Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Exceptional Customer Service

(1:08) It's always a good time to review some of the fundamentals of exceptional customer service.

(1:06) Know who you work for.
Never forget that the boater pays our salary and makes your job possible. Ultimately, it is the boater who is the boss. Understanding and meeting boaters' needs is the only way to success.

(1:01) Never stop listening.
To understand what boaters want and need, be an excellent listener. Don't make the mistake of assuming you know, no matter how many years you have been in the industry. You may be surprised to discover what's really important. And don't forget, needs change over time and vary from boater to boater.

(0:54) Identify and anticipate what boaters need.
By listening you uncover what boaters want and that goes beyond a product or service. It's about what it does for them - how it makes their life simpler, more comfortable, or safer. It is only by matching the benefits of a service to the boaters needs, that you will have a truly satisfied customer.

(0:47) Make the boater feel important and appreciated.
Every boater, no matter how large or small their vessel, deserves to be treated as important individuals. Use my name, thank me for my business, help me in a way that is specific to my needs. But be sincere and honest. We can spot a fake a mile away.

(0:40) Finds ways to say "Yes".
Of course, it is not always possible to meet every request but resist the habit of simply saying "No". Instead, strive to find a way to meet a request whenever possible. Go beyond what is "standard". Every "Yes" means a happier customer.

(0:34) Be able to sincerely apologize.
None of us are perfect and we all make mistakes. When things go wrong, sincerely apologize. Handle the problem quickly and communicate to the boater what you are doing to resolve the issue. This holds true even if it was the boater's fault. A sincere apology can go a long way to calm tempers and help everyone come to a resolution.

(0:27) Provide the boater more than they expect.
Simply meet my expectations and I will be satisfied, exceed them and I will become a loyal customer and tell others. Think about how you can reach beyond the expected even in small ways. These are the acts that will get you remembered.

(0:21) Always keep your promise.
Never take the commitments you make lightly. Delivering on your promises should be your top priority. Of course, there are times when the unexpected happens or an issue beyond your control interferes. You can still show your commitment by communicating quickly, apologizing, and letting the boater know what you are doing to get things done.

(0:14) Seek boater feedback.
Always encourage and welcome any and all feedback from boaters. Know what you are doing well and even more importantly, where you can improve. Letting boaters know you want sincere compliments and complaints tells them you care about their business and want them to come back. Then listen to what they tell you and act to improve.

(0:06) Give every boater exceptional customer service and you will be rewarded with repeat and new customers.

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

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Are You an Ant or a Grasshopper?

(1:00) We've been liveaboards for over 12 years now and running ActiveCaptain for about 8 of those years. When we started, the waterways were full of boats and if you wanted a slip for the night you needed a reservation. We all know that changed after 2008. We could pull in anywhere no matter how late in the day and have our choice of slips.

(0:53) Some marinas weren't able to weather the downturn. Not only was there less business for all, but boaters now had more choices which meant they could easily bypass marinas who weren't offering the same level of service and amenities as their competition.

(0:47) We began seeing a few more boaters a year or 2 ago but this past year we saw a dramatic increase. The waterways are busy once again. Marinas are fuller and we've even encountered a few marinas that were unable to provide us a spot because they were full. That makes me smile.

(0:40) If you haven't felt the change yet, I'm confident you will soon. You'll see fewer empty slips and more transients coming and going. Financial pressures will ease while you and your staff will become busier. How will you handle this good fortune? Will you be the ant or the grasshopper?

(0:33) OK, I'm not a complete Scrooge. Take a moment, thank your staff, maybe have a small party. Then you've got work to do, because right now is the best time to prepare for the next downturn.

(0:27) No, I'm not making a political statement or buying into those who thrive on doom and gloom. I'm simply being pragmatic. Everything happens in cycles with good and not-so-good times. Make sure you're the ant, using your good times to ensure you are prepared for the next not-so-good time.

(0:20) Now is the time to make those repairs you may have put off, upgrade your existing amenities, or add that new amenity boaters have been asking for. Make sure you are in prime shape before another downturn occurs.

(0:15) Study your reviews to find where you can improve. From the beginning, the number 1 reason for a boater deducting a star is poor bathrooms. More recently, the number 2 reason is poor WiFi. Use your increasing revenues to make your facility a premier one. That way when the next downturn comes, yours will be the marina that boaters choose. This will better prepare you to weather the storm.

(0:05) A little extra work and effort today will pay off in the future.

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

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Know Your Hazards

(1:01) We've been moving steadily north along with many other boaters along the US east coast. The days have been longer as we try to put on a few more miles to get home to Maine for the summer. It's when we find ourselves in this traveling mode that we really come to appreciate the value of ActiveCaptain hazards. Following the advice and instructions of boaters who have come before us has made our cruising more relaxing and enjoyable. Are you utilizing the hazards near you to your advantage?

