service team can offer your business. Through training, leadership, and vision, you don’t just sustain a service department, you profit from it.