Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It's Customer Service

(0:58) Whether you're running a marina, a boat yard, or a facility that offers both, the key to success is through exceptional customer service. Customer service refers to every interaction that every member of your organization has with the boater. It is the accumulation of these interactions that will create the impression that the boater will have of your marina. It will determine whether the boater returns and what message will be conveyed to others - that all important word of mouth advertising. Even a single negative interaction can have a significant impact on the boater's impression.

(0:48) It is common to focus on marketing as the way to increase business and profits, and there's no question that great marketing can bring you new customers. But true success is developing customers that will come back again and again while telling their peers. After all, a satisfied customer is your best salesperson.

(0:41) Good customer service is designed to meet the needs of your targeted customer. Understanding and meeting those needs better than your competition will bring more boaters to your facility. Today's consumers are more educated, better informed, and have higher expectations. And, as we've discussed before, they communicate with others online.

(0:33) Your services must be designed to meet and satisfy the needs of boaters. By its very nature this is not a one-size fits all proposition. You must treat every interaction as unique, focusing on specific needs at the moment.

(0:27) Surveys show that most customers do not return to a business because of an indifferent attitude from owners, managers, and/or employees. Unfortunately, only a small percentage will let you know they had a problem. Most will simply leave and not come back. Yet they will tell others about their bad experience whether in person or online.

(0:20) You can never address the importance of good customer service with your employees too much. It is also up to you to make sure they have the knowledge, tools, and flexibility to provide high quality service and to fix a problem when it arises. Handling a complaint quickly can in itself create strong customer loyalty.

(0:14) Remember, retaining your existing customers through good customer service is the most cost effective way to increase revenues. According to Vic Hunter, author of Business to Business Marketing, it can be 30 to 40 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to manage existing customers. Therefore, a 5% increase in overall customer retention equates to a 25% to 55% increase in profitability of a business.

(0:05) Good customer service is good for boaters and good for your business.

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

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Would've Been a 5 Star But...

(1:04) I frequently notice reviews with some version of "I would have given them 5 stars but" followed by some criticism. If you receive one of these, do not ignore it. They are usually pure gold. This is a boater telling you that you are a terrific stop along with specifics on how you can be even better.

(0:56) Examine your reviews for these and look for any patterns. Then form a plan to address the issue(s) to ensure you are a 5 star facility.

(0:52) There will be complaints that will be completely in your control and ones that are outside of your control. Obviously, if the issue involves a less than attentive dockhand, showers that need a scrub, or some other less than perfect aspect of your facility, address it now. Consider responding to the review with your own review thanking them for bringing the problem to your attention and stating how you addressed it.

(0:42) If it is something beyond your direct control (no restaurants or grocery stores nearby, or lack of a pump out, as examples) look for ways to mitigate the problem. More and more marinas in the US are providing boaters with transportation to services that are nearby but too far to walk. It could be loaner bicycles, a shuttle service, or a courtesy car. A courtesy car is guaranteed to add a star or two to any transient review as long as the procedures are reasonable to use the car.

(0:30) Make sure you are aware of services offered in the area that can address boaters needs. If you can't provide pump out is there a pump out service that would come to your facility? You may not have a pool or workout room but is there a gym or hotel nearby you could work with? Become familiar with what services are available around you and how you can make them accessible to boaters. Then get the word out, on your website, in your ActiveCaptain data, and in your welcome packet.

(0:18) If services are not nearby then focus on what unique features you do have. I have said several times that boaters are not looking for the same things every time they pull in. Sometimes all I want is a good grocery store, sometimes I'm ready to be a tourist, sometimes I just want a quick fuel up and place to spend the night, and sometimes I'm looking for just peace and quiet. By their very nature most boaters want diversity in their lives. We live on a boat and travel from place to place - most of us don't need nor want each stop to be the same.

(0:05) The real key is to appropriately set each boater's expectation and then deliver more than you promise. That is what makes a 5 star marina.

