Greg Hoffman



The Tarpon Agency Marketing Column

The Tarpon Agency Marketing Column

Boating Industry
Tuesday October 15, 2002

The most articulate marketing professionals in the world can help your company fine-tune its message, identify the perfect end-users and convince them your product is their solution. But it’s up to you to keep them your customers.

Companies in the marine industry should be committed to providing the very best customer service plans. If you don’t, your competitors will.

As I wrote in my last column, online forums are an effective way for consumers to anonymously vent their frustrations about products they use. I recently posted a query on one of the major forums about customer service and I received many responses.

What is customer service?

This definition of customer service written by a member of the forum is worthy of mentioning here:

“The bottom line on customer service is that the company has to have the commitment to make purchasing, owning and maintaining an item the best experience they can for the customer ... Just remember, it takes ten attaboy's to make up for one mistake.

“Customer service excellence has to be in the culture of an organization. It has to be holistic throughout the company, not just the fond wishes of a couple heroes. Customer service starts with providing information before the sale, consistent and fair pricing strategies, emphasis on providing value to the customer, and providing honest and reasonable service after the sale.”

What to avoid

There are three major mistakes companies can make to lose their customers forever: not keeping in touch with their customers; not having some method of viable communication for complaints; and not fixing the problems.

A follow-up with the customer is as easy as a phone call, a direct mail-piece or an e-mail these days. Customers want to know that the company has taken the time to see how the product is working. Ongoing communication plans that include customers help build strong customer loyalty.

Many complaints about bad customer service result from a lack of options given to them by the retail outlet, the distributor or the manufacturer.

Each should have a system established to handle troubleshooting. But because most companies don’t offer such services, either by phone or on the Internet, the customer has to turn to other customers for information.

Finally, customers want companies to do as they promise. The best examples of customer service show how companies deliver repairs on time or go beyond standard warranties to make the customer happy.

The following is a good example of customer service from my online question to consumers:

“I bought my boat used from an individual in another city. I also applied for and received a second owner hull warranty that only covers the lower hull and transom. No deck warranty.

“Back in July, I took my boat to the local dealer to change the water pump on the engine. I told the manager there about how my compartment lids bleed brown coffee looking liquid when I wash the decks. He told me he would see what he could do. I didn't expect to ever hear back from him concerning the lids.

“Two weeks ago he calls me and tells me he has 7 new lids for all the compartments on my boat and to bring it by for warranty replacement. He knew my warranty did not cover the lids but was persistent enough with the manufacturer that they agreed to replace them. Now that is service. Can you guess where I am going to buy my next boat from?”

Great marketing helps sales by educating customers on products. Great customer service builds loyalty forever and brings emotion into the equation. These are two key elements in building your brand.

Greg Hoffman
The Tarpon Agency


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