5 Ways Your Marina Can Use Technology To Provide Better Customer Service


Like hotels, golf courses and private clubs, marinas are customer service focused organizations. Today, customer service expectations have reached beyond just a friendly, smiling face at the front desk or on the dock. Customers expect you to communicate with them in a way that fits their busy lives and they want to feel special. With the increased professionalization of the marina industry there’s added pressure for all marinas to up your customer service game.

The good news is that there are a few simple things you can do to increase the level of customer service at your marina, and there are some great tools out there to help. Here are five ways to provide better customer service in your marina:

1. Have a great digital newsletter and maximize it!

Newsletters are often started and abandoned. Without the constant feedback loop of likes and shares seen on social media we have a tendency to think they don’t have the reach of a quick hit instagram post. The key here is that a newsletter is not about marketing your marina, although we’ll talk in a minute about how to use it for marketing, it’s about communicating with your boaters. It doesn’t help that many employees tasked with boater facing communications are younger and might not have grown up receiving newsletters from the clubs and organizations they’re involved with.

A quality monthly newsletter contains things like marina events, boater profiles, specials at the restaurant, deals in the nautical store, a list of approved service providers and any other happenings related to the marina. You can find newsletter templates in Microsoft Word, Google Docs or look for one on the internet. What makes the old style newsletter so great in today’s digital world there are now so many ways to get a newsletter into your boater’s hands.  

You can email it out to all of your boaters. You can share it on social media as a regular post, even sharing a link to it once a week or so giving the newsletter a greater reach and shows activity. You can embed it on your website with a reader widget, or post it on your website's blog. You can also print a few copies to keep in the office as handouts and post around the facility.

Newsletters take a bit of work, especially up front to figure out format and general content, but once you have everything set up it shouldn’t take more than a few hours each month to pull it together.

2. Engage with your boaters through social media

For those of us who didn’t grow up in a hyper connected, social media driven world all of the options can seem a little overwhelming. Focusing on FacebookInstagram and Twitter is pretty safe. Platforms like SnapchatPinterest and LinkedIn are popular, but are focused on use cases and demographics that you can reach through the previously mentioned sites. There are a number of great tools out there that allow you to preload content and have it sent out regularly. My personal favorite is Hootsuite, but I’ve heard good things about Buffer and Loomy.

As mentioned, a newsletter is great content to share over social media with a link, or you can break out different sections or announcements to send out individually throughout the month. Of course, any time there’s an event or happening around the marina you can share beforehand to remind members that it’s going to happen and then share during the event so people can see what a great time they’re missing. Another tactic is to identify which of your boaters are great at using social media and are natural community builders. Ask if they want to help the marina manage its social media and give them access to your profiles. It’s always a good idea to have a discussion about what kinds of content are preferable and to ask people to initial any posts.

3. Update and connect your website

With so many amazing, cheap and even free website builders out there like WordpressSquarespace, and Wix there is little excuse for having an outdated website. A well built website isn’t just a digital shingle. Any decent website builder will include add-ons like calendars to show events, a blog or some other method of posting your newsletter, weather and tide widgets, and social media widgets to show a timeline of your posts. All these are a resource for your boaters and give them something new to see each time they come back to your website.

4. Use a customer relationship management (CRM) tool

Modern CRMs like Salesforce and Hubspot are primarily designed to support sales, marketing and account management for businesses. These powerful tools are designed to track prospect and customer interactions. Most modern CRM’s allow you to send email directly, and some like Swell Advantage even allow text messaging directly from the product. The key here is that you should be able to quickly pull up any notes on the boater and your latest communications. This gives you the contest to make them feel special and seamlessly continue dealing whatever issue a colleague had been working through with them.

In the marina and waterfront management software world there are only a few systems that include a CRM. Having a CRM fully integrated with your management software allows you to seamlessly manage the dock and office together with the focus squarely on the boater.  Dockmaster, Marina Master and Swell Advantage are three enterprise level marina management systems that include a CRM. If your marina management system is cloud based you should be able to access your boater’s information anywhere in the marina from your smartphone.


5. Communicate with boaters in their preferred method

Today’s busy marinas have boaters from every age group. With so many different demographics and lifestyles come a wide variety of different communication preferences. Some people prefer e-mails, others text messages, some people want a phone call and a few older customers might prefer traditional mail. This demographic and lifestyle spread in a marina has made managing marina communities that much harder in recent years.

Even the most basic marina management software should have somewhere to note how the customer prefers to be reached. The choices of e-mail, phone calls or text are standard in 2019, although traditional mail still might be the preference for some older boaters. The easiest way to figure out what method people like is to include a communication preference question on the marina application or renewal. As mentioned, a modern CRM like Swell’s should have the ability to send emails and text messages directly from the system. If you can’t send text messages from whatever system you’re using, there are a lot of relatively inexpensive online text services popping up.

Although all of this can seem a little daunting at first, once you set up the tools and processes mentioned in this article can head off a lot of customer service issues at the marina and reduce the workload at the front desk. Here’s a quick five step activity checklist:

  • If you don’t already have a modern website use one of the tools mentioned above to build your own. Keep it simple and have fun. It might sound scary, but it’s surprisingly easy with modern website builders.

  • Make sure you have a Facebook page, an Instagram account and a Twitter account. Set up a posting service that allows you to schedule posts to all three. Try to identify some fun, community building boaters who love social media and ask for their help.

  • Find a newsletter template and customize it to fit your branding (usually that means adjusting the colors to fit your marina and adding a logo). Make sure someone is tasked with completing the newsletter each month. Keep it simple, stay focused on the boater and don’t go overboard on content.

  • Start asking how your customers wants to be communicated with. Add the question to your application forms and make a note somewhere near their contact info in your file or management software.

  • Use management software like Swell Advantage that has a built in CRM to track and send customer communications, or use a separate CRM that can connect to your email.

If you have any questions about anything in this post, or want to see the power of modern marina management software with a fully integrated CRM, you can call us at 888-908-7858 or email us at info@swelladvantage.com.

Iaian Archibald