Tuesday, May 29, 2012

ActiveCaptain Messaging

(1:00) Several Minutes have covered the importance of communicating with your customers. We are often asked if it's possible to get in touch with a boater who has stayed at a marina and written a review. While our privacy policy prevents us from revealing a captain's email address to anyone, there is an easy-to-use solution that  will get your message through.

(0:50) The ActiveCaptain website provides a capability to send a personal message to an ActiveCaptain user from any review. Personal messages are powerful tools for communicating with boaters in positive ways. Use this capability any time your marina receives a review to thank the boater when the review is positive and to work to make things right when it is not.

(0:42) To send a personal message to an ActiveCaptain user, just following these simple steps:
1. Click on the Captain name that appears at the top of the review. A pop-up menu will appear.
2. Select "Send message."
3. Enter a message title and the message text in the window.
4. Select "Submit."

(0:33) The next time the Captain logs into the ActiveCaptain website there will be a 
notification that a message is waiting. Captains may optionally have messages sent directly to their email inbox. It is a good idea to offer a way for the Captain to communicate with you directly by including your email address or a phone number in the message.

(0:25) The Captain can also reply to your message within the ActiveCaptain website. It is good practice to regularly check your ActiveCaptain account for messages or to have the messages sent to your email inbox.

(0:20) To configure extra email capabilities for the messages that are sent to you, follow these steps:
1. Select "My Card" from the tabs on the left side under The Interactive Cruising Guidebook.
2. Click on "More" beside "My Details" at the top. A pop-up menu will appear.

3. Select "Edit".
4. In the "My Details" window check the box next to "Send email when a message is received."
5. Select "Submit."

(0:10) Remember to keep your communications professional and relevant. ActiveCaptain messaging may not be used to SPAM or solicit users. Arguing or harassing a captain is always bad. Use messaging sparingly and appropriately and it can be a powerful marketing tool.

(0:02) And that's the marina minute.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Responding to a Negative Review

(0:54) Criticism is tough whether it is directed at you personally or at your business. A common reaction is to rigorously defend yourself publicly, explaining why the reviewer is wrong. This is rarely a good idea. With tens of thousands of boater reviews in ActiveCaptain we have worked with numerous marinas to help them learn from and respond to negative boater reviews.

(0:45) Whether you decide to respond publicly or privately to a negative review you should always remain upbeat and positive. A good response will have the following components in order:

(0:40) 1. Thank you. Start out by thanking the boater for taking the time to comment on their experience. Any boater feedback, bad or good, is an opportunity for you to improve your business.

(0:35) 2. List the positives. Few reviews are all negative, most will mention some positive aspects of the experience as well. Mention that you are pleased they enjoyed aspects of their stay. This is particularly important if you decide to respond publicly as you will want to ensure that others note these points. But it is also important in a private communication as you want to remind the boater what was positive about their experience.

(0:26) 3. An apology. Sincerely apologize that their experience was less than perfect. Even if you feel the review was unfair or inaccurate. Remember, your apology is about what they feel they experienced.

(0:21) 4. Statement of your actions. Tell them what you have done to remedy the issue, if possible, so that future experiences will be better. If, for example, the review complains about a policy you feel is needed, explain why it is in place and how it is a benefit to the boater.

(0:13) 5. Reach out. Give them a way to communicate with you directly to resolve their issues by providing them with a phone number or email address to contact you. By doing this you can avoid an ongoing public debate and make them feel that you truly care about them.

(0:06) By properly handling a negative review you can readily turn it into a positive for you and your business.

(0:02) And that's the marina minute.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Calming a Boater's Nerves - Part 2 of 2

(1:06) If you have read the previous Minute, you have ensured that every boater calling your marina about dockage has clear accurate information from knowledgeable staff. However, you still need to assist the boater safely to the dock to ensure the experience begins on a positive note.

(1:00) The next contact will most likely be via VHF. In another Minute I discussed the impact your VHF communications can have on boater's impressions. Good VHF communications are critical to boaters coming in for transient dockage. This begins with quickly responding to the boater's VHF call. Never make them call a second time or turn to the cell phone. They'll be annoyed and anxious and will have already kicked you down a notch on the service scale.

(0:54) The radio exchange on a working channel is the time to give clear instructions about where they will be going, what type of docks you have, and what side you suggest for docking. This is the moment to give the boater confidence that someone will be waiting to help them dock. For every transient boater, this is when they start to feel nervous especially if the weather is bad or the space is tight. Assess their anxiety, answer their questions and concerns, and give them confidence that everything will be handled professionally. Know the weather/current conditions and be able to suggest line configurations and offer approach assistance.

