Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A WOW Fund

(1:12) One of my favorite businesses for over-the-top customer service is the online pet food company Chewy.com. If you've been a longtime reader of my Minutes, you know that I've written about them in the past.

(1:06) I recently encountered another example which illustrates a key point. A woman posted on a dog related Facebook group about her experience. She was signed up for Chewy's Auto Ship feature which allows pet food orders to be sent at regular intervals with an extra discount on each order. It's a good deal that unfortunately our vagabond lifestyle doesn't allow us to take advantage of.

(0:55) Her elderly dog passed away the day after her auto order of 60 pounds of dog food arrived. She emailed Chewy to cancel the service explaining why. She wrote, "Later that day they responded to my email with a heart felt response. In that letter they told me they were going to credit the dog food they sent. They said they did not want it sent back to them and that I should donate it to a shelter in Jake's name. I was very impressed with this company."

(0:42) That's very nice but not surprising as I've had similar interactions with Chewy myself. But then they did a WOW.

(0:38) She continued, "A few days later, I came home from work and flowers were delivered to my home....with condolences on the loss of my furry family member. I cannot say enough fabulous things about this company. I am placing this on Facebook because I want as many people to know this is a company that you should use if you need dog food. It is nice to know companies truly care."

(0:28) Finding a way to truly WOW your customers is priceless. The goodwill created and spread across the internet by this woman can not be duplicated with a banner ad or thousands of dollars of glossy print pages. And all of this for the price of a floral arrangement.

(0:21) As marinas have seen the downfall of traditional media, I am often asked how they should now spend their marketing budgets. How about setting up a WOW fund?

(0:17) Putting this in your budget does two things. First, it offers a way to earmark funds you've previously spent on outdated media for a more useful purpose.

(0:13) Second, the simple act of formalizing this notion sets in motion the discussion of how you can WOW your customers. All ideas should be considered and no idea should be deemed too outrageous. In fact, I would argue that the more unique, the better.

(0:06) WOW boaters and you will not only create loyalty, you will reap the marketing benefits of scores of happy boaters singing your praises.

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

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Engage vs React

(1:05) My first interaction with a marina I'm not familiar with is often when they receive a poor review. In the early days it was sometimes confrontational, even aggressive. Many were angry, demanding the review be removed along with the rest of their information. It didn't happen.

(0:57) We have specific procedures we follow when a review is challenged. You can find them in the website Terms of Use. It is the unusual circumstance where a review is removed. It is only by maintaining the integrity of an independent review process that we can earn the boater's trust. It is probably the most important factor in ActiveCaptain's success.

(0:48) Whenever I encounter these situations, I use them as learning experiences. I discuss with the marina what the specific complaint was and how they can fix it. Doesn't it make more sense to prevent the negative review from happening in the first place rather than trying to repair your reputation after the fact?

(0:40) The availability and usage of customer reviews has grown dramatically - research suggests that between 70% and 90% of consumers state that online reviews influence their buying decisions. Because of this, we have seen a growth in companies offering to help manage your online reputation for you. I find this concerning.

(0:32) I'm not saying that there is no use for these organizations. But I am disturbed by the implication that businesses are "too busy" or unable to understand and manage their own reputations. The fewer barriers between you and your customers, the better.

(0:26) An aspect that particularly bothers me is what appears to be a trend to focus on reacting to customer reviews once they have occurred rather than engaging with customers to prevent the negative experience from happening in the first place. On the most basic level, it is what most of my Minutes are about. Do the right thing now to prevent damage later.

(0:17) I understand that dealing with customer reviews, particularly negative ones, can be uncomfortable. But it is only by engaging directly with all of your customers, especially the unhappy ones, that you will truly understand issues you might have. Use that knowledge to improve and enhance your marina so your future reviews are positive.

(0:08) Putting your focus on creating a positive reputation rather than managing a less than positive one just makes sense. If you focus on that, you'll have no need for a "reputation management" company. And that's good for business.

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

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

ActiveCaptain Private Messaging

(1:00) One of the most common questions I receive form marinas is how to get in touch with a boater who has stayed at a marina and written a review. While our privacy policy prevents us from revealing a captain's email address to anyone, there is an easy-to-use solution that will get your message through.

(0:50) The ActiveCaptain website provides a capability to send a personal message to an ActiveCaptain user from any review. Personal messages are powerful tools for communicating with boaters in positive ways. Use this capability any time your marina receives a review to thank the boater when the review is positive and to work to make things right when it is not.

(0:42) To send a personal message to an ActiveCaptain user, just following these simple steps:
1. Click on the Captain name that appears at the top of the review. A pop-up menu will appear.
2. Select "Send message."
3. Enter a message title and the message text in the window.
4. Select "Submit."

(0:33) The next time the Captain logs into the ActiveCaptain website there will be a notification that a message is waiting. Captains may optionally have messages sent directly to their email inbox. It is a good idea to offer a way for the Captain to communicate with you directly by including your email address or a phone number in the message.

(0:25) The Captain can also reply to your message within the ActiveCaptain website. It is good practice to regularly check your ActiveCaptain account for messages or to have the messages sent to your email inbox.

(0:20) To configure extra email capabilities for the messages that are sent to you, follow these steps:
1. Select "My Card" from the tabs on the left side under The Interactive Cruising Guidebook.
2. Click on "More" beside "My Details" at the top. A pop-up menu will appear.
3. Select "Edit".
4. In the "My Details" window check the box next to "Send email when a message is received."
5. Select "Submit."

(0:10) Remember to keep your communications professional and relevant. ActiveCaptain messaging may not be used to SPAM or solicit users. Arguing or harassing a captain is always bad. Use messaging sparingly and appropriately and it can be a powerful marketing tool.

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