Feb 26, 2002

Making the Filtration Buying Process Easier for Your Customers

How Culligan Helps Their Dealers Become Better-Educated Consumers of Drinking Water

Making the Filtration Buying Process Easier for Your Customers

Joyce Robinson
Joyce Robinson



If you’ve seen it once, you’ve seen it a hundred
times—customers who come to you looking for a home filtration system,
unaware of what their specific needs are. While many consumers simply want a
system that improves their water’s taste and aesthetic qualities, the
majority are looking for a product that will make their water healthier. But as
you know, “healthier” is a subjective term, and without knowing the
issues that are present in the customer’s water, providing them with a
system that fits their needs isn’t very easy to do.


According to the 2001 National Consumer Water Quality Survey
conducted by the Water Quality Association (WQA), the media was the most
frequently cited source of information about home water contaminants. When a
contaminant is in the media spotlight such as arsenic is this year or MTBE the
year before sales of systems that reduce that contaminant

are elevated. The concern, however, is that the chances of
the specific newsworthy contaminant affecting a consumer’s water may be
slim, while in actuality something else may be present. The goal as providers
of high-quality home filtration equipment then should

be to encourage Americans to start taking a proactive
approach to protecting and improving their home’s water quality.

For example, Culligan implements a program to make it easier
for customers

to take personal control of their water quality. Through
this program, Culligan dealers encourage their customers to follow these steps.


•                Study
your home’s water. Does your water
have an unpleasant taste? If so, what does the taste resemble? Have you noticed
a particular smell in your water? If so, how would you describe the odor? Does
your water have a brownish color? Are there particles floating in it? If so,
how large? What about the way your water feels? After bathing or showering, do
you feel like a “film” is left on your skin? Which of these issues
are you most concerned about? Be sure to report all of these observances to
your dealer.

•                Determine
how much of your home’s water you’d like to treat. Do you simply want to improve your drinking water
or would you like to improve the quality of water throughout your entire home?
If your goal is to improve drinking water only, how many faucets do you and
your family drink from?

•                Consider
routine maintenance. Do you want to be
responsible for the routine maintenance necessary with your filtration product
or would you rather have a trained professional manage this? If you decide to
do the maintenance, how often do you want to be responsible for changing the
filter? Do you want to be “alerted” by the system of necessary
filter changes or will you remember to change it regularly?

•                Determine
your monthly budget. Are you willing to
spend more money to get the most advanced equipment for your specific
filtration needs or would you prefer to spend less and receive a more basic
model? (Be sure when considering the price of a filtration product that you
break the cost out by gallon of water filtered or treated. Sometimes systems
that have a more expensive price tag upfront actually save you a significant
amount of money in the long term.) How much are you willing to put towards the
maintenance of your product on a monthly basis? Note that your budget may need
to be increased if your goal is to reduce a more complex contaminant.

•                Most
importantly, get your home water tested.
Work with your dealer to have a comprehensive laboratory testing conducted on
your home’s water. Because many contaminants cannot be detected by the
human senses, this is the only way to truly know what is in your home’s
water. In addition, the contaminants present in your home’s water may
change over time. Therefore, the importance of ongoing home water testing
cannot be underestimated. Your dealer will analyze the data and talk with you
about the results.


Many first time buyers of home filtration equipment select
products at retail rather than working with a dealer due to the misconception
that they’ll have to spend more money when working with a professional.
However, as C.R. Hall, an independent Culligan dealer and the current president
of the Water Quality Association and the Culligan Dealers Association of North
America (CDANA) notes, dealers add a significant amount of value to the
purchase of home filtration products, thereby actually saving the customer
money across the term of ownership. “Unfortunately, we as dealers often
fail to effectively communicate to our customers the added benefits that we
offer—assistance in selecting a product, installation, sizing and
maintenance. Yet when we outline all of our services, the decision to buy from
a dealer suddenly is easy.” For this reason, the questions above point to
the benefit of working with a professional.


Another important step to helping your customer become
better educated about his home’s water quality is recommending that he
read his Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) if he receives his water from a
municipal system. CCRs are distributed annually with residents’ water
bills. Often discarded, they provide key information about the city’s
water content, specifically, those contaminants that are present at higher than
normal levels. If your customer no longer has the most recent version of this
report, he may be able to find it on the Environmental Protection Agency’s
(EPA) website (www.epa.gov),

or he can contact his local municipality.


Finally, spend some time with your customer overviewing the
fact that a wide variety of contaminants legally are present in his water but
at specific levels. A consumer may believe that his municipality removes all
traces of all contaminants. When alerted that this is not the case, he may
decide to research health effects and the levels at which they are allowably
present in his water. (The EPA website is a good resource for this type of information.)
Based on this information, he may determine contaminants that he wants to
reduce to even further levels. In addition, it will help him to better
understand his CCR. However, when discussing contaminants with your customer,
remember to approach the topic professionally. Never use scare tactics  to encourage someone to buy.

(For additional information, visit www.waterinfocenter.com
and search the article archives for “ethical selling.”)


Assisting your customer in becoming a better educated
consumer of drinking water requires a small amount of your time, yet makes the
filtration buying process easier for both of you. In addition, it establishes
your business as a trusted resource, thereby ensuring a greater chance  of a long-term buying relationship.              

About the author

David M. Marsh is the director of marketing for Culligan International Co.