Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Can You Make It Right?

(1:13) I have been a Hertz Gold Member for quite a few years. Being liveaboards, we frequently rent cars. Early on I would shop prices. But at some point I became a Gold Member and eventually stopped looking. It worked for me. Good prices, periodic free rentals, quick checkin/drop-off, and the service was always good. Their loyalty program worked.

(1:03) Then I had one of my worst customer service experiences ever.

(1:01) The details aren't important, suffice it to say a clerk tried to levy a "detailing charge" on a car we returned in nearly pristine condition. After a second clerk confirmed the need, I began to suspect I was being bamboozled. They quickly offered to have the manager take a look.

(0:54) By now I was getting a little steamed. This was obviously a sanctioned practice. I told my husband he'd better go with him.

(0:50) As the manager made a show of putting the blowers on full force to see, I don't know what, come out, my husband began to take pictures of the car. Immediately, the manager turned off the car and said, "Well, I guess it's not that bad. We won't charge you."

(0:43) That day, I canceled my next, upcoming Hertz reservation and booked a car with a competitor. Most people would have left it at that, never to return. That's the first lesson.

(0:38) But blatant dishonesty was too much. I went to the Hertz Facebook page and wrote a post. Almost immediately I received a private message, could I supply my reservation number so they could look into it? I replied and attached the pictures my husband had taken.

(0:30) The next day I had an apology and additional points in my account. Then another kind message. I felt heard. They had tried to make it right. But did they succeed?

(0:25) It took years for Hertz to cultivate a loyal customer and about 20 minutes to destroy it. It will be some time before I am loyal again, if ever. Lesson number 2.

(0:20) Their quick response, sincere apology, and tangible action did put them back in the running, which at this point is the most they could expect. Lesson number 3.

(0:15) There is absolutely nothing more important to your business than customer service. It is one of the hardest things to do right and the easiest thing to do wrong. This is a message you can never relay often enough to your staff.

(0:08) Every interaction - every one - is a chance to exceed or fail. Train your staff well, demand exceptional customer service, lead by example, and never stop trying to be better.

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

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What's In A Number?

(1:10) Boater reviews are the pride and the bane of marinas. Every week I receive emails from marinas with questions about how to manage their reviews.

(1:05) Properly managing your reviews, both positive and negative, is important for your business. There are two articles I wrote some time back on this subject that you can access from the Sponsor page:

(1:00) It can be easy to simply dismiss a negative review but it is better to understand the review and form a strategy to deal with it. Of course, the content is critical but I find that most marinas ignore the additional information available about the reviewer.

(0:55) Having a better understanding of the boater who wrote a negative review can help you get the most out of the review and help you better respond.

(0:50) When you are looking at a review on the ActiveCaptain website, notice that beside the captain name is a number in parentheses. This is the number of points the boater has accumulated using ActiveCaptain. It suggests the level of experience the boater has and how engaged they are in using their boat. Both of these factors are important.

(0:42) Remember, when a boater reaches 250 points they become eligible for an ActiveCaptain hat. In fact, obtaining points is the only way to receive a hat, so pay attention when you see one.

(0:37) Next you can click on the captain name for some additional choices. Selecting "Captain details" will display some additional information the captain has entered, such as the type of boat, length, etc.

(0:31) You can select "Show reviews/comments" to see the other reviews they have entered. Is there a review for your competitor? Are many of their reviews negative? It can shed light on what is important to that captain.

(0:24) While we all need to use caution when making generalities, I think it is fair to say that you may react one way to a review from a boater with 350 points than one with only 10 points. The boater with 350 points has likely written many review. The boater with 10 points means that your review is the only one they have written.

(0:16) I want to be perfectly clear. I am not saying that you should ignore the second, low-point captain's review or that you can't learn from it. But realize that some boaters might not be your customer and suggesting an alternative facility might be the best thing you can do. Every good marketer should be able to describe who is and who isn't their perfect customer.

(0:07) Make sure that you are using all of the tools available to you to manage your online reviews. In today's online world, they are critical to success.

