From its acquisition of DockMaster and new partnerships with boat builders and dealers for its The Boat Village online service, My-Villages continues to grow.
Kevin Hutchinson, founder and CEO of My-Villages, shared some insights on where the company is headed and how he thinks it can reshape the way the industry manages service.
For people who aren’t aware of The Boat Village, why should readers be interested in what you are doing?
One of the items we’re addressing is that once the boat is sold, it’s kind of out of the boat builder’s hands, out of the dealer’s hands. They hand them these manuals and hope that they’re going to take care of it as they should, but we all know that a lot of times, those manuals are never read, the warranty schedules are not understood.[The Boat Village] reminds boat owners of when service is coming due so they don’t have to think about it. The boat profile is there, all the equipment that’s on the boat is in there.
It’s solving an issue of the chaos of coordinating service. The boat builder can create a customized service plan, by boat, or by equipment, or they can do it by geography. You can do it all sorts of different ways. When those reminders come in, [the boat owner] just clicks a button and routes the request over to the dealer or the boatyard that is doing the service. They’re able to track that online, they can approve any estimates online, they can track the progress of the work.
There’s a shared history record between the boat builder, the boatyard and the boat owner of what work’s been done and when.
For the dealers, for the boatyards not only does it provide better knowledge of what’s been done with that boat, but it’s really a service to the boat owners of making their experience easier.
It is. It drives loyalty. It’s very similar to online banking and what’s going on in healthcare as well with care coordination.
It drives a sense of loyalty between the consumer and the provider of the service, whether it’s banking or it’s healthcare or it’s the marine industry. The businesses we do business with, one of the first things we start looking for is their app. Can I do online scheduling? Can I do online purchasing?
Before this, you worked in the healthcare industry. How did that experience inform what you’re doing in marine?
This is closely tied to what we did with healthcare. We were focused on care coordination – connecting all the nation’s pharmacies with all of the nation’s physicians to allow prescriptions to go electronically between doctor and pharmacy. Physicians also could look up medication history. They also could do reminders for conditions like diabetes. If you have diabetes, there are certain things you should do on a certain schedule.
Well, it’s no different in boating. There’s a schedule of things I should do and this reminds them of that schedule. Once you start doing this online coordination, making it easier to engage, there’s a higher probability of getting them to do it. We found that in healthcare, we’re finding it in the marine industry as well. If I can click a button, I’m much more inclined to do that than to make a phone call and explain what I need to have done.
Are you finding a lot of consumers that are interested in this concept?
We just crossed over 1,000 boat owners that have created profiles on The Boat Village. We’ve signed a number of boat builders that will provide this as a license for every boat that they sell. We have Hinckley, we just signed Feretti Group and it includes all their brands.
We have more than 20 service yards in the southeast and northeast that are rolling this out to their customers.
Are you focused on the East Coast at this point?
We have a couple ways in which we’re rolling this out. We’re doing a national campaign and we’re doing regional targets. In the northeast, we are doing a regional rollout from Massachusetts north and in the southeast we have five counties in Florida that we’re targeting because we have such a concentration of service yards, boat builders and others who are aggressively rolling this out in those markets. We’ve found that works pretty well when you have local presence and they’re doing communications to their own customers.
With the acquisition of DockMaster that we did last October, we have a national presence. Those DockMaster customers are also rolling out The Boat Village to their customers.
What makes you confident that this idea will work?
There are two things relative to that. It’s just the general direction we see consumers going, demanding technology to do business with companies. From a general consumer standpoint, we already know that demand is there. We’re not creating that demand; we’re just riding the wave of that demand.
The second thing is the actual reaction we’re getting from the marine industry, choosing this capability to do online coordination. We have enough business right now to keep us busy for the next couple of years. I’m hiring additional people to handle that, but we’re also having to manage our own growth and stay focused on those companies that have already signed up.
We’re still improving the product. The product has only been out six months. We actually do a new release of The Boat Village every two weeks, so every 14 days we’re adding enhancements to the product and they’re all based on user demand.