What does a pool service company do? Ask any number of people and the response will be “They clean the pool.” Press it further and they will add “so I don’t have to.” But what exactly does that mean? Of course, there is the minimum expectation that the water is safe, crystal clear and free of algae.

The reality of it is that all pool service companies are not created equal, nor should they be. Some include the cost of chemicals in their service package, some don’t. Some vacuum at each visit, others once a month. Some clean or backwash filters monthly, others rely on pressure gauge readings to determine cleaning frequency. Pool service offerings vary and are as different as the individuals that own and operate the specific companies.

Contracts and/or service agreements can be, and should be, utilized to provide the customer a clear understanding and expectation of the service that a company offers. These documents should bulletpoint what a company specifically does on a service visit. It should list what is and what is not included in the service that you offer. It should also list what is expected of the homeowner in this relationship. Both the homeowner and the service company should maintain a copy of this signed agreement.

An educated customer is your best customer, so then why not educate the customer so that they have a clear, written, expectation of what you do. Requiring this type of agreement will prevent future problems/misunderstandings due to miscommunication or assumption.

Include the basics, i.e.: ABC Swimming pool service on each weekly visit will: test water; brush pool walls; vacuum; skim floating debris; empty skimmer and pump baskets; backwash or clean filter as needed; add necessary chemicals to achieve and maintain water balance.

Include your policy/expectations regarding payment. Be specific, i.e.: Owner agrees that (he/she) will be billed on the 15th of each month so that the account may be paid by the first of the actual service month. Statements will be mailed on or about the sixth day of each month only if account has a past due balance. Accounts not paid by the 15th will be subject to service curtailment unless prior arrangements have been made. Delinquent accounts are subject to collections. If we refer your account to a collection agency your account will be increased by 25%. If we refer your account to an attorney your account will be increased by 25% plus court costs.

Include items that are available, but are at an additional charge to the customer. This section can include any item that is not part of your regular service package, such as algaecides; stain preventatives; parts; acid wash, etc.

Example: Maintenance following tornado, hurricane, tropical storm or other excessive service need by act of God, or homeowner action, is not included in regular service and will be billed at a different rate.

Also, make certain to include expectations of the homeowner, i.e.: It is the responsibility of the owner to monitor and adjust water level as needed. Water level must be maintained at the mid-point of the skimmer opening. Owner shall not adjust run time of filter system (with exception to during the threat of a hard freeze) as service personnel have adjusted accordingly for correct circulation due to time of season. Filter system shall operate at a rate of one hour per day for every 10 degrees of air temperature. (Note: The best precautionary measure for filter equipment during the threat of a hard freeze is to run the equipment throughout the threat.)

Without a clear written agreement, you may find yourself in a position where you have a green pool and an angry customer through no fault of your own: You serviced Mrs. So & So’s pool on the Monday before the Fourth of July weekend. Mrs. So & So calls you on the Saturday of the holiday weekend livid, the pool is green and she is having a party on Sunday. You respond immediately. Upon arrival you note that the time clock had been reset to operate for only one hour per day. Mrs. So & So justifies the setting due to the cost of electricity.

Granted, no one wants to read a ten page brochure prior to hiring a service company. Your goal should be to provide a simple document that is not only clear and precise, but is short (in length) and easy to read. There should be no gray area. Bullet point as much as possible. Allow yourself the flexibility to update the agreement as needed with an annual expiration date. You will find that your customer interactions are more enjoyable when the customer has a clear understanding of what you do. You may also find that some individuals are just not your type of customer.

Rudy Stankowitz is the CEO and president of Aquatic Facility Training & Consultants in Archer, Fla.