WC&P is talking to Marcel Steur, one of the people who started Hygienic Solutions, manufacturer of the CoolerClean products.

How did you get started in the water cooler business?
Hygienic Solutions was incorporated in the Netherlands in 1999 by my brother, Ben Steur and myself. When looking at the water cooler industry, we noticed that very few European companies actually had hygiene service programs in place. Since the European market at that time was still quite young, with the first water coolers being installed in the late 1980s, and only really showing substantial growth throughout the 1990s, it seemed the market was eager to develop standards concerning many areas of the business, including hygiene. In 1999, we saw that we could benefit from this development, although in the years after that it still proved difficult to explain to the water companies that hygiene was an important – if not crucial – part of the business. We have been delivering this message ever since, but when we started selling CoolerClean in the US, partnering with Good Water Warehouse as our exclusive distributor for North America, we also knew our programs and products had to make good business sense.

How did you approach the US market from a marketing point of view?
Initially, we were delivering the same message we were giving in Europe, focusing on the effectiveness of the products, and the benefits of having a good hygiene program in place. Although that part of the message was undeniably correct, as I said we needed to focus on the business sense of the CoolerClean hygiene programs. In the Netherlands, we also have a contract cleaning company that carries out upward of 50,000 hygiene services per year, which entails a cleaning in place of the water cooler. This is a 10-minute procedure. What we explain to the water cooler distributors is that once you place the cleaning of water coolers in a separate business unit or separate company, with its own bottom line, you will know exactly what your cost is and, therefore, what your margin will be on the cleaning service. In addition to offering top-level service, you will be turning cooler hygiene into a profitable operation. We firmly believe this is an untapped resource in the water cooler industry, waiting to be explored and unleashed.

What other aspects of this service are important to mention?
Once you set up the hygiene service as a separate part of your business, you can also designate specific employees to carry out this service. A person who delivers the water cooler or the water is typically not the same person who cleans the water cooler. A hygiene service employee drives a small vehicle, since there is no need to carry many water bottles or water coolers, and wears white, clean clothing. In addition, a hygiene service could double as a sales call, whereby the hygiene service employee could see if the customer needs additional water coolers. Furthermore, the CoolerClean Spray product is an excellent way of generating add-on sales. CoolerClean Spray can be used to spray the faucet and bottle cap with every bottle change, or periodically in case of a POU cooler. While ensuring good hygiene between on-site services, this also creates an additional profit stream from the hygiene service.

What about offering the hygiene service to domestic customers?
Whereas business customers are available during office hours, allowing the on-site service to be scheduled, domestic customer are more difficult to schedule appointments with. With the US market in mind, we developed a Do-It-Yourself cleaning kit for water coolers, called CoolerClean Home. This is an easy to use and convenient cleaning solution, allowing anybody to clean a water cooler in approximately 15 minutes, still using the high-grade products developed specifically for cleaning water coolers. CoolerClean Home can be used by the water cooler company to ‘fill in the gaps’ in the hygiene service, leading to a higher percentage of the installed cooler base being regularly serviced, and, ultimately, to higher quality water being tapped at the customer’s location.

How do you communicate this approach to hygiene service to your prospective clients in the US?
First of all, we work together closely with our exclusive distributor, Good Water Warehouse, who have a very strong presence in the market and are ‘in the know’ when it comes to marketing in the water industry. In support of this, we have recently developed a full marketing package in the form of a DVD, containing a presentation on the ‘CoolerClean Business Model’, on implementing the hygiene service as a separate part of the business, as well as films showing how the on-site hygiene service is carried out in the field. Finally, we regularly come to the US to support the marketing efforts of Good Water Warehouse at trade shows, in particular the WQA show.

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