Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Customer Experience - A Brief Definition

(0:52) I've written about the concept of Customer Experience. I found a concise definition on the Forrester Research website that I wanted to share:
"How customers perceive their interactions with your company."

(0:46) They break down the Customer Experience into 3 components by looking at it from the customer's perspective. Experiences must be useful, usable, and enjoyable. I like the simplicity.

(0:42) As I thought about this approach, it occurred to me that the first two components are somewhat self-evident, at least if you are listening to your customers and following your competition.

(0:38) Your services must be useful to the boater offering the amenities they expect at a fair price. Obviously, I need to be able to access what you offer including safely getting to your docks and ashore, and finding and using your amenities as I expect.

(0:31) It is the final component that I think is often overlooked. Is the customer experience enjoyable?

(0:28) Not only is it harder to define, it has the least consistency across boaters. While the usefulness and usability of your marina will be impacted by a given boater's expectations, there are pieces that can be defined. Is your depth as advertised so I can get safely to your dock? Is your facility clean? And so forth.

(0:19) We all enjoy different things. For example, one boater may find the live music at the onsite bar enjoyable, while another might find it intolerable. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, you can mitigate this problem by properly managing your message.

(0:13) However, I believe there are some things that can be done to engage most every boaters. Friendly, knowledgeable staff, committed to helping the boater will go a long way. Many studies have shown that when it comes to satisfying customers, emotion plays the largest part.

(0:06) Pay attention to the experience boaters are having at your facility. Keep them smiling and happy and you will have more business.

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

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Customer Service vs Customer Experience

(1:13) Graphical User Interface (GUI) was a computer term coined early in my computer career. Before Apple made it mainstream, we largely interacted with computers using text editors. If you think the iPhone vs Android debate can get heated, ask someone in the 80's which was the best text editor...

(1:05) Today it is simply User Interface (UI), graphical is assumed. Wikipedia defines UI as, "the space where interactions between humans and machines occur."

(1:01) More recently, the term User Experience (UX) appeared. Wikipedia defines UX as, "a person's emotions and attitudes about using a particular product, system or service." UX broadens the definition far beyond menus and keystrokes. It encompasses a user's feelings and responses before, during, and after use.

(0:53) Similarly, it is popular in business to distinguish between Customer Service and Customer Experience.

(0:51) Customer Experience (CX) is defined as the product of an interaction between an organization and a customer over the duration of their relationship. This interaction includes a customer's attraction, awareness, discovery, cultivation, advocacy, and purchase and use of a service. It is measured by the individual's experience during all points of contact against the individual's expectations.

(0:40) For a marina, it is so much more than your docks, restrooms, and fuel prices.

(0:38) It is how you respond to email requests, the way your phone is answered, how a boater is greeted by the dockhand, the ease with which a boater can find the restrooms, even how you are portrayed on ActiveCaptain. A good exercise is to walk through a boater's complete experience from first encountering you in the ActiveCaptain data through his departure and any follow up that is done.

(0:27) We once had an experience at a boatyard that was by and large 5 star - quality workmanship, reasonable prices, staff that was helpful and friendly except for one touchpoint, the parts department which was where we went for any packages sent to us. When one lives aboard, has two dogs, and is doing boat projects, you get a fair number of packages. We were in there several times a week.

(0:16) Unlike the rest of the staff, this group always made me feel like an unwelcome intrusion. Rarely a smile or a hello. If someone had to get up to check in the back, it was done without cheer. I actually disliked going in there.

(0:10) Does that mean we won't go back? We absolutely would. Overall, it was one of the best experiences we've had. It's just unfortunate it was so needlessly marred. But notice how I remember that part of my experience.

(0:05) Do you know how you rate throughout the entire Customer Experience? If not, then you may be losing business.

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

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Managing Your Message

(1:04) Last week I wrote about the importance of managing boater expectations for your marina. A critical component is the message you provide about your facility. Offering an unrealistic view might bring a boater in but is not going to give you a repeat customer and will likely lead to a negative review.

(0:56) As a marketing professional, I cringe when I hear people describe an unrealistic message as "just marketing." I try to correct them that it is actually "bad marketing." Unfortunately, these overhyped and false messages have occurred far too often in the past. It is precisely why consumers have turned away from traditional advertising sources to Trip Advisor and Amazon and ActiveCaptain. They are desperate for the truth.

(0:44) Good marketing strives to present a true view of what is being offered and use that message to attract and retain the right customer for that offering. And the good news is that there are customers for just about any marina from inexpensive, barebones facilities to high end, resort-like marinas. The key is not mixing the two up in the boater's mind.

