The water cooler. For some, it is an area that provides an escape from the desk or cubicle and to catch up with co-workers during a strenuous day. For all, it is an important piece of equipment that offers hydration and refreshment. But, for those who we spoke with for this article and throughout the industry, the water cooler is also a place, if left unattended or not modernized, that can be a source of cross contamination, injury and harmful germs and bacteria.

Sales pitches to consider

Today”s water coolers and ice machines are far advanced from the bottle-type equipment and bin and scoop machines of the past (and present). Therefore, it is important to convey the right sales messages and have the leading point-of-use (POU) coolers ready to sell. And, what sales messages should your team focus on?

According to Thomas Radford, president/CEO of Alpine Coolers, health-related messages and cost issues are appropriate. For health benefits, cites Radford, water treatment dealers can continue to stress the obvious benefits of hydration and refreshment. “The unobvious health-related benefits [include avoiding] injuries caused by lifting heavy bottles [and not having] benzenes and other contaminants leaching from bottles,” adds Radford.

In addition to cost savings associated with POU coolers, dealers will also want to incorporate convenience and storage factors.

“Depending on the size of the account, it is easy to calculate savings of renting a POU cooler versus paying for water delivery. Convenience is probably even more important,” explains Vic Theado, vice president of POU sales for Oasis International. “Storage of full and empty bottles is a problem for most commercial and residential customers.”

Selling water quality

Additionally, besides the injury risk of lifting and transporting heavy water bottles, typically only a few users or residents are capable of completing the task. Furthermore, say the experts, the quality of water dispensed from most POU coolers today exceeds that of bottled water units.

According to Don Orr, MTN Products” vice president of point of use products, some customers equate bottle water to healthy water as the only option. “The customer must understand that the quality of water [from POU coolers] is as good as bottled water”s and, in some cases, better,” he says.

And, for those customers who do not currently have a drinking water system in place, the sale should be even easier.

“If you are selling into an account that does not already have bottle water or water treatment, it makes sense to sell on the cleanliness of the water. In the U.S., municipal systems do a great job of supplying potable water to drink. In some cases, this water is perfectly safe to drink, but it may not taste very good. However, there may be additives, like chlorine, that you may not want to drink regularly,” says Theado. “It is best to get familiar with the local water supply characteristics. A water treatment dealer can polish the water for great taste. They also have options for treatment that would protect customers from even small levels of contaminants that may be below regulatory levels but still something that you do not want to consume. Municipal suppliers cannot economically do this, but water treatment dealers can when dealing with only water that will be consumed.”

Selling the water treatment dealer

Similar to most product categories, POU water coolers are being marketed and/or installed by sellers outside of the traditional water treatment industry, such as big-box stores and contractors, plumbers and overseas competition via the Internet. You can start to separate the water treatment dealer”s skills at installation.

“Installation is key when you have a POU system,” says Orr. “The risk of a leak, for example, is there and with a non-experienced installer, the risk of a leak is much higher.” Orr adds that leaks can lead to numerous problems for the homeowner, ranging from damage to additional expenses.

A water treatment dealer is most apt to sell this equipment for other reasons, including their expertise with the equipment, water chemistry and the marketplace. And, with a healthy local relationship established, the dealer is also most equipped to provide ongoing service for the equipment as well as incorporated filtration features.

“It comes down to expertise,” inserts Mike Rice, who is the director of marketing for Follett Corporation. “The water treatment dealer knows water and can solve particular water-related issues. Dealers can make sure that the water is tested appropriately and can set the correct level and type of filtration needed for the water or ice equipment. They are also the most qualified to provide ongoing maintenance and service.”

According to Rice, dealers can separate their businesses from local and overseas competition — inside or outside of the industry — with the addition of an advanced ice making machine. A “value-added” solution, says Rice, ice is something that people enjoy to eat and to use in order to keep their refreshments colder for longer. As a result, it is an incentive for people to drink more water and stay healthy and hydrated.

Like water coolers in general, not all ice machines are equal. Ice comes in various forms, such as crushed and nugget. Some operate on a bin and scoop system and others provide ice through a closed unit and dispenser. According to Rice, bin and scoop units are more prone to contamination by design and dealers and end customers should ask questions and do research before selecting an ice machine.

Keep it clean

As mentioned, if left unattended or if the unit is not equipped with modern features, such as self-sanitizing features or anti-microbial treated components, consumer health is at risk. Katy Loos, corporate communications for Haws Corporation, explains some of the features of today”s POU equipment that have safety and minimizing risk in mind. These features, notes Loos, include:

  • Stainless steel construction. Stainless steel does not have grooves or an uneven textured surface. Stainless steel is easier to clean and stays cleaner longer. Sanitizing is made easier with stainless steel and also helps with certification.
  • Safety interlock switches. Electrical safety is a key component of UL certification, but coolers are nowadays being equipped with special safety features. Interlock switches are a good example — they shut off power when the unit is opened for a filter replacement. This safety device helps ensure that maintenance, regular or otherwise, is done in the safest manner possible.
  • NSF certified filtration. NSF certifies that filters used in water coolers meet stringent minimum standard. Use of these filters basically guarantees that the filtration will remove contaminants from water. Each filter is very specific in what, and how much, contaminants it will remove.
  • Self-sanitization. Sanitization is a re-quirement in all water coolers, but it is typically done on a self-proposed, manual schedule, if it is done at all. Self-sanitization is done by the water cooler itself by way of a programmable sanitization system.

“These [self-sanitizing] systems are becoming more prevalent within the POU water cooler industry,” continues Loos. “It will not be long before the sanitization protocol in the U.S. is written into law.”

While not sacrificing on design or sleekness, today’s POU water coolers are incorporating more technology and features to alleviate contamination — interior and exterior — and assist in cost savings. Orr cites a few, such as leak shut off systems, built in cup dispensers, built in filter monitors and LED function indicator lights.