If you’ve seen it once, you’ve seen it a hundred times — customers who come to you looking for a home filtration system, unaware of what their specific needs are. While many consumers simply want a system that improves their water’s taste and aesthetic qualities, the majority are looking for a product that will make their water healthier. But as you know, “healthier” is a subjective term, and without knowing the issues that are present in the customer’s water, providing them with a system that fits their needs isn’t very easy to do.
According to the 2001 National Consumer Water Quality Survey conducted by the Water Quality Association (WQA), the media was the most frequently cited source of information about home water contaminants. When a contaminant is in the media spotlight such as arsenic is this year or MTBE the year before sales of systems that reduce that contaminant are elevated. The concern, however, is that the chances of the specific newsworthy contaminant affecting a consumer’s water may be slim, while in actuality something else may be present. The goal as providers of high-quality home filtration equipment then should be to encourage Americans to start taking a proactive approach to protecting and improving their home’s water quality.
For example, Culligan implements a program to make it easier for customers to take personal control of their water quality. Through this program, Culligan dealers encourage their customers to follow these steps.
- Study your home’s water. Does your water have an unpleasant taste? If so, what does the taste resemble? Have you noticed a particular smell in your water? If so, how would you describe the odor? Does your water have a brownish color? Are there particles floating in it? If so, how large? What about the way your water feels? After bathing or showering, do you feel like a “film” is left on your skin? Which of these issues are you most concerned about? Be sure to report all of these observances to your dealer.
- Determine how much of your home’s water you’d like to treat. Do you simply want to improve your drinking water or would you like to improve the quality of water throughout your entire home? If your goal is to improve drinking water only, how many faucets do you and your family drink from?
- Consider routine maintenance. Do you want to be responsible for the routine maintenance necessary with your filtration product or would you rather have a trained professional manage this? If you decide to do the maintenance, how often do you want to be responsible for changing the filter? Do you want to be “alerted” by the system of necessary filter changes or will you remember to change it regularly?
- Determine your monthly budget. Are you willing to spend more money to get the most advanced equipment for your specific filtration needs or would you prefer to spend less and receive a more basic model? (Be sure when considering the price of a filtration product that you break the cost out by gallon of water filtered or treated. Sometimes systems that have a more expensive price tag upfront actually save you a significant amount of money in the long term.) How much are you willing to put towards the maintenance of your product on a monthly basis? Note that your budget may need to be increased if your goal is to reduce a more complex contaminant.
- Most importantly, get your home water tested. Work with your dealer to have a comprehensive laboratory testing conducted on your home’s water. Because many contaminants cannot be detected by the human senses, this is the only way to truly know what is in your home’s water. In addition, the contaminants present in your home’s water may change over time. Therefore, the importance of ongoing home water testing cannot be underestimated. Your dealer will analyze the data and talk with you about the results.
Many first time buyers of home filtration equipment select products at retail rather than working with a dealer due to the misconception that they’ll have to spend more money when working with a professional. However, as C.R. Hall, an independent Culligan dealer and the current president of the Water Quality Association and the Culligan Dealers Association of North America (CDANA) notes, dealers add a significant amount of value to the purchase of home filtration products, thereby actually saving the customer money across the term of ownership. “Unfortunately, we as dealers often fail to effectively communicate to our customers the added benefits that we offer—assistance in selecting a product, installation, sizing and maintenance. Yet when we outline all of our services, the decision to buy from a dealer suddenly is easy.” For this reason, the questions above point to the benefit of working with a professional.
Another important step to helping your customer become better educated about his home’s water quality is recommending that he read his Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) if he receives his water from a municipal system. CCRs are distributed annually with residents’ water bills. Often discarded, they provide key information about the city’s water content, specifically, those contaminants that are present at higher than normal levels. If your customer no longer has the most recent version of this report, he may be able to find it on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website (www.epa.gov ), or he can contact his local municipality.
Finally, spend some time with your customer overviewing the fact that a wide variety of contaminants legally are present in his water but at specific levels. A consumer may believe that his municipality removes all traces of all contaminants. When alerted that this is not the case, he may decide to research health effects and the levels at which they are allowably present in his water. (The EPA website is a good resource for this type of information.) Based on this information, he may determine contaminants that he wants to reduce to even further levels. In addition, it will help him to better understand his CCR. However, when discussing contaminants with your customer, remember to approach the topic professionally. Never use scare tactics to encourage someone to buy.
(For additional information, visit www.waterinfocenter.com  and search the article archives for “ethical selling.”)
Assisting your customer in becoming a better educated consumer of drinking water requires a small amount of your time, yet makes the filtration buying process easier for both of you. In addition, it establishes your business as a trusted resource, thereby ensuring a greater chance of a long-term buying relationship.
How Culligan helps its dealers become better-educated consumers of drinking water