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

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Make It Work

(1:08) I love finding examples of terrific customer service. It's especially nice when it happens in my own backyard.

(1:05) I was sitting at the Castine town dock on a busy afternoon recently watching the boats in the harbor. Castine has a small face dock where boats can dock for a couple of hours to visit our charming town.

(0:59) The dock was full with a visiting boat hovering out in the harbor waiting for another boat to pull out. As the boat pulled away a second boat started moving towards the spot. The harbormaster politely informed them that another boat was ahead of them waiting to pull up to the dock.

(0:53) Having seen similar situations turn ugly, I appreciated him taking control of this situation in a friendly and professional manner. But it didn't stop there.

(0:49) He then told the second boat, "We really want you to come visit our town. Give me a few minutes and we'll make it work."

(0:45) He proceeded to tie up the first boat and then worked to shift the other boats on the dock around to make a space. He waved the waiting boat in with a smile. That's customer service at its best.

(0:39) He not only turned a potentially volatile situation into something positive. He made two groups of boaters feel welcomed and satisfied. He brought a little economic development to the town. And he created two potential ambassadors for Castine. Can you say positive reviews?

(0:30) Does your staff go the extra step to "make it work" for boaters? It would have been easy to simply wave the second boat on. And I don't know that I would have called that bad customer service nor think that it would have led to a negative review. It's what most of us would have, at a minimum, expected.

(0:21) But exceptional customer service is when one does more then is expected. The best part is that it is often something quite simple, like taking a few moments to retie some boats to make a space or telling a boater that you really want them to come to your facility.

(0:10) The next time you or your staff is faced with a situation were you have to tell a boater "No", stop and consider if there is a way to make it work. Do the unexpected, find a way to meet the boater's need and you will be rewarded with happy customers and more business.

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

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Boating Infrastructure Grant

(1:01) This week's Minute is a little different. The announcement below is from BoatUS announcing a grant program. It's something every US marina needs to be aware of. Who couldn't use a little help with facility improvements? But don't delay. The deadline is September 18th.

(0:54) Grants Available to Help Pay for Visiting Boater Facilities

(0:52) Visiting boaters, whether staying over for just one night or a couple weeks, offers real economic benefits and adds to the vitality of waterfront communities, marinas and boat clubs. But laying out the welcome mat can be challenging. Transient boat docks that are protected and safe for overnight tie-ups, deep-water channels, restrooms, and pump outs - just some of the infrastructure necessary to draw visiting boaters - can be expensive. However, the Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG) program from the US Fish and Wildlife Service can help communities, marinas and boat clubs pay up to half of these improvements, but they need to apply by September 18 by going to their state's BIG administrator, typically a boating, wildlife or natural resources agency.

(0:38) Not a government handout, funding for the competitive BIG program comes from excise taxes on boat gasoline and fishing tackle that boaters and anglers pay into the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund.

(0:33) The goal is give cruising boaters convenient access to shore-side amenities via slips dedicated to transient boats as well as mooring fields and dinghy docks. Municipal or privately-owned marinas as well as boat clubs can install these conveniences including moorings, restrooms (including floating ones), fuel docks, electricity, water and sewage utilities, recycling and pump out stations, and undertake small dredging projects (up to $200,000) using BIG dollars. Two tiers of funding, both competitive and non-competitive, are available.

(0:21) Projects must be located on water bodies deep enough for boats 26-feet in length staying overnight from one to up to 15 days, and to navigate at a minimum depth of six feet. Matching funds - a 25% minimum is required - may not come from other federal sources, but state, local and private funds can be used to match.

(0:14) Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) was instrumental in creating the program in 1998 that is viewed today by local municipalities as an economic development tool to attract cruising boats and related boater spending. To date, over $177 million in grants have been awarded.

(0:08) BoatUS suggests that if your community, club or marina is interested, take a look at what's possible by seeing a list of projects that received prior grant funding at BoatUS.com/gov/BIG.asp. There's also a helpful link to state BIG administrator contacts.

(0:04) Don't let this opportunity pass you by!

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