Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Embrace Customer Complaints

(1:02) One of the best ways to improve your customer service is to listen to, encourage, and embrace customer complaints. While we all love to hear compliments, it's customer complaints that can lead to the greatest growth.

(0:54) I ran across a document from the Federal Government looking at how to better resolve their own customer complaints. I found their points excellent and completely relevant to the private sector as well. They looked at "best-in-business" for customer service to determine why they succeeded and how they could do the same. Here is a summary of what they found.

(0:46) 1. Make it easy for your customers to complain and your customers will make it easy for you to improve.
The best-in-business want their customers to complain. Informed customers know how your services should work. If things are not working, customers are the first to know. The best-in-business use customer feedback to identify and resolve root causes of dissatisfaction and to change their services to ensure that the customer will be quickly satisfied.

(0:35) 2. Respond to complaints quickly and courteously with common sense and you will improve customer loyalty.
They found that customers reward companies that quickly solve problems by remaining loyal customers. A speedy response can add 25 percent to customer loyalty.

(0:27) 3. Resolve complaints on the first contact to save money and to build customer confidence.
A call back which involves two or more employees costs more than a call that is handled right the first time. The research confirms that resolving a complaint on the first contact reduced the cost by at least 50 percent.

(0:20) 4. Technology utilization is critical in complaint handling systems.
Use your computers to develop a data base of complaints. See if you find a trend. Then fix it! The best-in-business electronically compiled customer complaint information and presented it to everyone, including management, so that the organization could better align services and products to meet customer expectations.

(0:10) Think of complaints as those gems that help you improve. Make it easy for customers to complain, even encourage complaints, and then bend over backwards to set things right and make changes so that future customers do not experience similar problems.

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

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Back to Basics

(1:00) We owned a 180 year house in Maine. When we acquired it over 20 years ago it was in need of TLC - paint, kitchen and bathroom updates, and much more. Our improvements enhanced our home but only because the basic structure was sound - a good foundation, strong timbers and square beams. Without that, our improvements would have been just window dressing.

(0:49) The same is true for your marina. Yes, it is important to try new ideas, new technologies, maintain the facilities and enhance them when possible. But all of this is for naught if you haven't succeeded in providing excellent customer service. That is the foundation of what you do. New expensive docks, fancy amenities, and a luxury courtesy car will not fix a poor attitude or lack of focus on satisfying your customers' needs.

(0:36) I was reminded of this as we sat with Sonny Middleton, owner of Dog River Marina in Mobile, Alabama, and his staff. We had spent nearly a week at the facility observing, talking to staff and customers and were impressed with what we saw and heard. It all focused around putting the customer first and going that extra step. Sonny was fond of saying, "We have to earn it every day." And he's right, we all do.

(0:25) It got me thinking back to the basics and I wanted to share the content of a sign that is placed around the facility where the staff works. Now I know a sign won't impact behavior on its own but if an organization follows through on the principles, it can be an important reminder.

(0:18) The 10 Most Important Customer Service Words:

  1. Yes
  2. Thank you.
  3. Glad you called.
  4. How did we do?
  5. How may I serve you?
  6. What is most convenient for you?
  7. What else can I do for you?
  8. I'm not sure, but I'll find out.
  9. Thank you for your business. Please call us again.
  10. I apologize for our mistake. Let me make it right.
(0:08) It's not high tech. It's not the latest thing. One might even call it old fashioned. But spoken sincerely, these words will bring you more business.

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

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The ActiveCaptain Companion

(0:59) This week I am deviating from my usual focus on a marketing idea to get you ready for a major announcement we will be making in tomorrow's ActiveCaptain Newsletter. The ActiveCaptain Companion (the Companion, for short) puts in place another component in our vision of tools to make boating safer and more enjoyable. It will combine the ActiveCaptain data with the social aspects of eBoatCards to bring boaters a totally different type of marine electronics. It's not a website. It's not a navigation program.

(0:44) The Companion is an application that boaters use at their helms, beside their chartplotter. It will alert them to information they want while underway. It's their companion at the helm. The application is being released simultaneously across the major computer platforms - Windows, Macintosh, Android, and iOS - for laptops, tablets, and phones. And it's free.

(0:34) The first release will display all of the ActiveCaptain data, including the Sponsor information, and will alert boaters about known hazards as they come into proximity of their track. We are rolling out the features slowly so that all of us can learn what is needed, what the issues are, and how to best utilize this new capability. After all, there is nothing like this out there today.

(0:24) As usage grows we will add new features such as warnings about bridges that need to by lifted based on the boat characteristics entered in the boater's eBoatCard. It will show where friends or members of a club or group are with the addition of the Locator Service.

(0:15) It will also allow ActiveCaptain Sponsors to see boaters in their area and send messages such as a special offer to draw a boater in or a welcome to a returning customer. The possibilities seem endless.

(0:09) Make sure you catch tomorrow's newsletter and future newsletters as we discuss and roll out the features bit by bit. It is exciting, it is new, and I look forward to working with you to discover all the possibilities.

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

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Change is Constant

(1:04) "Not all change leads to progress. But progress is impossible without change."

(1:01) I think it is natural to be afraid of change. In nature knowing what to expect and how to deal with it can literally mean the difference between life and death. Not adapting to change can lead to the elimination of an entire species. Adapting successfully means survival and thriving over time.

(0:53) While I need look no further than my two dogs to witness the comfort they take from routines, I know that one thing that makes humans different is that we can deal with the uncertainty and fear that comes with change. And in dealing with it we can actually embrace change rather than simply respond to it. That is the difference between getting by and moving forward.

(0:42) The fact is that you cannot prevent change from happening. If you try you will only waste a lot of energy. It is far wiser to use that same energy to adapt to change by learning how to make it work for you.

(0:36) The next time your organization sits down for a strategy meeting or budget discussion, try throwing away what you did before. Take the position that you are starting your business anew, that you can go in any direction you wish, and then ask, "What would we do?"

(0:29) I'm not saying that you should necessarily change everything or anything. I'm saying that you should always be open to trying a new direction, considering that what worked before may not work any longer, in other words, be open to change.

(0:21) Coming from an entrepreneurial background, I'm always amused when people speak with awe of some amazing David and Goliath story. The tiny little start up that ousted the market leader. In every case I've seen, the defining moment was when the market leader fought change while the start up used it to their advantage.

(0:10) So be nimble, embrace and even encourage change. Use it to move forward and find new successes.

(0:06) "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got."

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