Recommendations from drillers or pump installers are key factors in customers' decisions to buy water supply products, a recent survey shows.

"The thing we heard over and over was they would take the word of an installer for recommendations for whatever they needed. They really look to the installers for solutions to their problems," said Carl Wood, East Coast regional manager for Aermotor Pumps Inc., which sponsored the survey.

Speaking at the South Atlantic Well Drillers Jubilee in Myrtle Beach, SC, Wood said the focus group survey was conducted because customer feedback on water supply systems and drinking water has been "a missing piece of the puzzle" for equipment manufacturers and dealers. Market Insights Inc. of Little Rock, Ark. surveyed 50 Florida and Indiana well owners for the project.

"The biggest question we wanted to get answered from them was 'What is groundwater?'" Wood said. "The answer basically boiled down to two things -- taste and smell - no chemical or chlorine taste and no musty or sulfur odor in the water."

More than 90% of participants preferred wells rather than public water systems. Wood said most participants were satisfied with their wells and believed they meet needs for water supply, performance and water quality.

"The major concern, no matter what the source, was water quality," Wood said. "The consumer's idea of water quality was how it tasted and smelled."

He said most of the group said water conditioning and treatment equipment is necessary whether their water comes from public or private sources.

Wood added a majority of the group wanted to maintain control over their water supply and would fight efforts to force them to connect with a public water supply. He said the group believed they could do little to avoid being forced to join a public system.

Survey participants expressed concern about loss of their water supply during power outages, and said they would like to have a generator to avoid that problem, Wood said.

Noting survey participants weren't concerned about contaminated water unless they lived near a possible contamination source, Wood said most of the survey group was not well informed about testing for e-coli or other bacteria. He said participants stated they would like to have their water checked for bacterial contamination during a service call.

Wood said only three of the 50 study participants knew what type pump was in their well Those who knew recently had pumps replaced.

"There was virtually no brand identification. They didn't mention any brands of pumps," Wood said. "A lot of them were interested in pump performance, but they wanted it to perform to the job, such as getting water out of the faucet when they need it."

He said many survey participants also didn't know how a pump works or how to make it last longer. Many in the group indicated they would like an installer to demonstrate pump operation using models with some exterior sections cut away.

He said most group members stated they would purchase an extended warranty on pump and system components and thought a service contract would be beneficial if it helped them obtain preferential service.

Wood said most study participants believed a pump should last 10 to 20 years, with the average lifespan predicted at 18 years.

Most group members were uninformed about cost for replacement parts for their water system, but they would want to see any parts that were replaced during a service call, Wood said.

He said the survey group indicated they would expect an installer to be dressed appropriately for the job, such as wearing a uniform with his name on it, and would expect his vehicle to have a sign featuring the company's name. Many members of the group said they learned about water products companies by seeing signs on service trucks, Wood said.

Focus group members also said they would expect that an installer not smoke or drink and not use inappropriate language while at their home. The group also said a service person or installer should be respectful of their property by cleaning up the work site after the service call is completed. They said service personnel should be punctual for service calls and should call the customer if they can't arrive on time for an appointment.

Wood said the group expected a 24-hour response time from their initial call and would expect to pay more for after-hours or weekend service calls.

Finally, Wood said group members indicated they would appreciate the service person putting a sticker featuring the dealer's name and phone number on the well's tank or electrical box to make it easier to know how to contact them.