As a designer, I’m in the business of creating the ‘wow’ factor.
I sweat the small details, oversee every stage of production & supervise contractors (my nickname is Eagle Eyes Egan) to produce a top class result for clients. Yacht launches and handovers are a nerve-wracking experience for any designer, you hope you’ve done enough, thought of everything and that it looks ‘wow’.
But it’s the experience a client has long after the project is completed that will determine if they spend with my company again in the future.
This got me thinking about the overall experience for my clients, from the first phone call to those quiet moments they have with family and friends.
Create Brand Advocates
In a highly competitive industry, service not just products, will set you apart from the competition. I invest heavily in customer service because every client interaction is a chance to gain an unpaid advocate for my brand.
“Companies miss or mishandle up to 80% of customer engagement opportunities. And a missed opportunity means lost revenue.”
Corinne Sklar, chief marketing officer at Bluewolf business consultants.
Unreturned telephone calls and emails are bad for business. People want contact now, even a message saying you’ll be back in touch shortly sends the message that you care and want the business.
That first point of contact is also the first impression a new client has of your company. Whether just researching or ready to buy they want something, so be a fixer and give it to them.
If you don’t have the solution chances are you know someone who might, there’s great strength to be gained from cross referrals and making a good connect for a customer.
Build the A Team
The marine industry has faced many challenges in recent years, those that have prospered know their business’ core strengths and weaknesses. I believe there is greater strength to be gained from forming alliances with like-minded businesses that enhance the products and services you already offer. Through collaborating with others we bring new expertise to a project without the financial outlays of expansion. The added brainpower and new skills produce a fresh and innovative approach to projects that enhances outcomes for the client.
Which brings me to project management. After 25 years in the construction game, I’ve seen plenty of deadlines missed and budgets blown by the absence of good project management. A decision to save on the cost of engaging a project manager is very often false economy, as costs blow out and contractors fail to complete on time. Someone has to be responsible for coordinating the show and the best outcomes occur when a project is managed from the planning stage through to handover. A good manager keeps the information flow fluid with the client and between contractors.
I recently received an email enquiry from an American online customer, we emailed her back a quick answer and she was so surprised by the speedy and personal response she rang to say thank you.
It may be old fashioned but I make a point of having a phone number on my website and writing a thank you to each customer. Those interactions help create loyal customers for life.
You can’t deliver what your clients want, let alone exceed their expectations, until you know what they really want.
So what's the brief? Sometimes a project is as simple as replacing ‘kind with kind’, in my case matching an existing fabric or tracking down discontinued porcelain dinnerware. Other times it is left to the crew to determine what is needed. This is where good crew shine like diamonds. They know their owners, they listen and watch carefully and they go to great lengths to make their stays onboard a joy. Define the scope of works carefully, I often find a client knows the outcome they want but not necessarily how it will be achieved
Designing a space and selecting design pieces is a deeply personal interaction with my client, an interesting proposition when I often never meet the person who I’m designing or selecting for. I try to put myself in their shoes from the moment they set foot onboard, by understanding their habits, how they use different spaces and what makes them feel at ease. I recently designed a saloon lounge based on the owner’s love of drinking rum & coke and listening, barefoot to Jimmy Buffet. The design solution included a custom made bar concealed in an ottoman, soft floor coverings and an amazing sound system.
Make a point of following through with the client once the job is completed, this gives you a chance to fix any issues or tweak something and can save your business from bad reviews or warranty issues down the track. This is also the perfect opportunity to get a testimonial for your work, a quote from the Captain, an email answer to a short 3-5 question survey or a few good photographs. Testimonials are powerful marketing tools so get them when you can.
By continually evolving our businesses and learning new ways to deliver great products & services to our clients we achieve marine excellence.
The return on investment is priceless.