Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Show Me

(1:00) If you happen to follow our canine crew's cruising blog, you know that we put our house on the market recently. It's a 180 year old house and was in need of painting to look it's best for potential buyers. We weren't able to line up our usual painter so had to find another. In addition, the painting couldn't take place until we had already left to get back on the boat. All of that made us very nervous. We are not in the habit of having major work done when we're not there, whether it's our house or our boat.

(0:49) Last week as we were cruising across the Neuse River I got a phone call. It was from the painter. He wanted our email address so he could send us some pictures. When we got in that evening we downloaded nearly a dozen photos of our house from every angle. He provided zoomed in images of the areas that were a particular problem. Of course, he also sent his bill.

(0:40) Now that's customer service.

(0:38) By sending me those photos he showed that he understood how unnerving it can be to have a costly job performed in my absence. He showed confidence and pride in the quality of his work. And it did look nice. He gave me confidence that going ahead and paying the bill was the right thing to do. I will definitely recommend him to others.

(0:30) The service industry is hard. You are mainly selling time and that can be hard to quantify. Bills are not paid until the work is done. That makes problems doubly difficult. If I buy a vacuum cleaner I'm not happy with, I can return it to the store. How do I return hundreds of hours of painting?

(0:22) So it is important that you work to gain your customer's trust. It is more common for boaters to leave their boat and have major work done in their absence. It's an issue of time and of the inconvenience of living on the hard or going to a motel.

(0:16) Go that extra mile to make your customers feel their home on the water is as important to you as it is to them. It should be standard procedure to keep boaters informed of the progress of the work being done. I can think of no better way to do that than through images.

(0:09) Periodically send photos of major jobs. It not only will decrease the boater's anxiety, it can catch issues before it's too late. Send a picture of the final work. It shows that you want me to be happy. And we all know that happy customers are your best advertisement.

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Know Your Weather

(0:55) Everyone is interested in the weather. Do I need a jacket? Umbrella? Will we have to move that Sunday picnic inside? As much as the whims of mother nature affect the lives of those on land, the impact is ten-fold for those of us who live on the water. A blow that might knock over someone's planters can create a scary, if not dangerous, situation for us. So it's important that you know what is happening weather-wise in your region.

(0:46) From a purely business standpoint, it can let you know if that boat club might be canceling their reservations. Or that some of your transients could be staying an extra day or two. If you have empty transient slips you might want to consider a special "Storm Deal" - Come in out of the weather and tie securely to our docks.

(0:39) Of course, the reverse is true as well. If it's going to be a spectacular weekend you may want to think of how you can accommodate last minute reservations from boaters taking advantage of the weather.

(0:34) Being on top of the weather shows boaters that you understand what is important to them and want to satisfy their needs. It's a subtle but telling message when I go into the office to extend my stay due to weather and I hear, "There's bad weather coming?" vs "You don't want to be out in that. It looks like it'll settle down on Monday and that'll give you a chance to try that little bakery in town."

(0:25) It is not unusual for marinas to post the weather forecast at the office. I've even been at marinas that drop off a printed forecast on our cockpit. If there is a TV in the office it should be on a weather channel.

(0:19) Having local weather knowledge is a valuable asset to boaters that can create terrific goodwill. Good advice when coming into an unfamiliar marina is always appreciated. "Winds will be pushing you off the dock so we'll have an extra hand to help," builds my confidence. A friendly warning like, "If you're leaving today heading south, you might find steep, choppy waves," can prevent an unhappy day on the water.

(0:10) You should know which weather conditions can cause problems in your area and let boaters know. The most experienced of boaters will appreciate a knock on the side with, "Winds will be coming strong from the NE tonight pushing you against the dock. A few extra fenders would be a good idea. I can help you put them out."

