Preparation is key to successful delivery day
By Seraine Page
No hot tub dealer wants to see a 3,000-pound swim spa careening into a house.
That’s why delivery day preparation is critical to the success of installation, especially for larger price tag items like swim spas. Propulsion swim spas cost — and weigh — quite a bit more than hot tubs, making the installation process more challenging.
“It’s a real expensive proposition,” says Mike Lahay, owner of Spas and More! in St. Louis. “You best know what you’re doing, and you best have overkill.”
Installation day for the hot tub industry can make everyone nervous — the retailer, the delivery crew, and especially the customer who just dropped $50,000 on the newest swim spa.
But given the right prep work, it can go smoothly, Lahay says.
Lahay is getting ready for his second swim spa installation by helicopter, which takes quite a bit of planning. He admits the delivery methods sometimes present unique opportunities to problem solve.
“Sometimes you have to get a little creative,” he says. “There hasn’t been one we haven’t been able to install.”
Do a pre-site inspection
Once a customer knows they want a swim spa, retailers should plan a thorough site inspection. St
arting with Google maps, get an idea of property layout and access opportunities.
That shouldn’t be the only inspection, though, warns Jeff Kaufer, spa manager at Concord Pools, since Google isn’t always updated.
“You want to be physically visiting and getting photos of the site so you know what you’re getting into,” Kaufer says. “Having good information upfront is vital. You don’t want to get there and find there’s difficulties you can’t overcome.”
Even on the small side, a swim spa is a lot more challenging to place than a hot tub, notes Lahay, who has taken sides off houses to insert swim spas. Knowing what equipment is needed ahead of delivery makes the process much easier, Lahay says.
Some deliveries are easy and only require a crew to offload from a trailer right onto a slab. Some require a crane, which sits in a customer’s driveway or in th
e street for installation. In extreme cases, a helicopter is needed.
Adding in those services costs extra, and the bill should be passed on to the customer. A helicopter rental for four hours can cost upward of $6,000. A crane runs between $450 to $800, depending on the company.
Lahay notes delivery costs should be included in the contract and explained to a customer ahead of time as well.
“For a majority of our swim spas, we use a crane,” Lahay says.
“So much of this is having the right equipment.”
Have excellent liability coverage
It’s good business practice to have proper liability insurance, both Lahay and Kaufer agree. Since some swim spas can cost upward of $50,000, customers will want assurance they are working with a company that is responsible, too.
When getting cranes and helicopters involved, it often means subcontracting out work. Since most swim spas do require cranes, hiring crane services that are properly insured mitigates risk for spa retailers.
“If you really want to cover your bases, you have [subcontractors] issue an insurance policy for them to cover you,” Kaufer says.
In most cases, subcontractors and retailers should have a $1 million liability insurance policy. It may cost a little more up front, but it transfers risk for the retailer if something does go wrong on the job.
Ask experienced retailers
For retailers looking to improve swim spa deliveries, asking others who have done it is the best way to learn, reports Lahay and Kaufer.
“You can really go nuts into putting a swim spa into a home,” Kaufer says. Not long ago, his company used a crane to install a swim spa in a Saratoga Springs rooftop penthouse.
If his crew weren’t reliable, such a project could have been a nightmare. Experience and learning on the job is how his company aims to improve delivery for the larger-ticket items.
“For us, it’s only slightly more complex than a spa delivery when we do it,” Kaufer says. “We’ve got a great delivery crew. These guys are professional movers, essentially. The biggest thing is having people who know how to move a heavy product in a careful and safe way.”