Karen M. Alley//May 7, 2018//
Karen M. Alley //May 7, 2018//
What if there was a way to follow a fishkeeper home after the purchase of an aquarium or fish to help them set things up, get the water quality just right and then check in periodically to make sure the livestock was healthy? Stores that offer aquarium maintenance services have that ability, and the benefits are numerous.
For one thing, helping people get started on the right foot with an aquarium is the best way to ensure they have a successful experience, which can lead to satisfied, long-time customers. Providing maintenance services also builds relationships with customers, which can help improve store loyalty, an all-important intangible aspect in today’s retail environment. According to Statista, an online statistics and market research portal, e-commerce sales are predicted to double worldwide between 2016 and 2020, and it’s the ability to interact with and get to know the people coming into your store that differentiates brick-and-mortar stores from online shopping.
In addition, aquarium maintenance services are a way to add to your bottom line. Not only do they create a new revenue stream, but offering the services might give people the confidence to buy a larger aquarium than originally planned. It can also increase the number of customers by making it easy for businesses and offices to have a lobby aquarium, providing beauty for their clients without worrying about care and upkeep.
The Right Team
The cornerstone of a store’s aquarium maintenance service is the team that’s out in the field doing the work on a daily basis, representing the store’s brand.
“We carefully screen our crew members for good manners and a high maturity level,” said Sally Trufant, co-owner of B&B Pet Stop in Mobile, Alabama. “After all, they are representing our company in people’s homes and businesses.”
For some stores, getting started on the right foot with a new client might even mean the owner plays a role in the service aspect. Jose Avila, who owns Reef Valley in McAllen, Texas, with his mother, started out doing the maintenance side of things himself when the store first opened six years ago. As business expanded, he was able to hire two people to work full-time on aquarium services, but he still goes out from time to time.
“When we get a new account, usually I go out to get everything set up, to work through any of the initial problems and establish the relationship with that customer,” Avila said.
Hiring the right person for the job not only means that you can rest easy knowing that things are being taken care of responsibly at each job, but it can also pay off in the relationships made with customers.
“Sometimes we have people drop by the store just to say hello to the maintenance manager,” said Ashley Hilburn, co-owner of Southern Aquatics in Roswell, Georgia. “I think it speaks volumes for how well he treats people that they’ll go out of their way to stop by for a visit.”
A Menu of Services
When it comes to aquarium services, the offerings can include installation and setup, one-time cleaning, regular cleanings, vacation services, conversion service or moving services. Some stores offer all of the above, while others choose to keep the offerings limited.
The benefits of offering installation and set-up are twofold. First, it will often encourage people to buy a larger aquarium than they would if they were doing everything themselves.
“I’ve found that people wouldn’t buy a certain tank or specific fish if we weren’t offering to set it up,” Avila said. “Maybe they feel it is too much of a challenge and want to make sure things are set up by a professional to get a successful start.”
The opportunity to interact with the customer provides time for education, to explain the details of measuring water quality and treating for balance or disease.
The bulk of business comes from the maintenance aspect. For commercial clients, this is a crucial element in having an aquarium in the first place.
“It allows a dentist or doctor’s office, or any type of business that sees customers, to have a big, beautiful aquarium without having to deal with what they consider to be a headache,” Hilburn said. “It gives them and their customers a way to enjoy the fish and the art and enjoyment they bring.”
Some, but not all, residential customers enjoy a long-term service contact.
“We see it as a way to get people started out, and then we wean them off our services,” Hilburn said. “We want to be involved those first few weeks, if not months, while the customer is learning the ropes of fishkeeping, to help ensure the fish are happy and healthy.”
Offering short-term or one-time cleaning services can be a way to maintain a relationship with those customers who do wean off of the regular maintenance.
B&B Pet Stop finds it helpful to offer one-time visits.
“Sometimes a customer is having a big party and doesn’t have time to clean the tank, or it’s been neglected for a while and they need us to come in to get the tank looking great again,” Trufant said. “We have put a lot of time and effort into cleaning a tank that is in pretty bad shape, only to leave and have it get that way again by the time a person calls us back out. I discourage that by requiring a six-month minimum service contract.”
Every client should sign a service agreement, which spells out what is expected for each job and serves as a protection for both the store and the customer. When signing someone up for maintenance services, the contract will state how often the services are contracted for, as well as a minimum time for notice of cancellation.
In exchange for agreeing to a regular service contract, many stores offer customers certain perks, including guarantees on the livestock, discounts on the purchase of items in the store, discounts on the cleaning service for extended contracts or priority in scheduling.
“We have it set up so that the longer you contract for maintenance with us, the longer our warranty lasts,” Hilburn said. “That provides some protection for us for the one-time people.
In addition to service agreements, it’s important to have proper insurance coverage for any additional services you want to provide. Most businesses have a standard business owner’s package policy that covers the building if you own it, its contents and liability.
“You’ve got a different class of exposure when it comes to being out, working in people’s homes and offices,” said Josh Oakes of Cook Insurance Agency in Jonesville, North Carolina. “You could be faced with a claim for anything from tracking mud on someone’s white carpet to flooding the room and having to replace flooring. But with the right policy, you’ll be covered.”
You’ll also need commercial auto insurance to cover the van, which is the same as personal auto insurance but with a different rating structure.
Aquarium maintenance services provide an opportunity worth investigating.
“It gives us more business, to be able to offer everything to our customers to help them really enjoy the aquarium experience,” Avila concluded.