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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

Posted: September 8, 2011

Service Needs

By Patrick Donston


One of the most challenging projects I've done over the past 12 years is to provide aquarium service maintenance to homes and businesses. Experts will say you should provide this service to stay competitive in today's market. You may have heard it's an easy money-maker. The key word here is "easy.” While it may be true that aquarium servicing can provide extra revenue and help move inventory that otherwise stay put if you outsourced to another maintenance company, I don't believe it's as simple to implement as stated to make money.

The challenge for me was to organize the department properly by finding and training mature technicians. Moving an aquarist from your shop to the outside world can be a big mistake. One I've done a few times. Just because one of your kids is good with customers and knows his or her way around husbandry, doesn't make him or her a good maintenance technician. Working outside of the shop is a challenge in itself. They must be:

  • More focused
  • Mature enough to work alone and not be watched
  • Structured to be honest
  • Achieve their goals and get to the stops on time; and, finally
  • Be a good problem solver

Finding all of these qualities in any one candidate is nearly impossible. It is imperative to train in-store whomever you're thinking about for this position for a minimum of one month. A couple things to look for are:

  • Their efficiency of work
  • Their tardiness of shifts
  • How well they talk to customers
  • How well they do in cleaning a filter or system they haven't been shown beforehand

You should quiz them on their knowledge of high-tech equipment such as UVs, skimmers, CO2 reactors, etc. In addition, check their driving record (your insurance company can check this with a signed waiver).  Lastly, every candidate needs to be tested and watched in the shop. That's just smart business. I've also found setting revenue or account goals as an incentive really makes a difference.

If you already have a maintenance tech, it's a good idea to send a new person out with him or her as a helper for a time. I personally think their age matters. I'm not discriminating against younger people (I have a lot of them). It's just that an older individual tends to think differently than a teenager. Teenagers are great, although out on the road—alone? Not for me. Keep in mind that older, mature employees generally require more income. You should set servicing rates to this standard.

Servicing aquariums can make you money, but only if your techs are efficient, reliable and good at husbandry to prevent losses. Easier said than done.

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