Spring launch arrives in northern U.S.

By Christopher Kourtakis, director of sales and marketing, 360° Industry SolutionsThe time has come.  It is finally here.  It has been a long hard winter for the East Coast and the Midwest.  Our customers have been waiting for this time for months.  Many of the industry’s customers will be at the marinas and visiting ship stores over the next several weeks as spring launch is finally here for the northern half of the United States.

As an industry, we need to make sure that we are looking at the big picture and providing the best customer service possible.  We have one chance this year, so as an industry let’s not blow it.  Let’s provide our customers with an experience that will keep them coming back and not think twice on whether or not boating is worth it to them and their families.

Indicators have shown that things are improving, but it is up to us to make sure that we keep moving in the right direction.

Now more than ever customers are looking for not just customer service, but an experience.  They want to be treated like they never have before.  They are looking for updates on their boat, special pricing for the services that they need performed and they are looking to the dealer network for their expertise in sales and maintenance.

For most businesses, the winter months were about survival.  However, now is about growth.  Don’t be the marine dealer and marine store with bare shelves or lack of qualified employees to properly assist the customer.

As an industry we need to stock up and anticipate a good season.  We need to anticipate that people want to use their boats this summer.  Plan ahead; communicate with your staff to find out what they need.  Develop a plan and implement it.  Just make sure everyone is on the same page and communicating the same message.

That plan should include the use of social media, advertising, inventory control, but most of all superior customer service.  There is no better time than now to have a customer appreciation day at your facility with “how to” tips (clinics) to assist in the maintenance of their vessels.  Have your sales staff ready to answer questions about new products, new electronics and the potential for re-powers.  Have you thought about a customer loyalty program if you do not have one in place already?  This is a great way to reward your customers and keep them coming back.

This is a critical time for us as an industry.  Together, we can turn things around, but it starts with one customer at a time.  Let’s make sure that new customers are customers for life and that existing customers have no reason to look elsewhere.

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  1. Great article. I can’t tell you how many times I have felt abused and taken advantage of as a customer. Glad to know there is someone out there that gets customer service. Keep up the great work.

  2. I was at my local West Marine this weekend buying some parts for my boat. I stood at the register for a minute or more while the two other clerks on the floor were helping other customers. One of the clerks finally noticed me standing there and radioed for the manager to come out. The manager was in his office (hidden from my view) only feet from where I was standing. At this point the customer (me) wasn’t happy.

    However, the manager turned things around pretty quickly. I could not find a specific part for my outriggers. West Marine didn’t carry the part. Once I realized that, I was already thinking that my next stop was Lewis Marine Supply. However he creatively found a part that was a similar and gave me a suggestion to make a simple modification such that it would work.

    Moral ot the story: Earnest and thoughtful customer service can turn negative situations into positive ones by simply caring enough to help people solve their problems.

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