There was a time not long ago when a technician would lumber down to the yard with tools and overalls to figure out what a boat needed and fix it. Today the hand tools largely have been replaced by laptops, and the service tech has an evolving job — one that requires knowledge of technology and systems that didn’t exist 10 or 20 years ago.
With changing and evolving systems come changing and evolving maintenance processes, and that has led to an increase of companies and software designed to help boaters and service yards keep better track of the process. “Not only are boats more complex, but there’s more and more competing for our attention,” says David Hensel, chief marketing officer for Vessel Vanguard, a cloud-based marine maintenance management company.
Hensel says dealers confirm his contention that customers want less and less to do with hands-on boat maintenance. The days of guys sitting around and tinkering on various parts of the boat have passed, one dealer told Hensel. “They don’t want to do things on their own … either because they’re too busy or they just don’t know how.”
“The amount of time boaters really put into understanding their boats, from what dealers are telling me, is not as high as it used to be, so Vessel Vanguard can help with that process,” Hensel says. “If they don’t understand what needs to be done or how, Vessel Vanguard can help with both, so the customer can either do it themselves or help delegate it.”
Consumers are also more used to information being pushed to them rather than seeking it out, Hensel says, so the ability to have emails sent or notifications given or appointments made when service comes due is the preferred way of doing business for many boaters these days.
“It’s not a passive system,” he says. “Rather than having to go retrieve the information by looking through a manual and putting dates down on the calendar, it doesn’t wait for people to come and retrieve it. Instead it would push that out to owners or service reps and lets them know what needs to be done and allows them to coordinate in a way that makes sense.”
Builders are increasingly finding reason to partner with such endeavors. In June, Formula said it will be including a five-year subscription for all new-boat buyers, and Greenline also will be offering Vessel Vanguard subscriptions to buyers of its 33-, 40- and 48-foot hybrid yachts.
Beginning July 1, every Formula model from 24 to 45 feet will be provisioned with the Vessel Vanguard subscription. “Formula represents a bit of an expansion beyond the core of our membership base, which is more in the 40- to 60-foot range,” Hensel says. “We have people who have RIBs for megayachts and have accounts for the RIBs. The core need is still the same.”
Since 2001, Formula has included a five-year Formula Guard extended warranty with every boat. Providing simplified functionality that does not require a software tutorial, Vessel Vanguard’s digital manuals and automated management tools enhance the Formula guarantee by communicating maintenance needs to owners and their service professionals.
“It was also important to us that Vessel Vanguard places such a high premium on simplicity of design so there is little to no learning curve,” says Mike Boyd, director of product support/consumer affairs at Formula. “Neither our customers nor our dealers or service centers need to acquire software or devote hours to tutorials. There is no substitute for knowledge when it comes to vessel upkeep, and now our customers and dealers will know in advance what those maintenance events are and when they will occur.”
The subscription gives Formula owners cloud-based access to a boat profile from a browser, tablet or smartphone. The profile contains all manuals in searchable form. Current updates, warranty data, registration and insurance documentation are organized to the preferences of the owner.
Greenline owners will have similar access. “We’re thrilled to have partnered with Vessel Vanguard,” Constantinos K. Constantinou, CEO of Greenline North America, said in a statement announcing the partnership. “Vessel Vanguard’s maintenance management systems support our goal of environmentally friendly and responsible boating.”
Hensel says Vessel Vanguard appeals to owners, too, because the ownership experience is better when maintenance is done on schedule, and it helps reduce warranty claims. “When I was at Grand Banks, we were one of the first Vessel Vanguard partners because we wanted to provide a better ownership experience,” he says. “We wanted to continue to distinguish ourselves.”
Owners can decide whether they want notifications or want them to go directly to their service providers. “Service organizations see the value, too, because they see it as an opportunity to reach out to customers and help them stay on top of their service work,” Hensel says. “That keeps them happy and keeps the boats performing without having to deal with logistical headaches. So if he takes his boat through the Inside Passage, he doesn’t suddenly stop and realize, oh, I was supposed to get that piece of equipment switched out. It’s already taken care of.”
This article originally appeared in the July 2014 issue.