Hot tub retailers on the software systems they can’t live without
By Andrew Lisa
More and more tech companies are developing software for the hot tub industry, which is good news for spa retailers looking for modern solutions to age-old challenges. The right software can go a long way in shoring up three common problem areas: scheduling, multi-department integration and the pursuit of the almighty, all-powerful online review. Here’s a look at three platforms making waves across an industry that is suddenly the object of jealous competition among software developers.
You Earned the Reviews—Now Go Get Them
When it comes to online reviews, spa retailers are a lot like NFL field goal kickers. Do your job right 99 times, and all is quiet. But if you miss one makeable kick, you’re an instant villain.
That, according to Laura Nelson, director of marketing at Broadly, is because of a blend of Internet culture and human nature.
“You’ve probably been asked by a service provider to leave feedback online,” Nelson says. “You have good intentions, but you’re busy, you’ve got your next appointment. Even if you were very happy, you have to remember to leave a review and then go find the right place to leave it.”
That dynamic is exactly what was precluding Josh Kemerling of the Georgia Spa Company from transforming the positive feedback he was getting in person into strong online reviews, which are so singularly critical to businesses in the digital age.
“We were really taking care of our customers but just weren’t getting the four- and five-star reviews,” he says. “I would ask customers for online feedback, and they’d say, ‘Sure — we love you guys!’ But then they just wouldn’t. It’s hard to remember when you get home to say, ‘Oh yeah, I have to go leave that company a review.’ ”
That’s where Broadly comes in. Although the software is “evolving into a platform to manage the whole customer experience from end to end,” says Nelson, some of those capabilities are still in beta, and Broadly is still best known as the go-to platform to make good service pay dividends online in the form of crucial positive reviews.
“Our platform makes it easy for the business owner to thank that customer and direct them to the place where they’re most likely to leave great feedback, whether they’re on their email or on their mobile device,” Nelson says.
After a job, the customer receives an email from Broadly asking if the service was what they expected, Kemerling explains. If customers click yes, they’re immediately taken to a five-star review template exactly where the company wants that review to land. This lets customers leave the review on their own time and removes from them the burden of figuring out where to leave feedback in the first place. Once it became simple for Kemerling’s customers, the positive reviews started piling up — more than 150 in the first five months.
“The reviews mention our staff by name,” he says. “They say they’d recommend us to their families.”
Equally important is the way that Broadly manages unhappy customers. If a customer clicks “not satisfied” on the Broadly post-job email, Kemerling is notified right away.
“This way it gives me a chance to come back and address the issue,” he says. “We’ve learned that with most of our unhappy customers who would have left a one-star review, it was because of silly stuff.”
Kemerling relayed a story about an irate customer whose brand new spa cover wouldn’t latch just after it was installed. Before she could take to the Internet to vent, Kemerling responded right away, saying he had a crew in the area that could be there within the hour. The customer responded with disbelief that anyone even read the email. When his crew arrived, they realized the buckles on one of the straps simply needed a bit of adjusting, which they did that very afternoon.
“I never heard from her again,” Kemerling says. “But guess what I saw that night? A five-star review.”
RB POOL & SPA
Service, Meet Retail.
For RB Pool & Spa users, consolidation is the name of the game. The software unites retail and service under one roof with an impressive array of features that go a long way to eliminating costly and time consuming duplicate entries and redundant paperwork.
The RB CRM tool serves as a database for customer profiles and histories, including all of the customer’s interactions with the company. For retail employees, RB becomes a point-of-sale platform. The service department uses it for scheduling. In fact, this single platform can unify far-flung systems and information like inventory management, employee management, accounting, marketing and reporting. That’s all in the basic package. There’s also an impressive suite of optional premium add-ons. But first, what does this multi-system, cross-department integration look like for the business?
“It’s an all-in-one software solution,” says Rachael Pritz, executive director of RB Retail & Service Solutions. “A lot of customers are running QuickBooks for point of sale, then they have to take all the information from there and enter it into their water-testing software. With our interface, your customer receives a water test and you just enter the information. Then it’s automatically entered into RB so there’s no duplicate entry. It saves time, streamlines the processes and ties the whole thing together.”
The streamlining she mentions is evident in the obstacles RB eliminates for techs in the trenches.
“We’re able to accept payments in the field,” Pritz says. “It’s live and in real time. If they add something to a sales order, someone back in store can see it reflected immediately. Then they have the ability to check all their inventory out in the field. If they’re on a job site and they need a part, they can see if they have it in the store or if it’s out on a different truck. If a tech is on a different route and can’t get into a property, he can look up the customer’s profile information to find the gate code in the customer file.”
