Tuesday, May 10, 2016

VHF Etiquette

(1:15) In my youth, I worked a variety of low level jobs. Often, one of my tasks was answering the phone - I was trained to do it properly as, even back then, good communications was important for customer service.

(1:10) The same is true for marinas and the VHF today but with one huge difference. If I handled a phone conversation poorly, I may have turned off a single customer. On the VHF, you are speaking to every boater within a 25 mile radius!

(1:04) Over the years, I have heard a lot of VHF traffic - some good, some not so good. Here are the things that I think are important to give the right image of your marina when using the VHF.

(0:59) 1. Always answer the VHF
By always, I mean every single solitary time, no exceptions. Hearing a boater hailing and hailing on the VHF with no response sends a bad message about your facility. The VHF is a boater's primary means of communication. Don't make them call you on a mobile phone after 5 failed attempts at the VHF.

(0:48) If you accept transient boaters you must have someone monitoring the VHF during all business hours. If someone can't be in the marina office, use handhelds. Quality handheld VHF radios have become very affordable. You will loose more than the price in one missed transient night or fuel purchase. Always answer the VHF. And answer it quickly.

(0:39) 2. Use low power
I mentioned a 25 mile radius. That is often the range of a large VHF radio on high power. If you are typically communicating with a boater nearby, the low power setting is more than sufficient. Blasting away on high power is irritating, at best, and could interfere with other critical communications, at worst. Make sure you are on the lowest power needed to communicate before keying the microphone.

(0:28) 3. Be professional and welcoming
For most transient boaters, coming into your marina will be the most stressful part of their day. There is no better way to put them at ease than by projecting confidence and making them feel welcome.

(0:24) 4. Speak clearly & be clear
When using the VHF, speak clearly and slowly. Be concise, making any instructions brief and clear. Often, radios have issues with static, cross talk, and communications strength. In addition, a boater's helm can be a busy place with many distractions. Don't make it more complicated with poor VHF communications.

(0:15) 5. Practice your VHF skills
The best way to ensure that every VHF interaction is great is to practice with your staff. Get the staff together and practice using the VHF. Talk about how to handle a variety of situations, throw in a curve ball or two. Make sure everyone is comfortable and knows what to say.

(0:07) That initial interaction on the VHF will set the tone for the boater's entire stay. Don't leave it to chance. Make sure everyone on your staff knows how to make VHF communications a positive experience.

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