A growing number of pool service companies are switching to all-inclusive flat fees for service calls.

Company owners cite a variety of rationales for the decision.

“Our reasons [for the change] are twofold,” said Ian Fyffe, president of Sparkling Pools in Sag Harbor, N.Y. “One is to eliminate confusion for clients as to how much [a service call] is going to cost. Two, if we can predict what the price is going to be, then we can bill a month in advance, like, for instance, a cable company does.”

Owners of many service firms agree that a flat rate works well where consistent residential service is concerned. It’s the unusual circumstances, though, where individually tailored chemical pricing comes in handy — especially for commercial accounts, where the cost of chemicals can run high.

Supporters of flat fees say they’ve found a way around this issue, however. For accounts where large bather loads or high water temperatures necessitate more maintenance than a standard service call, many are offering multiple price tiers. For example, one pricing plan might include the cost of extra chemicals and services, while another requires additional payments in case of an unforeseen chemical need. For customers without those needs, though, they plan to continue offering consistent flat rates.

“You can get into silver, gold and platinum levels of service, where some customers can pay a higher fee in which every service is included,” said David Anderson, president of Colorado Poolscapes in Glenwood Springs, Colo. “You can also do a hybrid of the ‘flat rate’ and ‘tailored’ pricing concepts — for instance, a customer may pay a flat fee overall, but if the spa has to be dumped and refilled, then there’s an additional charge for that.”

Others, meanwhile, tailor each pricing scheme to a customer’s individual needs. “Our pricing structure is quite varied,” said Mike Charles, president of Maximum Comfort Pool & Spa in Vail, Colo. “When customers ask me, ‘How much do you charge?’ my response is, ‘What do you have, and how often do you want it serviced?’”