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As a pool business expands, staff will invariably be faced with an increasing number of consumer problems or queries. At times, particularly during peak trading periods, the temptation is to ring a company like Bio-Lab seeking quick fixes to their clients' problems. Whilst there will be times when specialist advice is desirable, even essential, a large percentage of calls and faxes made to Bio-Lab could be dealt with by the pool shop staff themselves. When staff continuously dive for the telephone, they eventually lose credibility with their customers. What is unfortunate is that they often know the answer but are reluctant to impart it to their customer without verification from a third party. If you do not have faith in your abilities and knowledge, then don't expect your customers to have faith in you.

During 2001, Bio-Lab monitored all incoming calls with respect to the nature of the query, the duration of each call and the number of calls made by each BioGuard dealership. From the information gathered, it was apparent that a fair percentage of the so-called "technical queries" should not have required pool shop staff to ring in the first place. For example, when someone contacts Bio-Lab simply to ask a dosage rate that is clearly reported on the back of the product label, they waste everyone's time, including their own. Another important finding was that many calls lasted far longer than they should have, simply because the caller had not gathered all the necessary information before ringing. A third was that very few pool shop staff ever referred to the BioGuard Product Reference Manual that was issued during the BioGuard workshops that they or their work colleagues had attended.

This Technical Information Bulletin has been prepared to address some of these issues. As your business grows, you get more queries and, hence, so do we. We certainly have no problem with dealing with those "curly" problems that all dealers will encounter from time to time, and will continue to provide technical advice in many forms, whether by phone, fax, e-mail, technical bulletin or on the BioGuard website. However, so that we can provide a better service to you and your customers, we need to spend less time dealing with queries that the caller either should have known the answer to or didn't have all the necessary information at the time he or she rang.

A Guide to Dealing with Technical Queries

Here is a step-by-step guide to ensure that you have all of the information at hand and have exhausted all avenues available to you before you contact Bio-Lab regarding a technical problem or query.
1. Is there a problem? It may sound trite, but a surprising number of "technical" queries that come through to Bio-Lab are simply cases of pool owners (and, worryingly, pool shop staff) simply not understanding basic issues like how to apply a product or what a product does. For instance, ringing Bio-Lab the moment a customer complains that Power Chlor did not dissolve in a bucket of water indicates not only that the customer did not read the product label, but also that the staff member has no idea of how to apply Power Chlor either. As the old saying goes, "If all else fails, read the instructions!"
2. What is the nature of the problem? When a customer tells you their pool is "cloudy and green", do not conclude that the problem is green algae without seeking further details. For instance, is the water green or is there green material deposited on pool surfaces? Is the green material greasy to the touch? How cloudy is the pool?
3. When did the problem become apparent? Did the pool turn green overnight or has it been green for the last six months? An ongoing symptom may well be indicative of an underlying problem like the lack of maintenance on a filter or a pre-existing fault in a pool liner.
4. Do I have all the necessary information? Ensure that you have all the details about the pool, such as surface, age, environment around the pool, etc. Often the source of a problem and its solution will become evident as you consider these factors (eg. plant material dropping into pool that is now exhibiting a high chlorine demand).
5. Have I performed all the necessary tests on the water sample? All too often, Bio-Lab fields queries that start with, "My customer's pool is covered with a greenish-blue deposit" then, when asked if a copper test has been performed, the answer is "We don't test for metals". As BioGuard Pool Professionals, you should be doing comprehensive testing on all pool water samples, let alone those with problems.
Entering fictitious values into the ALEX program is asking for trouble. The old computer programmer's adage is applicable here - "Garbage in, garbage out".
6. Should I send someone out to see the pool? We are all aware that customers often have very different perceptions to our own with regards to pool problems. Some owners will describe their pool as "extremely cloudy" when, in reality, there is only a small amount of material suspended in the water. To others, the pool will have a "small algae problem" when it is literally infested with the material. In many
cases, the best avenue to solving a problem is to see it firsthand. If a loyal customer is reasonably closely located to your store, never dismiss the option of sending a service person to see the pool.
7. Before I contact Bio-Lab, is there someone in my business that can answer the query? Principals of pool businesses or long-time staff should be able to advise less experienced, junior or casual staff in many cases. Telling them to "ring Bio-Lab because I am too busy" shows a lack of concern and respect for your work colleagues and your business.
8. Can the answer to the problem be found in the "Problem Solving" section of the BioGuard Product Reference Manual or the BioGuard website? If you have attended one of the BioGuard workshops, you will have the Reference Manual. Don't leave it gathering dust on a shelf in your store - use it!
9. The last resort - contact Bio-Lab! When you do, ensure that you have all the relevant details at hand. It is startling how much time is wasted on phones whilst callers disappear looking for pertinent data about a client's pool. And don't disregard faxing or e-mailing your query. It is often much more efficient to jot down brief details, attach the last ALEX printout and fax the information to Bio-Lab, rather than to spend 15 minutes on the phone trying to describe the problem and relate the water balance history. An additional advantage of this approach is that the query can be vetted and passed on to the most appropriate person or persons at Bio-Lab - often not possible at the time a caller phones up.
10. Remember that you and your colleagues are much closer to the problem than staff at Bio-Lab. The success of recommendations that you or we make is governed largely by the quality and completeness of the information supplied.

Practices to Avoid

  • DON'T make promises to your clients as to when Bio-Lab (or anyone else, for that matter) will get back to you. Just like you and your work colleagues, we all have multiple roles to perform and multiple duties to attend to. It is Company policy that Bio-Lab staff endeavour to handle all queries, not just technical ones, as quickly as possible. However, there will be times when delays will be inevitable.
  • DON'T ring Bio-Lab whilst the customer is in the store, having promised them that Bio-Lab will have an instant answer to their problem or query. You might find that the staff member or members who could have answered the query are not available, or that the problem requires far more investigation before an adequate solution can be proposed.
    DON'T ring Bio-Lab whilst the customer is in the store, briefly identify yourself, then hand the phone over to the customer. This is poor business practice. Although it may be unintentional, such action suggests that you either don't care about your customer (in effect, you are "palming them off") or you have no faith in your own ability to deal with their problem.
  • DON'T ring Bio-Lab, get the answer to your problem then request that the answer be repeated in writing so that you can show it to your client. For most residential and commercial pool owners or operators, your word should suffice. For those instances where it is necessary to have our answer in writing (eg. pending legal matters, water test results, etc.), fax or e-mail your request directly to Bio-Lab, clearly specifying that a written response is required.
  • DON'T ring Bio-Lab and demand to speak to a particular person. Pressuring the receptionist to get someone out of a meeting or have them paged is not acceptable! Most queries can be handled by several people within the Bio-Lab organisation. In the event that the person answering your call cannot help you to your satisfaction, they will pass the message onto someone who can. Never become dependent upon the one person answering your queries - they may not always be there when you want them.
  • DON'T ring Bio-Lab asking why another company's product or device does or doesn't work. If your customer has an issue with such a product or device, you should ring the manufacturer or supplier in the first instance. Bio-Lab will continue to advise you of compatibility and application issues where they involve products from the BioGuard or SpaGuard ranges, but we cannot be expected to troubleshoot salt chlorinators or ionisers!

The above information is supplied by Bio-Lab and represents its best interpretation of available technical information at the time of preparation. The sole purpose is to supply factual information to Bio-Lab customers. It is not to be taken out of context nor used as support for any other claim not made herein.