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Welcome Wagon

(1:01) I'm often asked what it is that transients are looking for when they are planning their destinations. Specifically, what should a marina include on a marina's website?

(0:55) For most transients, your marina and the surrounding area will be unknown to them. It's your job to provide them with the information they need to plan their stop. Think back to a time when you moved to a new and unfamiliar place. There were many things you needed to discover from the nearest grocery store to where to get your haircut to the best restaurants. Some of us are old enough to remember the Welcome Wagon. This was an organization that would knock on the door of someone new to the neighborhood with information about the businesses and services available. Think of your website as the modern version of the Welcome Wagon.

(0:42) Make sure that you have accurate approach and docking information. Include the maximum LOA, beam limits, and depths on the approach and at the dock. This is not the time to be optimistic. It is better to send a boat away if the draft will be an issue than to have the boat sitting on the bottom at low tide (while writing a 1-star review). Trust me, I've seen it happen many times.

(0:32) Offer information about the approach and don't fail to let them know if there are shoaling areas or tide and current issues. Again it is better that I am prepared and can plan accordingly than for me to have a problem. A problem during a boater's approach or docking will set the tone for their stay, how they remember your facility, and what they tell others.

(0:24) Let them know the amenities you offer at the marina and what is nearby - showers, laundry, a pool, groceries, medical and veterinary care, rental cars, restaurants, hair salons, and banks are just a few of the things that a cruiser might need. Consider having an events calendar with festivals, fairs, or other functions that might attract a boater to your marina.

(0:16) Don't worry if you don't have every service possibly desired. Not every stop requires all services. Highlight what you do provide whether it is a one-stop place to get it all done, a tourist destination with much to do, a quiet spot with natural beauty, or a quick overnight for cruisers on the move. Each offers something. The key is setting realistic expectations and following through.

(0:08) And remember to keep all of this information up-to-date in your ActiveCaptain marker as well. For many cruisers this will be their first encounter with your marina and the place where they will click on your website link. Give them a reason to check you out.

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

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Give Them What They Want on Your Website

(1:00) In today's world websites are critical to the success of any business. Small or large, product or service, high-tech or low-tech, customers expect to have access to the information they seek 24/7/365. By now most marinas have a website and that's great. But is your website providing potential customers with the information they seek?

(0:52) It is not uncommon to find a site that contains no real information, outdated information, hard to find information, or just the wrong information. For your website to have the impact it needs you must provide boaters with the information they are looking for, regularly update that information, and present it in a way that is easily accessible and pleasing to use.

(0:44) Take some time and think about what types of information a boater is seeking when they come to your site. If they don't find it there but they do on your competitor's site, you are making it easier for them to go elsewhere. I have heard the argument, "We want them to call us instead." It's not about what you want. It's about what your customers want. And today they want access any day, anytime.

(0:35) There are two mistakes I see on many marina websites. The first is sites that are rarely or never updated. Seeing an announcement for an event that is months or years old on your homepage is a very bad sign. It tells me I can't trust any of the information I see. And it tells me you are not thinking about what I need. Update your website regularly. Depending on your focus, that could mean daily, weekly, or monthly updates. For example, if you compete on fuel prices you had better have your prices displayed and ensure they are up-to-date daily - and show the date. If your marina is in a popular tourist location you may want to update your website weekly with events.

(0:19) The second mistake is not providing the information I want. Your site needs to tell me what you offer: services, amenities, local attractions, etc. Then I want to know what it will cost. Do not hesitate to include transient slip pricing, fuel pricing, your rates for repairs and services. How much business do you think Amazon would get if I had to call to obtain prices?

(0:11) Some marinas are hesitant using arguments like, "My competitors will get my pricing." or "What if they think my prices are too high?" A good competitor will know your pricing anyway and if your prices match your services you needn't worry. Let's be honest, eventually, your customers will discover your prices. Making it hard for your customers only increases the likelihood that they will go elsewhere.

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