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California boaters win — and so should customers

Kudos to California boaters on winning a major victory to keep the funds in the Harbor and Watercraft Revolving Fund from being pirated away for non-boating uses. The win reminds dealers of the importance of membership in both your local marine trade association and in the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas and to be ready to engage in the legislative process whenever necessary.

In this case, the Recreational Boaters of California and BoatUS teamed up to sound an alarm statewide. That generated several thousand comments from Golden State boat owners to lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly. The result was Senate Bill 436, which passed without an objectionable provision that would have taken money from the watercraft fund.

Unfortunately, there remains a provision in the bill that could, potentially, allow a grant or loan of $1 million from the fund to pay for emergency flood damage and erosion along Hueneme Beach. So the RBOC must remain engaged and BoatUS president Margaret Podlich is right when she says: "Taking these funds to support non-boating programs would set a dangerous precedent.”

Absolutely. That’s because monies in the fund come solely from boaters paying boat registration fees, boat fuel taxes, etc., and this user-pay/user-benefit system is intended for boat safety programs, docks, ramps and pumpouts throughout the state.

 Customer service

Any dealership employee that can’t see the underlying ingredient of good customer service is “helping” people is traveling at the speed of clueless. Or, maybe they’re like Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary, whose European airline was voted worst in customer service.

"We should try to eliminate things that unnecessarily piss people off," O’Leary told shareholders after they complained poor customer service was hitting sales and profits. Ah, yes, even Ryanair might finally be getting the message that it takes good customer service to make money.

Put another way, good customer service is akin to great public speaking. So says columnist Michael Hess at MoneyWatch.com. A good public speaker conveys empathy, engagement, appreciation and, above all, delivers the value that’s been advertised. Those are the hallmarks of good customer service.

Think about it: how many times have you listened to a speaker talk for an hour and say nothing? "Too many companies promise service they don't deliver,” contends Hess. Studies confirm poor customer service doesn’t just lead to complaints, it means people take their business elsewhere and profits go down.

So there’s never a bad time to remind your entire dealership team that good customer service keeps people coming back and beats out your competition. Here are three considerations:

1. People like to do business with those they consider friends or friendly. Therefore, developing a rapport with customers can be an important component of good service.

2. Never underestimate the sense of anger a customer can harbor when he or she feels they’ve been shortchanged or treated disrespectfully. On the other hand, purposing to always be friendly and cheerfully solving problems will keep customers while trumping the competition.

3. We live in an instant gratification society — perhaps the product of fast food and 24-hour cable news. So our customers want it now. The bottom line is we must strive to deliver whatever we promise on time or even early.

Perhaps that’s why the airlines have added some minutes to all their arrival schedules, so we usually get there a little early. It makes us flyers feel real good to hear the captain say “We’ve arrived a little early.” It makes one want to fly that airline again, doesn’t it?

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