Outsourcing Options

How to evaluate third-party spa delivery

Outsourcing spa delivery and installation is a multifaceted decision for retailers. Beyond the obvious — making sure the product arrives at the customer’s house on time and undamaged —  retailers say there are other factors to consider.

“If you have the ability and manpower to deliver your products yourself, you should do so,” says Jeremy Peash, sales manager at Spa Warehouse in Seattle. “It’s simply the easiest way to keep things in-house, and ensure you are providing an excellent experience for your customers across the board.”

However, the benefits of using a third-party delivery service include more flexibility for employees to focus on sales and customer service, says one retailer.

“Go for it,” says Derek Sligh, spa salesman at Rich’s for The Home, a retailer of backyard furniture, grills, stoves, fireplaces, gas inserts and hot tubs based in Lynwood, Washington. “We saw a huge decrease in the number of unsatisfying or unfulfilled deliveries when we went third party. Just make sure they treat your product and customers like gold.”

Image courtesy Spa Uber

Peash says if a retailer has to use sales-floor employees to make deliveries, it may be time for a change. If using a third party to deliver a spa safely and on schedule, it doesn’t matter who delivers as long as it’s done correctly and with quality customer service, Peash says. If you’re trying to save money and hire a friend with a truck and trailer, give him an address and time frame, you just hope this friend is well dressed, polite and on time. However, Peash advises to be careful with this approach, since the alternative is not good for the retailer.

“Let’s face it, we have all had the weekend hire, friend of a friend, helping on a delivery,” Peash says. “With one earbud in,  some graphic tee shirt and the classic I-just-woke-up hair do. Is that really who you want them to remember as the face of your company?”

One could argue that being on time is the most important aspect of good customer service.

“If you set a time, you want to keep that time, because people have things to do, so you don’t want to hold them up,” says Mike Lewis, owner of Spa Uber, a moving company specializing in spas in the Los Angeles area.

In the third-party delivery business since 2001, Lewis says the essentials of the trade include insurance to cover damage caused either by delivery mishaps or accidents in transit and the proper tools — a truck and trailer, moving blankets and straps to secure the product and dollies.

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Lewis has competition from retailers who do their own delivery and from other moving companies. He says he’s seen plenty of competition go out of business for failing to take care of the basics, like breaking hot tubs by not being careful and running late for deliveries.

Peash suggests answering a few questions to determine if an outsourced delivery service is the right choice for a spa retailer. He makes the outsourcing decision based first on the delivery company’s image and customer service, both of which can be discerned by its website and phone etiquette. Is the person answering the phone polite and helpful? Is the website professional and user friendly?

Most importantly: Is the company a legitimate business, and does it have insurance to cover the product it is handling? Are the employees dressed professionally? “[They’re] not in dirty, torn-up jeans but look qualified to handle these $5,000 to $20,000 products,” Peash says.

Peash recommends calling the delivery company anonymously, like a mystery shopper, to initially gauge its customer service. He lost deals in the past because of customer irritation with a boom-truck operator or delivery crewmember.

Also, how is the company’s customer service, from the person answering the phone, to the delivery crew? “Is it more ‘Please and thank you’? Or ‘Nah,’ and ‘It’s cool, bro’?” Peash says.

Finally, Peash says to check in on the delivery service on a continuing basis. The company’s work might be flawless when the partnership begins but drop off afterward. Having a salesperson do a follow-up communication with the customer is a great way to check on the execution, too.

Making sure the spa delivery service is a trustworthy reflection of your hot tub company is imperative.

“After all is said and done, who is the last face your customers will remember?” Peash says. “The guy delivering their dream spa.”