Ask Andrew: Customers and Boat Yards – Part 2

Boat Yard

Dec 21, 2023

In Part 1 I took a look at how customers find boat service facilities and how those facilities find their customers. In this installment we look at what happens next – once a customer finds a facility how does the magic actually happen?

How to book

It’s tough not to compare auto repairs with boat repairs. The reality is that the systems that contractors, yards and dealerships will use are often quite different from auto dealerships. Here’s a few things to be aware of:

 – The assessment isn’t as advanced: don’t be surprised if a boat yard, contractor, or dealership can’t give you a quote over the phone. Every boat is different, and labour rates are based on the actual time it will take to get the job done rather than rate-book pricing used widely in the automotive world. This will include diagnosis (identifying or confirming the problem), access (taking pieces apart to get to the problem), repair (fixing the problem), and re-assembly. This means that a tech must be onsite and crawl around inside the boat to understand the issues before providing you a quote.

 – Scheduling isn’t precise: Expectations will need to be adjusted if you’re hoping to get an oil change next Thursday at 10am. Most boat yards and dealerships still operate under a first-in, first-out systems, which is then prioritized by part availability. The most common response will be: ‘Bring it in, we’re happy to look at it once it’s here’. (It’s worth noting that many operations in the marine industry never can have enough technical staff so if you are looking for a fine challenging career there are always opportunities.)

 – Relationships are important: a dealership or yard will give preference to boats or customers that they know. If you bought a boat from someone who always took it to the dealership that they bought it from, you’ll have better luck with priority service from that same dealership.

– An important but often overlooked fact: some contractors and boats yards can’t necessarily accommodate your business. It’s unfortunate but true. The marine world is understaffed. Parts can be hard to come by. There is more business (in some areas) that some contractors or yards can handle, meaning that they have the luxury of turning customers away. Each contractor, yard and dealership will have their own view on how to prioritize where limited resources may go.

Some will want big, long-term jobs. Others want small, simple work. Others specialize in particular types of repairs. Be prepared to do some research to discover which contractor or yard might fit best with your needs, and don’t be shocked if you’re turned away.

Boat Repair Work Order

The follow-through:

If you find a contractor, yard or dealership that best fits your needs, continue to work with them and build a solid relationship. The price may be cheaper across the road, but a long-term relationship will often serve each party best. This also allows quality communication. You’ll know what to expect next, what to anticipate, and each of your ways-of-working. If you’d like to give your preferred contractor or yard a boost, ask them how to show your appreciation: Would a google review help? How about Facebook? Would they like you to tell your dock-neighbours? Or pass out business cards?

Contractors and boat yards are also notorious for poor communication. Work with your contractor to find out the best way to reach out and connect. Is a text message better than an email? Is an early morning phone call ideal? Are messages monitored better on Instagram vs Facebook? Everyone has their own ways-of-working – and communication can always get better.

I like to end my customer interactions with a little joke: ‘I hope I never see you again’. The implication being that I hope that they don’t have need for future repairs (which is unlikely). I even try to say it with a smile.

Andrew McDonald

Andrew McDonald is the owner of Lakeside Marine Services – a boat repair/maintenance firm based in Toronto. Andrew has worked in the marine industry for 12 years and is a graduate of the Georgian College ‘Mechanical Techniques – Marine Engine Mechanic’ program.

Questions or comments for Andrew? Email him directly via:

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