The tell-tale signs of a landscaper gone rogue are easy to see: Freshly cut lawn, edged walkways, and a pool surface covered in grass clippings. The aftermath of poorly aimed mower discharge, a haphazard leaf blower, and a “Don’t worry about it, the pool guy will get it” mentality.
The solution is fairly simple: Schedule your service visit the same day, but prior to the lawn service. Ninety percent of the time, when a lawn guy sees that the pool has already been cleaned, their approach will be more cautious. I’ve even seen a few grasp the homeowner’s skimmer to fish out debris that they had accidentally blown in.
Unfortunately, there are the other 10 percent. These are the individuals that suffer from “Mower Madness," a condition that forces a landscaper to continuously decorate the pool surface with vegetation.
Homeowners typically do not analyze the source of floating debris. They do, however, understand that the lawn guy is responsible for the lawn and the pool guy is responsible for the pool. So, the phone call to complain will be to the pool company, and will go as follows: “Did you come today? There are still leaves (“Leaves” is synonymous with any type of floating debris) in my pool”.
Having encountered one of these “gurus of grass” early on in my service life, I have made it a company practice to take a photo with a cell phone of every pool following completion of service. The photo is then sent to my email before my employee leaves the customer’s property.
Initially, this practice was designed as a cover-our-assets measure for any pool we service that had strange goings-on, i.e. careless landscaper, heavy leaf fall, etc. I would keep the photos of these potential complaints in my email, ready to forward if necessary.
As my company grew and I began to hire and send out more and more employees on their own, I found further use for the photos. By having my employees send a picture of each pool prior to leaving the customer’s property, I was able to continue to see each and every pool following our service visit each and every week.
As an unanticipated bonus, my employees became even more meticulous. It makes perfect sense: Because they are required to take a picture, they want the pool to be “picture perfect”. They developed a sense of pride and want me to see how good of a job they do. This has resulted in raising the level of service we offer even higher. After all, you have to be proud of what you did in order to take and share a picture of your work.
Another benefit was that the photo in my inbox arrived with a time stamp. This tool enabled an increased level of time tracking. Taking driving distance into consideration, I now had a fairly accurate means of tracking the time an employee spent cleaning a pool. I also had a means of determining whether or not an employee had made an unscheduled stop somewhere within their service route.
My business continued to grow, and with that so did the myriad of customer types. We now found ourselves offering pool service to landlords; Real-estate agencies; property management companies; vacation homes, etc. -- all clients who would not be home later that day to see their pools. In some cases, clients that would not see their pool or yard for months or years at a time.
The photos have again increased in value. Following a review of the picture and analysis of employee time, the picture message I received is then forwarded to the appropriate customer. This enables all of my clientele, whether on property or not, to see their pool following our service each and every week.
What had initially started out as a means to deal with a single lawn service employee has evolved into both a valuable management tool and a selling point for the service that we offer.
It is no secret that pool service is a highly competitive field and the truth is that everybody brushes, empties skimmer baskets and cleans filters. The photo our customers receive each week is a simple thing that sets us apart and adds value to what we do.
Rudy Stankowitz is the owner of Aqua-Caribbean, LLC, a pool service firm in Gainesville, Fla.