Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Is Good Service Enough?

(1:07) One of the points that I make repeatedly in these Minutes is the importance of boater expectations. After all, it is meeting, exceeding, or falling short of my expectations that determines my experience. It is why a high-end resort style marina and a modest "mom and pop" marina can each be rated 5 stars.

(0:59) Consider when you eat out. You might rate your experience at a fast food restaurant as good if the food was acceptable and the service was, well, fast. While that would not be enough at an expensive, fine dining establishment where your expectations for food quality would be higher and fast service was not expected. In fact, if the food appeared too quickly you might even question it's freshness and quality. The point is you have extremely different expectations when walking into each of the restaurants.

(0:48) Of course, if you've ever been to Chipotle, you will realize it is possible to turn normal customer expectations on its ear. Technically, Chipotle is a fast food restaurant - your food is delivered quickly. But they have drastically changed things by offering food of a much higher quality than typical fast food fare. This allows them to charge a somewhat higher price and by exceeding expectations for a fast food restaurant, they are viewed very positively.

(0:37) How do these concepts apply to your marina? Make sure you understand the expectations of boaters coming into your marina. Are you setting realistic expectations for what you offer and what you charge? Behind poor bathrooms, the next most common reason for a lower rating is when the price is seen as too high for the services offered.

(0:28) It's important to understand where you fit in the broad continuum that encompasses "marinas." Know how your services compare to your immediate competitors and to the community of marinas at large. Set your prices accordingly and then offer even better service than the boater expects. This last point is critical.

(0:20) The good news is that it is often the little things that make a big difference. The friendly hello, the offer of assistance, and taking the time to welcome me and find out what I need or want - those things matter. An easy way to exceed expectations is to respond to every boater review whether good or bad. It continues to surprise boaters that marinas are reading what they say. Responding exceeds their expectation.

(0:07) Do something that I don't expect and I will reward you with a positive review and positive word-of-mouth.

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

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Does Your Website Measure Up?

(1:10) It's unusual to find a marina that doesn't have a website. It's something that's expected, much like having a phone number. Most boaters will turn to your website in the final stages of their decision making. It can be the place where you will either close or lose your customer.

(1:03) Is your website up to snuff? Does it offer the information and enticement a boater needs to choose your facility over your competitors? A website is no longer a checkoff item. It's more important than ever to have a professionally designed, up-to-date, and appealing website.

(0:56) I have touched on websites in other Minutes yet I continue to find old-fashion, out-of-date, inadequate sites that I believe are doing more harm than good. How can you ensure that your website is providing maximum marketing impact. After all, your website works for you 24/7.

(0:50) First, make sure that your website has been designed professionally by someone experienced in creating websites. I want to emphasize the importance of design over technology. The mechanics of putting together a good website have become quite simple over the years as more and better tools keep emerging.

(0:43) It is beyond imagination today that a graphic design company would not be experienced in website implementation. So when you search for someone to do your website focus on their design capabilities. Look for sites you find appealing and easy to use and find out who designed them.

(0:36) Second, make sure that the design allows you to do content changes yourself. You should never have to go back to the design company to change pricing or update your events calendar. Anyone with even modest computer skills can be trained to do this. It would be wise to have more than one person who knows how, to ensure you can always make an important update when needed.

(0:28) If you need to add a new content page or modify the website design then go back to the design company. They will ensure that your site will maintain that professional, put together look.

(0:22) Third, make sure you are providing boaters with the information they want and need to select your marina.

(0:17) Finally, never let your site stagnate. Make it someone's job to periodically review every page of your website to make sure the information is up-to-date and still accurate. For example, how many of you have changed your copyright information to reflect the current year? When I find a site that shows "Copyright 2009", I just shake my head.

(0:09) Your website is a critical part of your marketing and sales message but it can work for you or against you. Today an interested prospect will visit your website before making the decision to call - or not. Make sure it is helping you build your business.

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

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Amazon Gets It

(1:17) I've been an Amazon customer for years starting when they sold only books. Today they sell pretty much anything. It's fascinating to have watched their progress from a fledgling online book distributor in 1994 to the largest online retailer in the world (Source, Netonomy.net) with sales of over $48 billion.

(1:09) Their secret? Keep customer service the number 1 priority. Their mission statement reads, "to be Earth's most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices." 

