Inability to control water quality is a major reason why many people eventually give up on fish keeping. An entry-level hobbyist must understand that an aquarium is an enclosed environment; and when contaminated or improperly balanced, it can have disastrous consequences for its inhabitants’ health. It doesn’t take many fish ailments or mortalities before the potential hobbyist empties the aquarium and puts it in the garage or up for sale. Stores with aquatic sections should be concerned about a scenario like this, especially when it could simply be that resolving a water-quality issue will keep them engaged.
The question you should ask yourself is this: When I sell an aquarium setup, how do I ensure the customer will have success?
These days there are many ways to cycle aquariums faster than the traditional 30-45 days. You and your staff should always offer the same advice, depending on your store protocol for new tank sales and their cycling methods. Walk your customer through the set up and establishment of a healthy biological environment to ensure their success.
For the ease of testing and confirming your expertise, set up an area in the store with a professional look that will function as your testing station. Using your front counter, as I have seen in many stores, works well enough but it creates clutter and congestion in an area where it is important to check out your customers quickly without all the distraction. Try using your side counter or an area near the fish department, sink or water source. Place signage indicating the area as a “Water Quality Testing Center,” and advertise the service for free or at a nominal service charge in your fliers, Facebook page and website.
Basic testing should cover the most common water-quality issues. This would include pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate tests, plus adding alkalinity and phosphate tests for saltwater and planted aquariums. Remember we are trying to guide and maintain our entry-level or novice hobbyist. Tests you can add for the more advanced saltwater setups include calcium, silicate, magnesium, iodine, potassium and the list goes on. But these are usually for devout hobbyists who will eventually prefer to use their own test kits at home.
There are many good test kits on the market today and choosing one or two brands goes a long way with support. Get help and education from the manufacturer to develop your testing center. Most have POP material, posters and many offer training for your staff. It is important to use high-grade test kits as they have proven to be much more reliable than test strips.
Problem-solving services, in general, can be a great differentiator between your business and other stores in your area, both small and large. Customers will appreciate any service that solves a problem and builds trust knowing they can count on you for help. This trust will also sell more products and livestock with your recommendations. The problem-solving service concept can be expanded to nutrition as well as safety and health issues and doesn’t have to pertain to just your aquatic section.
With some dedicated effort on your part, you can outperform your competition, just by being your customer’s problem solver.