Hurricane Maria hit the Caribbean...
WQP observes the ins and outs of a residential softener installation
Honest, trustworthy, courteous—the three rules that every water service technician should follow.” This statement has lingered in the back of my head since I met with Ronald Gagnon CWS-IV, CI, an experienced dealer and owner of Aqua-Pure Water Conditioning, Inc. in Zion, Ill.
Water Quality Products joined Ronald a few months ago for one of his installations where he demonstrated the removal of an old softening unit and the installation of a new, single-tank system. While this experience taught me a great deal about every step of the installation process, what impressed me the most was the interaction between the customer and the dealer.
Ronald Gagnon retired from the U.S. Navy in 1996 after serving for 21 years. He was looking for a new career when his brother-in-law, who owns a well drilling company, approached him with an offer to start a water conditioning company. Ronald didn’t have any prior experience in water conditioning and realized that this would be a long learning process. After weighing all the pros and cons, he accepted the offer along with a personal loan from his brother-in-law to help him start the business, granting Ronald 50% of the ownership if he was able to repay the loan within the first five years.
After attending various classes and seminars offered by manufacturers of water conditioning equipment, four years and two months later, Ronald turned in the last loan payment.
Today, almost 10 years later, Aqua-Pure Water Conditioning is expected to make gross sales of more than 15% over last year, again.
Growing the Business
When Aqua-Pure was first established, most leads were generated from existing customers of the well drilling business. Currently, the business generates its leads through Yellow Pages advertising, church bulletin advertising, word-of-mouth and referrals from four area well drillers. “I’m pleased to say that there are many weeks and months when I am swamped with work because of the word-of-mouth advertising and the leads that I get from the well drillers,” Ronald said.
On the Job
A few months ago, Ronald invited Water Quality Products to join him for one of his installations. This was an excellent opportunity to learn more about the overall responsibilities, prior to, during and after the installation. Here are some of the highlights of that installation.
Prior to Installation. “This particular customer had found my name from one of the well drilling contractors that sends people my way quite frequently,” Ronald explained. “She felt her current water conditioner was not adequate for their household needs since they were putting a big addition to their home, and the burden on the water conditioner would be increased.”
Once he received the call, Ronald set an appointment to test the water and check the existing system so that he could get a better idea of the client’s water needs. When the test results came back, the client was informed about the best course of action.
Ronald told Water Quality Products that generally customers need time to think through the results of the water analysis and proposal. That requires follow-up calls until a decision is made, as well as additional preparations, such as ordering the right size unit from a vendor if one isn’t available in stock, and prepping it for the installation.
Installation Day. Upon arrival, the installation area was reviewed again and the customer was asked about the preferred site access, such as garage, walk-out basement, etc., to ensure minimal inconvenience. The next step was to take the new water conditioner, tools, installation materials and other accessories needed to the site. It was key to get all of the necessary equipment in at the beginning of the installation to minimize later trips to the truck.
The following step was to turn off all applicable valves to isolate the installation area (when cutting into the water supply is necessary) and begin draining water from the piping. “I ensure that sufficient buckets are available to minimize the amount of water spilled on the floor,” Ronald said.
Next was piping the installation. Minimum fittings were used to avoid pressure drop; all piping was installed as vertically or horizontally as possible; the equipment was set up in the logical sequence and in a neat manner; and all solder joints on copper piping were wiped off after sweating to make sure that no solder drips remained. Finally, Ronald made sure that everything was done in accordance with local and state codes.
Once the new unit was installed, all fittings were checked again to ensure proper joints and/or proper solvent welding on all PVC joints. Then it was time to perform the manufacturer’s start up procedures. After everything was accomplished, all tools and left over installation materials were gathered and taken back to the truck and the installation area was completely cleaned up.
Post Installation. Before leaving, Ronald showed the new system to the customer, answered questions and invited her to call if she had any other questions. “I will usually follow up in about a week to see how things are going.” In addition, Ronald said that he always includes a sticker with his telephone number prominently displayed on the equipment so that the customer can contact him at any time.
In order to succeed in this field, according to Ronald, dealers must follow three simple rules: “Be honest, trustworthy and courteous. Honest - if a customer asks you about a water quality issue, answer them honestly. If you are dishonest, they will see right through and your credibility is shot. Trustworthy - when in a customer’s home, whether doing a water test, installing a system, or servicing their equipment, go from the door to the equipment site and back only. No side trips to check out the ‘scenery’ of the rest of the house, and most importantly, touch nothing that you don’t need to touch to do your job. Courteous - be respectful. Call them by Mr. or Mrs. ‘Smith’ unless they ask you to call them by any other name. That applies to everyone regardless of their age.”
All these years of hard work have definitely paid off. However, it is not just hard work alone that makes Aqua-Pure Water Conditioning successful; it is Ronald’s relationship and excellent service with each of his customers that keeps them coming back.