Not Using Tech Speak
Nobody cares how much you know until
they know how much you care
The other day, I was listening
to an AM radio station. They were playing some of the old time
radio programs. I was fortunate enough to get to hear the old
Abbott and Costello routine of "Who's On First?" This
is the routine where Lou and Bud are discussing the St. Louis
baseball team. The question was asked about the name of the first
baseman. The name of the first baseman was "Who", but
as Lou hears the answer he does not realize it is an answer so
he repeats, "Yeah. That's my question. Who's on first?"
The routine is fun to hear or
watch as Bud and Lou go through the entire baseball team which has
players with unique last names such as "What" and "Why". While this may be
an entertaining comedy routine, it surely is not entertaining
or fun when it happens in a pool and spa store.
Too often, I
have had the occasion of watching customers walk into a pool store
with a jar containing a sample of the water from their pool, only
to leave thirty minutes later with enough chemicals to start up
a new pool, and that infamous, "deer in the headlight" stare.
The retailer may be proud of
him or herself for having made such a large sale. But, what happened
to the customer while they were in the store?
It has been my experience
as a retailer selling pool and spa chemicals, that over 90% of the
customers do not have a working knowledge of the chemicals and mechanics
of the workings of their pool.
For years, we witnessed customers
walking in our store carrying the empty 2 1/2 gallon "chlorine jugs",
asking to have them refilled. As we asked them how their pool looked, the usual answer was, "OK. I just need to shock the pool."
When we asked why they needed
to do that, few knew why. Most customers told us they only had a
one step test for chlorine, so we knew they had no way of knowing
if they had chloramines in their pool. They would test the ph level,
and other than those two tests, they knew of nothing else.
store we were recently visiting, the "Abbot and Costello" routine
began as one employee began testing the customer's pool water. As
they tested for chlorine, free chlorine, ph, metals and every other
possible test, you could see the customer's eyes began to glaze
over as if they had gone through a complete physical with their
doctor and cardiologist.
While correct with his testing
and selection of products, the salesperson began telling the customer
all that was wrong with his pool and what each of the chemicals
was going to do for the pool. The glaze on the eyes of the customer
intensified. And with every question they asked, the more they
were confused with the solution.
Soon, the customer had a cart
load of merchandise in tow as he headed out the door with the
cart and now empty water sample container.
Again, you may think
there is nothing wrong with this. But too often in our store we
would be the recipient of a visit from this same customer within
one to two weeks of their visit to the competition. Their explanation
of the problem with their pool was quickly followed by their version
of the story we just told you. It was the retail version of Abbot
Perhaps, the customer performed
a test of their pool too soon after using the chemicals and then
used too much or too little of the chemicals in their second attempt.
Then again, they may have become lost in the variety of chemicals
and instructions, and made a mess of the whole situation.
were visited by this customer the first thing we did was to ask
for a written inventory of what chemicals they had on hand. We provided
them with a new sample bottle and an easy explanation of how to
draw a sample from the pool.
As much as we thought the customer
was overwhelmed in the last experience, we went to great length
to develop a solution slowly and with plenty of education. (Notice
this is education as compared to information)
One of our first
questions was to ask if there was to be a party or other special
event by which time we must have the pool in shape. With the first
visit, we told our customer our only objective was to get the
chlorine back in line. We explained how we tested for chlorine
To explain chloramines, we would
illustrate using a "pac man" and showed how the chlorine (pac man) would
get tied up with the "dirt" in the pool, and that the
shock treatment was what it took to untie the two so that the
chlorine could again be free to get back to work and stick the
dirt in the filtering system.
Perhaps this was overly simplified,
but it was amazing how customers would begin to understand the
workings of their pool. Once we had adjusted the chlorine, we
would balance the ph, and then move on to checking for metals
and cyanuric acid levels. We explained cyanuric acid as being
the "sunglasses" for the chlorine in the pool.
a few days, we not only had solved the problem, but we now had
a customer who understood what was happening with their pool.
Because the customer had purchased so much at the competition,
they had little need for chemicals initially.
As we explained
how to use each of the chemicals, we took the time to explain
the difference in the quality of what the customer had purchased
and the product we were going to sell them when what they had
bought was used up.
Did we manage to convert every
customer? No, because there are some customers who will take their
new found knowledge and return to the competition. And there are
some people who are always going to shop for the lowest price. And
the customer you gain because of your having the lowest price, is
the same customer you will lose when somebody else has the lowest
But, by a factor of several
times over, the dealer who subscribes to the theory of solving the
problem before working to make the sale is the one who will have
a new answer for the Abbott and Costello routine.
"Who's on first?" You are.