Choosing The Best Service Provider

by Sherry Popham

Your boat is likely one of the larger singular investments you will make. Protect it by having repairs and service performed professionally.  The following are key factors you should research before deciding on a service provider.  Also included are some things you, as the consumer, can do to ensure your experience will be the best possible.

Look for Authorized Dealers 
Particularly when it comes to engines, seek the authorized full service dealer for your brand of motor. With this choice comes assurance that they will have the necessary special tools, unique software, tech certifications and the backing of the brand on technical expertise and warranty issues. Be aware that there are many that will present themselves as such but will not withstand the scrutiny. “Full Service Dealers” generally provide the largest scope of approved services and authentic parts.

Consult the Experts
Ask others in the marine industry about their experience. Marine surveyors, professional captains, other experienced boaters and websites like Active Captain –  can help.  Everyone may not always agree and almost every provider will have someone who is not happy with them. Every customer and provider is not necessarily a good match. However, if you do your research, you will find consistent trends that will assist in finding the one that is right for you.

Research Professional Affiliations
ABBRA - American Boat Builders & Repairers Assn.  –  - a recreational marine industry trade association and national network of marine service/repair companies dedicated to professional development, training, education and the sharing of knowledge in the search for solutions to common problems. ABYC - American Boat & Yacht Council -  - Working with a network of organizations like USCG to provide members with training and engineering guidance for the construction and repair of boats. SAMS - Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors® -   -  Sets standards for member surveyors on recommended practices, damage avoidance, advanced inspection methods and legal liabilities. Check the Facility for Quality & Get it in Writing You should question the provider of service for your vessel about their experience with this type of repair. Is the facility clean, environmentally compliant and DEP Certified as a clean marina, boatyard or retailer?  Ask what the CSI (customer service index) rating is for the brand(s) represented and question staff qualifications. Request a published price list, written estimates, change orders and invoices.  Discuss and document the date of completion desired and any contingencies (weather, etc.). If it is your first encounter, request written proof of the warranty policy, proof of liability insurance and a current business license.

Develop a Relationship as a Customer

  • First and foremost - develop and build trust. Communication is the key.
  • Prepare for the repair with a check list.
  • Remove personal items and valuables.
  • Provide your fenders and line. Stow any extra.
  • Provide instructional tags and notes.
  • Clean your bilge.
  • Keep a maintenance log and make it available to your provider.
  • Respond to calls and change orders quickly.
  • Don’t stand over employees tracking every time they pick up a wrench.
  • Boats can represent complex systems, recognize that sometimes additional repairs may be needed.
  • When repairs are needed, give your service provider a good description of the ‘symptoms’ and be open to letting the professionals make the ‘diagnosis’.
  • Realize you owe your provider for diagnosing a problem even if you decide not to proceed with the repair.  A good analogy is going to the doctor. Even if you decide not to take his advice, you are still expected to pay for his diagnosis.
  • Don’t ask to borrow tools, they generally belong to the technicians who make their living with them.
  • Good maintenance prevents big problems.
  • Expect to pay your bill when the work is completed.
  • If you don’t trust the provider, its employees or its reputation, you shouldn’t be there.  A good customer relationship is predicated on mutual trust between you as the customer and the provider.
Keep in mind, most good providers are boaters too and we want to solve your problems!!

Sherry Popham
Sherry Popham


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