Cleveland show rocks

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Cleveland is the home to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and this year’s Progressive Cleveland Boat Show & Fishing Expo rocked with new leadership and major format changes.

Under the direction of Michelle Burke, completing her first year as president of the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association, the show closed Sunday night with an attendance gain of more than 20 percent, with final e-ticket sales and redemptions still to be added from an outside supplier.

“The energy in the show was like the good old days,” said Todd Armstrong of Boat Masters Marine. “The innovations, like the new Fish Expo, really had a positive impact on all of us.”

Armstrong’s reference was to a major shift in the 63-year-old event from a first-class boat show to an event filled with live musical entertainment and a record number of interactive activities.

“Boating isn’t just about the boat,” Burke says. “We needed to embrace the customers’ real motivation, the dream he has and the experiences he’s expecting to enjoy, and it includes all members of the family. So we added lots of hands-on activities, a record 168 seminars on five stages, musical entertainment and expanded the show with a new Fish Expo. It all worked for us,” she added.

A sampling of the added activities started with a requirement that all free educational or public service exhibitors must include a hands-on feature. In addition, there was an original Kids Zone featuring a painting wall and educational displays, balloon artists and face painters; a unique lawn area with cornhole games, Jenga blocks and disc drop games adjacent to food and beverages; radio-controlled boat pool, powerboat handling and sailing simulators; a Pirate Treasure Hunt; and character cutouts for pictures, to name a few.

The largest addition was the Fish Expo. It added about 100,000 square feet to the show and included national tournament winners on stage, a fly-casting pool, a trout pond, a Berkley Bass Tank, tackle and equipment displays, charter boats and fishing resort exhibits, and more.

Do apologies really work?

It’s inevitable in every dealership that something will get screwed up, the customer’s expectations won’t be met, and he’ll likely be upset. Apologizing for a mess-up is something we hasten to do. Indeed, it’s a must. But saying “we’re sorry” is now so commonplace one has to wonder if it has lost all meaning. Is the customer calmed or satisfied by it? Can an apology really work anymore?

The answer is yes, but it can’t be the mindless, scripted apology I hear from some customer service rep at the cable company when my television goes out during a playoff game. It must begin with the fact that the apology is genuine, meaning you’ve paused to really feel the disappointment the customer is experiencing. You want them to know you’re sensitive to what they’re feeling. So how can you get it done?

Here are some thoughts.

Anyone in the dealership who may have to communicate bad news or deal with an upset customer should be trained to avoid the meaningless “we’re sorry” script. If the apology sounds rote, the situation can escalate and hard feelings can result.

When an apology is in order, consider having the dealership owner or GM join the conversation. An apology from the top brass always demonstrates sincerity and concern, and the leader has the authority to go beyond “we’re genuinely sorry” when a situation might warrant it.

Such was the case for me not long ago with Southwest Airlines. I jumped on the computer to check in and it said I didn’t have a reservation from Chicago to Tampa. I called customer service. It was quickly confirmed I was definitely booked, but something wasn’t right with the computer records.

“Mr. Schultz, this just isn’t acceptable, and I am sincerely sorry this is happening to you,” the service rep said. “I’m going to have to go to a supervisor, and I don’t want you to be inconvenienced more than you already are. I will personally take care of everything for you, and I will call you back when it’s done. And, again, I really want to apologize for this.”

Hanging up, I felt that her apology was sincere (if she was reading a script, she should go into acting) and that she would take care of me. She and her supervisor did just that and even added priority boarding for my trouble.

So as meaningless as hearing “we’re sorry” can be, an apology done properly can still be powerful, especially when it gives the customers the feeling that it’s genuine and accomplishes what every customer really wants: MMFI (make me feel important).

Remember this from author Maya Angelou: “I've learned that people will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Something we should all remember every day.

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