After several years of development, Singleton Marine Group launched a new service for boaters this fall that puts a licensed captain on their boat every week to do a 65-point inspection.
The service, called BoatMate, was the brainchild of Managing Partner Scott Cunningham.
“I’ve had the idea for many years,” Cunningham says. “But I didn’t want to start until we had a service department and captains who could do it consistently.”
The program works like this: After boaters sign an annual contract, a licensed captain will come weekly on Monday or Tuesday to perform a series of inspections and tests. Singleton e-mails a report that details what was done, the test results and the general conditions observed. If a problem is discovered, a proposal is attached along with price quotes. No work is actually performed, however, without the authorization of the boat owner.
One of Singleton’s licensed captains, Capt. Don Parent, says the inspections take him about an hour and offer boaters several advantages.
First, they offer peace of mind. After the area experienced unusual snow and ice storms this winter, BoatMate customers — many of whom don’t live nearby — got calls with updates on their boat’s condition.
Second, it ensures their boat is ready when they are. Many of the boaters in the program go weeks or more without visiting their boats, which increases the potential for unwanted problems. Inspections are performed early in the week to allow time for maintenance before the weekend, if necessary. Parent says captains will also perform little touches like turning on the lights or radio before a boater arrives to make their experience more pleasant.
Third, it increases the resale value of the boat. Over time, Parent monitors trends with fluid levels and other aspects of the boat, which can help him spot problems before they become catastrophic. That type of preventative maintenance is a big part of the program’s appeal.
“There’s a week-by-week record of everything that’s been done,” Parent says. “And you can say your boat has been maintained by a captain.”
The program also has advantages for Singleton. It makes Singleton a more desirable place to buy from and builds customer goodwill, Cunningham says. In addition, it has brought in increased service revenue.
“I don’t make any money from BoatMate,” Cunningham says. “But it helps drive the service department. It’s producing good revenue.”
Right now, captains bring a legal pad on the boats to make their inspections. However, Parent says soon the process may be moved to an iPad to make it more seamless.
There are three captains on staff, but more may be added as the program grows. So far, it has been marketed through brochures and a write-up in the marina newsletter, and Cunningham says word of mouth is beginning to spread. However, he suggests the best time to sell the program is one-on-one — especially when a boater has come in with a problem.
“You can say, ‘There’s an opportunity for this not to happen,’” Cunningham explains.
Contrary to his expectations, the program has been the biggest hit with experienced boaters. Cunningham assumed new boaters would be the most likely to want their vessels looked after, but he says those who have experienced problems in the past best understand the value of the program.
Cunningham, who plans to focus more of his time on the program going forward, is hoping to grow BoatMate this summer and fall. Additions and improvements to the program are currently under discussion.