(0:37) Have someone at the dock before the boater arrives. It is helpful if they are in a colored shirt easy to spot from a distance. They should be waving to make visual contact with the pilot.

(0:31) Listen carefully to the person handling the lines, male or female. If it is a couple it is often the female who will be at the lines. If she gives you direct instructions, follow them. If she seems uncertain, gently offer suggestions to help make the docking procedure stress free. However, even the most experienced boater can have a bad landing. If this happens, be considerate. This is the time to let the captain know that conditions were tough and he did a good job.

(0:19) Most importantly make sure your dockhands are helping in bad situations and not making them more difficult. Ensure each one is well trained in proper docking procedures. Train them about how to properly tie a line to a cleat or piling. Perfectly tied lines makes your marina look more professional.

(0:10) Docking situations are stressful. And when they turn bad it doesn't matter who was at fault - it often reflects badly on the marina. Do everything you can to make the experience positive and your marina will be the place boaters want to come back to over and over again.

(0:02) And that's the marina minute.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Calming a Boater's Nerves - Part 1 of 2

(1:22) The most stressful (and even terrifying) time of a transient boater's day is the moment they arrive at your marina. Trust me, it's the truth. Remember that for many transient boaters, they'll be making close maneuvers with something more expensive than their house while in the proximity of millions of dollars of other boats. And by the way, we know that everyone already on the dock is watching how we handle our boat. Making this experience a positive one can be the difference between a happy customer willing to return and one who wants to warn other boaters to stay away.

(1:05) While you can't control a boater's experience level or the weather, there are plenty of things you can do to help make this a no-drama event. And it starts with the boater's first call about dockage. Make sure that the person answering the phone is knowledgable about boating and your facility. There is no such thing as simply taking a reservation. This is a time to make a good personal contact, provide confidence, and exchange information. Make it very clear to the boater that you're standing by with assistance, docking help, and expert guidance. Give them clear instructions about when to contact you by VHF as they approach.

(0:46) Don't leave anything to chance. Everyone who answers the phone or VHF must have accurate answers to questions about depths, current, shoaling, and any other issues there might be while approaching your marina from the boaters perspective. You should understand where the boater might have a problem or confusion and be able to offer assistance. Don't wait for the boater to discover a shoal area or get caught in a strong current. Warn them ahead of time and if possible, offer helpful suggestions. I'd much rather wait an hour for a time when the current is reduced than lose control of my boat in a tight docking situation.

(0:25) Listen carefully to the boater's concerns and plan ahead to mitigate them if you can. For example, if the boater expresses concerns about docking in high winds, consider putting them on a face dock instead of in a slip. As you probably know, transient boaters who don't come in and out of your marina often will always prefer face docks and T-heads because they are much easier to approach and have fewer unknown issues. The first phone call is the time to evaluate potential problems and put all fears of the boater at rest.

(0:06) Next I'll discuss handling the boater's VHF call and approach to your marina.

(0:02) And that's the marina minute.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Seasonal Success

(0:59) Many marinas open on a seasonal basis and even ones that are open year round will have busy and slack times of the year. It is important to modify your promotional messages to match your seasonal business.

(0:47) Not only should your messages change depending on where you are in your business cycle but the frequency which you modify your message should vary.

(0:42) When you are in high season your messages should change frequently. This may seem difficult to do when you are busy but this is the time to squeeze out as much business as you can. Make sure to highlight events in the area which may attract boaters, amenities that are important to your transient boaters, and activities such as shopping, hiking, or museums that offer a reason for a boater to stop by. Use your off-time to setup some messages so you are ready to go when things start hopping.

(0:27) As you move into your slow periods highlight services boaters are looking for such as winterizing, storage, and routine maintenance, if you offer them. Or point out why boaters should extend the season just a bit longer to attend an event or sample a great restaurant when reservations are easier to come by.

(0:16) Remember that even if your marina closes for a season boaters are still using ActiveCaptain to dream and plan their future adventures. Use this time to stress the best features and qualities of your facility. Give them a reason to stop at your marina on their next cruise maybe even offering discounts for earlier reservations.

(0:05) No matter what time of year it is, it's a good time to promote your marina.

(0:02) And that's the marina minute.