In the rapidly evolving hot tub industry, it is impossible to over emphasise the vital issue of training. With an estimated 200,000 units currently installed in the UK, and with some putting the figure as high as 300,000, poorly maintained hot tubs are a potential ticking time bomb.
Even more surprising then that there is no standardised industry training and the market is hard-pressed to find professionally run courses specifically geared for hot tub engineers and spa technicians to attend.
In an industry that is now over 20 years old, and in which the potential implications of getting things wrong can be so serious; the lack of formal training and accreditation in the UK is a bugbear of many key figures in the hot tub business. In effect, a ticking time bomb.
Many distributors and dealers are looking to the British and Irish Spa and Hot Tub Association (BISHTA) to not just set standards but also develop certifiable training.
BISHTA recently introduced a number of courses to promote safe hot tub standards through education, including the Electrical Awareness Workshop and the Hot Tub Site Surveyor qualification, which covers customer care, health and safety and also the importance of undertaking a site survey as an integral part of the process of selling hot tubs.
As an additional training opportunity, BISHTA is currently working with colleagues from the APSP to develop courses in the UK, based on the CHTT syllabus.
Work is ongoing regarding ensuring the course is made specific to the UK audience, and this includes being able to cross reference not only the American standards but also BISHTA Standards and other relevant guidance in the British Isles.
BISHTA’s Technical Committee has also been revising and updating the Common Water Hygiene Management Training syllabus to ensure that the courses meet the current expectations.
With a total of six tutors trained so far, expect a range of options to be available from 2017.
All the courses mentioned are primarily available to members or those companies applying for membership, except for the Water Treatment Training course which is also open to non-members and is mandatory for companies wishing to join BISHTA.
Many hot tub engineers are also in-house trained by the brands they service or the retailers who employ them.Using his former experience in technical training in the Armed Forces, Chris Brady has taken the initiative to set up a training company, SpaTech Training, launching this autumn.
Says Chris, “Essentially, SpaTech will offer a full education program and technical training to the industry to the same high standards as the US model of the APSP (The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals).
“Our first courses are on schedule for the end of 2016 and in order to gain accreditation, members will need to pass independent exams.
Some of these courses will be run in association with BISHTA.
“With a general lack of regulation in the UK, training is absolutely necessary to raise standards and maintain safety across the industry. Mandatory training would be great but professional training is a good place to start and that’s the platform we are going to be building on,” says Chris. “Watch this space!”
Chris Brady, CEO and Founder of 1 Stop Spas, the current holders of UK Pool & Spa Award’s Hot Tub Retailer Of The Year 2015.
Chris estimates that his engineers sign up more than 75% of their customers to a 1 Stop service plan on installation.
With prices ranging from £99 to £299 and no additional charge for monthly payments, these service plans are both attractive to the customer and provide a valuable extra income stream to the business.
“Customer aftercare never stops,” explains Chris. “We continually follow up with customers and encourage them to buy their chemicals and other consumables from us.”
Like most retailers, 1 Stop Spas faces stiff competition from online sales. “If someone has trusted your business enough to buy a hot tub, then it’s unlikely that they would buy supplies from another dealer but we do face competition from the Internet.
“Top end products coupled with quality of service and helpful advice keep customers coming back into store. We also stock an ever increasing range of accessories which helps to drive a lot of repeat business into our showroom.”
Most manufacturers encourage dealers to take care of the servicing and maintenance of the spas they sell themselves.
Lloyd Burden, Vice President International Sales for Hydropool, estimates that his UK dealers will sell around 1400 hot tubs and 400 swim spas this year.
“Most of our dealers prefer to handle their own service contracts but at peak times, some dealers additionally use subcontractors to keep lead times acceptable.”
Dealers like to keep their repair and maintenance work inhouse as it improves overall customer service, helps to retain business and affords additional opportunities for sales throughout the lifetime of the hot tub. Capitalising on potential extra sales is vital to business success.
As the UK hot tub market starts to mature, the market for accessories and spares is becoming ever more lucrative.
SPARES AND REPAIRS
Aqua Spa Supplies is part of the Essex-based Aqua Warehouse business established in 2003 by Richard Hart. Graham Message says the company has: “Significantly increased sales figures every year for the last three years due to overall growth in the hot tub market and a rising focus on spares and accessories.”
The most popular products are their own-brand accessory range that includes spa steps and cover lifters. They also stock many thousands of hot tub parts and spares including some 25 years’ worth of historical parts for Vita Spas for which they are the UK distributor.
“About 70% of our business is trade but we focus a lot of efforts on retaining our retail customers with professional advice and personal service. Hot tub owners can’t get that from buying products off a website.
“Over the coming months, we are introducing a brand new, bespoke CRM system that will really allow us to maximise our customer relationships and encourage further sales.”
For those dealers whose businesses may struggle with juggling the multiple demands of sales and aftercare, specialist maintenance engineers and sub-contractors provide a valuable service that helps both dealer and end user.
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