By Donald A. Mounce
The Dutch are renowned through history for their ability to deal with water. Utilizing windmills, pumps, levees and dykes, people of the Netherlands have historically and strategically handled water to meet their needs.
Marcel Steur is one of founders of Hygienic Solutions, which manufactures CoolerClean products for both European and North American markets. And he is excited about the potential the cooler business has generated for cooler service, first in Europe and now the US.
Marcel and his brother Ben incorporated Hygienic Solutions in The Netherlands in 1999. They initially investigated entry into the water cooler industry because they noticed that very few European companies actually had hygiene service programs in place. They chose to be one of the first companies entering that young marketplace.
“The first water coolers were only beginning to be installed in Europe in the late 1980s and finally began showing substantial growth throughout the 1990s,” said Marcel Steur. “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, so we started our company. Yet in the immediate years after that, it still proved difficult to explain to water companies why hygiene was an important–if not crucial–part of the business.”
“We have been delivering this message in Europe ever since,” added Steur. “But when we started selling CoolerClean in the US, partnering with Good Water Warehouse as our exclusive distributor for North America, we discovered quickly that we needed to utilize good business sense in the marketing of our programs and products.”
This new approach to the US market combined their message of product effectiveness with the benefits of having a good hygiene program in place. “We needed to focus on the business effectiveness of the CoolerClean hygiene programs in North America. We operate a contract cleaning company in The Netherlands that carries out upward of 50,000 hygiene service calls per year, which includes onsite cleaning of the water cooler. This is a 10-minute procedure. And we firmly believe this still is an untapped resource in the North American and US water cooler industry, waiting to be further explored and unleashed.
“In addition to offering top-level service, we have proven you can turn cooler hygiene into a profitable operation. What we explain to our North American water cooler distributors is that once you place the cleaning of coolers in a separate business unit or separate company with its own bottom line, you will quickly learn exactly what your cost is and what your margin will be on the cleaning service.”
Steur adds that you can also designate specific employees to carry out this service. “A person who delivers the water cooler or the water typically is not the same person who cleans the water cooler. Since there is no need to carry many water bottles or water coolers, a hygiene service employee drives a smaller vehicle and wears white, clean clothing. A hygiene service call can double as a sales call, as that employee can best determine the customer needs for additional water coolers.
“Add-on sales opportunities can also be generated through this service. Another of our products, CoolerClean Spray, can be used on the faucet and bottle cap during every bottle change, or periodically in the case of a POU cooler. This helps ensure good hygiene between on-site services, and creates an additional profit stream from the hygiene service.”
Whereas business customers are available during office hours, allowing for on-site service to be scheduled, it is more difficult to set such short appointments with residential customers in the US. But Marcel came up with a way for CoolerClean to adjust their business model to the North American domestic situation as well.
“We developed a ‘do-it-yourself’ cleaning kit for domestic water coolers, called CoolerClean Home. This is an easy-to-use and convenient cleaning solution, allowing anybody to clean a watercooler in approximately 15 minutes while still using the high-grade products developed specifically for cleaning water coolers,” notes Marcel.
“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. This ultimately leads to a higher quality of water being tapped at the customer’s location.”
Marketing these service concepts in North America and the US required Hygienic Solutions to work closely with their exclusive distributor. “They have a very strong presence in the market and are ‘in the know’ when it comes to marketing in the water industry,” said Marcel.
“In support of this, we have recently developed a full marketing package with our distributor. This includes a DVD, containing a presentation on the CoolerClean Business Model, information on implementing the hygiene service as a separate part of the business and films showing how onsite hygiene service is carried out in the field. And Hygienic Solutions regularly visits the US to support the marketing efforts of our distributor at trade shows, WQA AquaTech in particular.”
The Dutch often get excited about handling water. And Hygienic Solutions has learned to deal with a whole new process during the 21st century.