Techs can look up warranty information without calling the office and if they perform a water test out in the field, the people in the store can see the results right away.
“The customer gets an electric door hanger that says the team was there at this time and these are the results and these are the chemicals they added,” Pritz says.
Another feature is route optimization, which lets service teams plan their routes in the most efficient way, saving time while conserving gas and reducing mileage, wear and tear on the vehicles.
Jobber offers GPS tracking, quoting, reporting, routing, invoicing and expense tracking. But the feature at the heart of Jobber’s claim to save its users 6.8 hours a week is its powerful scheduling and dispatching capabilities.
“If your pool or spa business has between two and 50 employees, and does recurring service work, or short-term install jobs, you’ll find Jobber is great for your workflow,” says Nick Keyko, director of marketing at Jobber. “If a homeowner decides to call to inquire about your services, they want to book a consultation or job on the spot, so you need constant access to your team’s up-to-date availability — and they expect you to be able to pull up records for past quotes or recent work in the moment from your phone or tablet.”
Jobber lets you automate appointment reminders according to the preference of the customer, be it by text or email. The Jobs Form creates forms and checklists to fill out at every job for things like filter checks and chemical applications. One of the differentiating features is the Client Hub, where customers can see and edit quotes and, if they choose, get the ball rolling on their project without making a single phone call.
“When a client receives a quote, they can review it in Client Hub, request changes if necessary, and, once they are ready to approve the quote, you can ask for both a deposit and an e-signature,” Keyko says.
The software offers easy integrations for popular platforms that you might already be using, like PayPal, QuickBooks and Square, and Jobber’s color-coded drag-and-drop calendar allows users to create and assign jobs and schedule tasks teamwide. Thanks to a new feature, the Jobber app lets techs make spontaneous, conflict-free scheduling decisions on the fly. If a neighbor sees your team working on a spa, for example, and asks if they’re free to check out his family’s hot tub, the power is in the hands of the tech.
“Lots of scheduling software out there makes it easy to book a job, but hard to see who on your team is free to do the work,” Keyko says. “This new feature solves that, and makes it really easy to scroll through your team’s calendars and book that neighbor in as a new customer in a few moments.”
Options for Businesses Big or Small
Evosus has been popular among hot tub retailers for years, but now the company is offering a cloud-based, light version of its software for smaller operations that aren’t ready for the full suite.
The Evosus Enterprise version starts at $7,985, can be hosted either on-premises or in the cloud, and along with retail point of sale comes with its own accounting software, service department management, inventory for multi-store businesses, employee management and time tracking and job costing for construction projects.
In contrast, Evosus Pro Series also offers point-of-sale and connects to Quickbooks. It’s hosted in the cloud, but comes with a $99 setup fee and is $49 a user per month after that.
“The world is going to the cloud, and Evosus is too,” says Dan McManus, president of Evosus. “Evosus Pro is our first step in the direction of cloud-based software that you can log into from any device with an Internet connection.”
With Evosus Pro, dealers can take payments from anywhere on the showroom floor, at trade shows or parking lot sales; accept all major payment types including credit, debit, cash, check, Apple Pay and Google Pay; automatically sync point-of-sale transactions with QuickBooks Online; and turn software licenses off during the off-season.
The software integrates with several industry-specific products to import inventory, submit purchase orders and receive invoices. For instance, both versions of Evosus link to Poolcorp. It also integrates with water-testing platforms, like BioGuard’s Alix, so you can store water test data, convert their results into chemical orders and access all of it on a mobile device in the field.
“Integrations are a huge time saver for dealers who are buying product from distributors, manufacturers or buying groups,” McManus says. “Instead of looking up pricing in catalogs or spreadsheets, dealers can view product pricing and real-time availability (across multiple stock sites) with just a few clicks. Some dealers tell us this saves them 30 hours each and every month.”
There are a variety of training options available beyond the intial help with setup. You can purchase standalone training courses or you can pay a monthly fee to have access to the Evosus Learning Academy where users can take a variety of courses, and managers can track what employees have completed and how they did.
“When all is said and done, the two greatest benefits of using Evosus are cost savings from streamlined procedures and a platform that allows businesses to scale up,” McManus says. He says they’ve seen Evosus dealers go from $125,000 to $1.5 million within two years and $2 million to $10 million plus within five years.
“Evosus provides the engine to make this growth possible.”