(0:50) Yes, I did mean "advantage." When we first introduced the hazard markers we had marinas that contacted us wanting the ones near them removed. They were concerned that if boaters saw a hazard, it would scare them away from the marina. They didn't realize that it was the best thing for boaters as well as an incredible benefit to the marina.

(0:42) ActiveCaptain works because it's real. It provides the kind of honest, accurate information that today's consumers have come to expect. Gloss, hype, and superlatives no longer work. Marinas lose stars in reviews when boater's expectations don't match reality. So it's important for you to ensure that boater experiences are positive and that the only unexpected finding is an unexpected positive one.

(0:34) Based on boater feedback, the ActiveCaptain hazard markers are one of the most appreciated aspects of what we do. Why? Because they help remove uncertainty. They make the inevitable issues boaters encounter along the way more manageable.

(0:28) You see, the hazard, whether it is shoaling, an underwater obstruction, or a missing marker, exists whether there is a yellow marker on it or not. If a boater encounters that hazard on their way to your marina, they will be having a bad experience. However, if they can be warned and even offered information about how to avoid the hazard, there is no bad experience.

(0:19) There are some marinas that have taken on the task of keeping hazard markers near them up-to-date and accurate. Some contact local towing services or the Coast Guard, and some even periodically take a skiff out to measure depths and check on current conditions. I think that's really smart.

(0:12) If you have areas that boaters will encounter on their way to your marina that can cause problems, don't try to hide them, shine a light on them and help the boater arrive safely at your facility. Locate any hazards near you and make it your goal to keep the information current. Put a comment on the hazard with your marina's name to let them know the information is real, local knowledge. The boating community will benefit and so will you.

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

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Are You Out Of Date?

(1:30) As we make our way north this spring, we have been stopping in to chat with quite a few marinas. It's important to me to understand how we are helping our Sponsor marinas succeed and where we can do better. In the course of doing this I found several things that I could be doing better. My discovery leads to a lesson for you on two levels - one theoretical and one practical.

(1:21) First, it's dangerous to assume that your customers know and understand all you have to offer. It's important to never stop promoting your strengths, particularly ones that set you apart from your competition. I discovered that I was falling short in getting the message out about updating fuel prices in the ActiveCaptain database. We have some simple yet powerful ways of doing this.

(1:13) I found that most marinas either didn't know or didn't fully understand the several options they have for keeping their fuel pricing up-to-date. There is no other piece of data in ActiveCaptain that changes more frequently than the price of fuel. If you compete based on your fuel price then it is imperative that you make sure your price is current and accurate. We offer a variety of ways to do this which brings up the second lesson.

(1:05) Every marina was familiar with our Monday morning fuel update emails and happily informed me that they get them each week. However, when I pointed out that their fuel price was X weeks old in the ActiveCaptain data, I usually heard, "Well, that's because the price hasn't changed." And that's a problem - a price has little meaning unless your customer knows how current it is. If you carry fuel, look at your marker. Notice that the price is always associated with a date - the date it was updated. So even if you haven't changed the price, it's just as important that you change the date. Fortunately, we've made this trivial.

(0:55) If you look closely at the fuel update email, you'll see that there are two links. It's important that you select one of them every week. The one on the right is familiar to everyone. Clicking this takes you to your fuel update page where you can modify your fuel price and even update your slip pricing. But the link on the right is equally important. (0:47) Notice it says "Prices Correct." If your fuel price has not changed, click this link and we will automatically change the date associated with your fuel price to the current date. There's nothing more to do. This tells boaters that the price is still good. Making sure you select one or the other will keep your fuel price current on a weekly basis.

(0:40) But what if updating your price once a week isn't enough? If fuel is a truly important part of your business, you may want to update your pricing more often. I've seen some marinas that update it daily. Keeping your fuel pricing fresh tells boaters that this is important business for you and that you are staying competitive.

(0:33) Of course, you can always go to your marker on the website, select the Fuel tab and enter a new price and date, but there are some better ways. ActiveCaptain Sponsors can quickly and easily update their fuel and slip price anytime by going to their Sponsor page. On the righthand side, we show the current fuel and slip pricing listed in the database along with each price's date. If your pricing is old we even issue you a warning in red - think of it as a gentle nag from me. You can easily update your prices by selecting "Update Prices" to go to your fuel update page, or you can select "Update Dates to Today" if your pricing hasn't changed but you want to quickly change the date.

(0:16) An alternative method is to keep a copy of the fuel update email so you can open and access it at any time. Those links don't only work on Monday mornings! I've even had marinas who have created a shortcut or bookmark to their fuel update page so they can go to it whenever they want.

(0:09) If fuel is an important part of your business, make sure boaters always have your most current pricing and the only way I will know it is current is from the listed date. It's quick, it's simple, and it will bring you more business.

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