(0:35) One of the best ways to determine if you are being successful and to know how and where to improve is to study boater reviews. They will let you know if there was a difference between what you said was being offered, how that message was interpreted, and what the boater experienced. Understanding this powerful feedback is the best way to challenge your assumptions and spot your weaknesses. When doing this, look for patterns and don't over-focus on just one review.

(0:22) What can you do to minimize the chance of miscommunication and manage the expectations of boaters? Keep your descriptions straightforward and clear. Start with facts and avoid hype and over-promising. It is better to state that your restrooms are cleaned daily then to brag that you have the cleanest restrooms on the waterway.

(0:13) I recall a boater review several years ago that took off a star because he was disappointed in the restrooms. This didn't happen because the restrooms where dirty; it happened because the marina had bragged about how great their restrooms where and he felt he'd seen better.

(0:06) Ensure the marketing messages you are presenting to boaters matches their experience and you will have more happy customers. That will lead to more positive reviews.

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

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Manage Expectations

(1:01) The single most important thing you can do to ensure a positive boater review is to manage boater expectations. I've said this before but can't repeat it enough, a negative review typically happens when a boater's expectations are not met.

(0:55) It is critical that you are able to set realistic expectations. Ones that you can actually meet. While that may sound simplistic, it can often be quite challenging.

(0:51) A boater's expectations are based on two factors: what you communicate about your offering, and what the preconceptions might be about your offering.

(0:47) The first is something you have a fair amount of control over. Be honest, accurate, and clear in your presentation of your marina and its amenities. Do not describe yourself as a resort if you are, in fact, a quaint mom and pop facility. There is a good market for both. Finding the boaters who are looking for what you offer is key. And the best way to do that is to provide a realistic presentation.

(0:37) The second factor, preconceptions, is far trickier. Every boater will come to you with different preconceptions based on their unique experiences. Your marina will be compared to previous stays based on price, amenities, age of facilities, and even the surrounding area.

(0:31) While you can't really manage preconceptions, you can try to understand them and adjust your message accordingly. It is important to know what is accepted practice in your area and for your target customer base. Then determine how you can do better - provide more than the boater is expecting.

(0:24) Keep up with how your competition is evolving. It's not good enough to do your competitive analysis once and forget it. You must check again and again to find out what they are doing new or different or better.

(0:19) Boater reviews can be a good source of information. Make sure you are reading reviews for your marina and for your competition. Seeing what a boater is saying about other marinas can give you insight into how you stack up.

(0:07) The difference between what a boater expects and what you deliver will determine their level of satisfaction and the subsequent review you receive. Manage those expectations well and you will see more positive reviews.

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

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Complaints Equal Opportunity

(0:59) The title above is from a quote buried near the bottom of one of those "X things for business success" lists. One of the most challenging things I do is to help marinas who are struggling to deal with a dreaded negative review - especially when it is their first one.

(0:53) There's a common saying among cruisers that there are two types, "those who have run aground" and "those who will run aground." I say the same about marinas and negative reviews.

(0:49) One of the problems with success is that as more boaters come to your marina, you will become more likely to experience a bad review. I say, embrace your success and use that review as an opportunity.

(0:45) Customer complaints are the best opportunity to learn where you are falling short and where you can improve. Of course, it would be best if the complaints came directly to you and not in the form of a public review. That's why I recommend that your Welcome Packet contain a welcome letter encouraging boaters to let you know if something isn't right along with a reliable way to contact you - it works. But be forewarned. When the complaint comes directly to you, handle it well or you will most definitely be receiving a negative review.

(0:31) Take time to focus on any complaints revealed in boater reviews. That includes reviews that are positive, as well as negative. It is not unusual for a reviewer to note an area needing improvement in a positive review. Do not hesitate to reach out to the boater for clarification or more information. You can use the private messaging feature if you do not have a direct way to contact them.

(0:20) Make sure to share all boater feedback, positive and negative, with your staff. Make it a good learning experience. Don't hesitate to call out individuals for praise. Deal with negative reviews about an individual in private, if necessary.

(0:14) Sharing boater reviews with your staff reminds them of the importance of excellent customer service in a very tangible way. It's also a good time to encourage feedback from your staff. After all, they are often the ones on the front line and can alert you to problems before they show up in a review.

(0:06) Never pass up an opportunity to make you, your staff, and your marina better. There is no better source of where and how to improve than the customers you service.

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