(1:02) Of course, what business would describe themselves as not being "customer-centric?" The difference is that Amazon actually lives it. And from my own experience, they live it to a degree that I have never experienced anywhere else. We can all learn a lot from how they approach customer service.

(0:54) Living onboard can make securing the items we need challenging. Over the years I have come to use Amazon more and more for pretty much everything from dog treats to clothing to electronics to food. Several years ago I joined Amazon Prime. As a Prime member Amazon guarantees to deliver my package within 2 days. While a cruiser's schedule is ever changing, I usually know where I'll be in two days or so. It is common that I have at least one Amazon package waiting for me when I pull into a marina. But what happens when it's not there? Well, that's when the magic happens.

(0:41) This past week I had an order that never arrived at the marina. When I contacted them to find out how to cancel the order and receive a refund, they not only instantly credited my account, they set about figuring out how to get me the items I needed. They helped me reorder and comp'd me overnight shipping charges to have it sent to my next destination.

(0:32) And this was not a one time fluke. Several years ago a different order arrived a day late and they simply sent out another item to our next destination. No need to figure out how to get the first one back. They just did it. In fact, for months we received emails from other concerned boaters who saw a package waiting for us at the first marina.

(0:23) A year ago, I received a cooling mat for our elderly dog that arrived with a leak. Amazon offered to overnight a new one but when they discovered they were out and were unable to find another mat at another reseller, they not only immediately refunded my order amount, they added a $10 credit to my Amazon account for my "inconvenience."

(0:14) The result. I cheerfully pay my $79 annual Amazon Prime fee. I look on Amazon first, always. And I continue to have Amazon boxes waiting for me when I pull into a marina.

(0:08) Your lesson. Put your customer first, always. Do more than they expect, even if you may lose a little in the short run. In the long run you will be rewarded many times over.

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

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

New Year's Resolutions

(1:14) This is the time of year we hear about "new year's resolutions," those promises that are made about how this year is going to be different from the rest. All too often, the promise is similar or exactly the same as the one we made the year before. Is there a way to truly make this year different?

(1:06) I'm certainly a fan of goals, setting them, implementing, and measuring for success. However, it seems that new year's resolutions are too often goals set but not kept. The problem is that while we set a goal, "I'll lose those 5 pounds" or "I'll increase slips rentals by 10%," we still live with the same attitudes we had the year before. And it is your outlook that has the real impact on success and not some arbitrary numbers you've chosen.

(0:55) In the mass of articles that come out this time of year looking ahead and making predictions for 2014, I found one from Entrepreneur that I felt offered sage advice on how to actually make this year better than last. It was written by Jen Groover who describes herself as a serial entrepreneur. I've included her "5 Steps to Becoming More Empowered" below.

(0:47) 1. Someday is Today.
Stop procrastinating and creating excuses for why you can't have what you want. Take control. Announce to yourself "someday is today" every day, to seize the day and eradicate an excuse mentality.

(0:41) 2. Have More Fear of Regret Than Failure.
Remind yourself that the feeling of regret is so much worse than trying something (even if it doesn't work out) and living with no regrets. Realize fear is an illusion that holds you back. By doing so, you will set yourself free to live to your fullest potential.

(0:34) 3. I Only Have Good Days.
Remember, the only thing in the world we have control over is our perspective. You can choose to adopt a consistently positive perspective and find the good in everything. Or you can be negative, and attract more negative things into your life. The mantra "I only have good days" reminds you to see the positive for a better outcome.

(0:26) 4. Opportunities Lie Within Every Obstacle.
It can be tough to dig deep and find the positive, especially when confronted by challenges. But if you choose the positive, you will find the opportunity and nuggets of wisdom in every obstacle that presents itself in your life.

(0:18) 5. Live With Passion and Purpose.
Stop asking "what should I be doing" and start understanding "who you want to be." What do you want your legacy to be? As you reflect, you will begin to understand your purpose. That will make it easier to live with more passion and stay further away from needless and draining distractions or drama. Identifying your purpose and living with passion is the most authentic way to be empowered all day, every day.

(0:07) I look forward to exploring these and other ideas in the coming year. Empower yourself in 2014 and it can be your best year yet.

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