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

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Rendezvous Marketing

(1:07) Each fall we linger on the Chesapeake Bay speaking at different boating rendezvous and events. It's the perfect way to start our winter cruising as we spend time with fellow boaters, meeting up with old friends and making new ones. This week's Krogen rendezvous reminded me that hosting a rendezvous is a terrific way to reach out to customers, both old and new, and fill up those empty slips.

(0:57) As I've written about before, it is common for boaters to fall into habits, stopping at the same places year after year. Attending a rendezvous pulls boaters away to a place they might not have visited before or haven't been back to for some time. And for new boaters, it suggests future habits for their cruising destinations.

(0:50) A rendezvous can be a terrific way to really show off what you have to offer the cruising transient. Rendezvous last multiple days so the boater can experience your docks and staff and other amenities. They typically make good use of your facilities letting them know what is available for a return trip.

(0:43) If you have exceptional services, take advantage of the captured audience to let them experience those as well. I've attended rendezvous that featured the local cuisine, tours of marine museums, discounts on shopping and services, visits to the spa, and other encouragements to make me want to come back again when I have more time.

(0:36) The typical rendezvous has a series of talks or lectures on topics of interest to the boating community. It might be about unusual and exciting destinations, boat maintenance, boating skills, or a variety of other areas important to boaters. There is no better way to attract new customers than to give them information they want. Try to get involved with the rendezvous program because you have a tremendous amount of local knowledge to supply.

(0:26) We attended a rendezvous a few years ago for a specific boat brand. A nearby boat yard gave a talk about the potential problem areas for the electrical systems for that boat along with ways to fix most of those problems. Now some boat yards might tell you he was giving away the secrets and it's true that there were some in the audience who likely used that information to do their own repair work. But the rest of the attendees came away with an honest understanding of the issues and why it was important to fix them. Many don't have the time, desire, or ability to do the repair work themselves. The boat yard owner told us that this one presentation resulted in ten's of thousands of dollars of service work.

(0:09) I believe a rendezvous can hit that perfect sweet spot. You can reach out to a group that is large enough to make the time and effort invested worthwhile, yet small and focused enough that you can get your message across. That will lead to more business for you.

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

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Straight From the Horse's Mouth

(0:55) There are times when I wonder if my musings are crossing the line into nagging. But then I remember what I thought was nagging from my mother generally proved to be good advice. I trust you feel the same here.

(0:49) One theme I have addressed repeatedly is the importance of good customer service right from the start. It sets the tone for the boater's experience on the right, or wrong, course. I've written about VHF communications, dockhand interactions, and other areas where customer service lives. But I'm sure there are those of you who are tired of hearing me say it and I thought it might have new impact coming from someone else.

(0:40) I noticed a review that came in for a marina recently and tucked it away. It is the perfect example of the importance of first impressions. And because it comes from a fellow boater, your potential customer, I hope it will grab your attention. Oh, and it was a 5 star review.

(0:33) "Whenever I come into a marina (which is not often these days) the first thing I like to see is a dock crew ready to help. First impression, I'm there two minutes after opening and when I make the call, two guys are trotting down the dock to meet me as I land. The fuel dock, clearly marked on the right side of the marina as you enter has a full set of round fenders (like 20 plus) to protect your boat - that tells me they care about their customer. First rate operation."

(0:24) This boater felt welcomed and cared for right from the start. Eager dockhands and fenders at the fuel dock are things boaters do not always see, but should. This stay had an exceptional start, setting the tone and leading to a 5 star review.

(0:17) I'll add one other suggestion that will benefit both marinas and boaters. Make sure your staff is easily visible to boaters. I love seeing dockhands outfitted in matching tops. The brighter the color, the better. Catching sight of a navy or beige shirt from the water is practically impossible. Make it a bright yellow and they'll pop out at me. And that not only helps when docking, I can now find someone to help when I have a question or need assistance once I'm in.

(0:08) And like eager dockhands and fenders at the fuel dock, it sends me the message that you care and want to help. That leads to positive reviews and returning customers. Both are good for business.

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