Site Search
We're Social
Search by Year
Site Search
We're Social

Achieving Excellence In Customer Service

This article, by Dennis Kissman, was published in Marina Euro-Report –  March 2017

Do you promote your marina by providing “excellent customer service” or are they just buzz words that sound good?  To achieve “Excellent Customer Service” it does not have to be expensive to implement but it does take management’s commitment to make it the best marketing tool you have for your business.

There are two key words that define “excellent customer service;” first, it involves an interaction with another person, and second, it is the sum total of what your organisation does to meet and exceed that person’s expectations to produce an overall customer satisfaction.

Before you can develop an “excellent customer service” program for your marina you have to understand what your marina is.  First, a marina is part of the hospitality industry; second, a marina is a capital intensive service business: third and most importantly a marina is not just a place to store boats, it is a gathering place for people.

To achieve success in “Excellent Customer Service” it must permeate throughout your entire organization.  There are two key components that should be addressed in order to have a successful program; first you have to invest in a dedicated employee training program and second there must be employee performance feedback.  The training program has two components; one for new hires and two a refresher program for all employees including management.  One of the best tools for a regularly scheduled refresher program is to include role playing.

To know if your employee training program is working you need feedback.  Surveying customers on a regular basis is one of the best ways to measure an employee’s performance as well as measuring the success of your employee training program.  Before you take action on negative feedback try to determine where the weakness is occurring, often times it is not the employee but what they learned or did not learn from your program.

Once you determine where the problem is you want to work with that employee to improve.  Likewise when there is positive feedback you want to let your employee know that as well.  That brings us to the topic of what is appropriate form of recognition when your employee does an outstanding job.  Financial recognition is always the first thing that comes to mind but there are other forms that may be more appropriate.  For example, an extra day off with pay or something as simple as being featured as the employee of the month in the marina’s newsletter that goes to your customers.  Regardless of what you settle upon as the appropriate employee recognition you want to encourage your employees to continually strive to do better no matter how good they are now.

One of the best forms to reinforce customer service with your employees is by having constant but subtle reminders of what customer service means to their jobs.  With that thought in mind having the following posted in employee areas is a good way to keep customer service as an important part of every employee’s job.

The 10 Commandments of Excellent Customer Service

1)  The Customer is the most important person in our business.

2)  The Customer is not obligated to you – you are obligated to him.

3)  The Customer is not an intruder on your work – he is the reason for it.

4)  The Customer does you a favor when he arrives – your service is not a favor to him, but your purpose!

5)  The Customer is not a slip number, or statistic – but a person with the same feelings and emotions as you.

6)  The Customer is not someone with whom you argue or match wits!

7)  The Customer brings you his or her desires; it is your job to fulfill those desires.

8)  The Customer is deserving of the most courteous and attentive service you can provide!

9)  The Customer is the person who makes it possible for the marina to pay its bills, provide salaries and maintain the property.

10)  Without our Customers, there would be no marina.

There is one final thought to keep in mind if you plan to use customer service as a marketing tool to promote your marina; it has to be more than just words. It takes dedication and hard work that has to be in place and acted upon in a consistent manner.


Mary Kuhn Joins Marina Management Services

March 28, 2017,  PRESS RELEASE

Boca Raton, Florida

Mary Kuhn joins Marina Management Services of Boca Raton, Florida as an Associate.

Mary is based out of San Diego, California and establishes a west coast presence for Marina Management Services. She comes with a wealth of experience within the industry since she began her waterfront career on San Diego Bay as Operations Manager for Seaport Cruises in 1981. Mary has since taken leadership roles at multiple marinas in the southern California area, served as the Leader of the San Diego DockMasters Group, and the President of the Marina Recreation Association (MRA). She has also been a part of the International Council of Marinas (ICOMIA) conference planning committee, the California Clean Marina planning committee, and the Association of Marina Industries (AMI).

Dennis Kissman, CEO of Marina Management Services said, “Having Mary join our group adds greater depth and another perspective to our consulting and management services which we provide the industry.”

Marina Management Services, headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida, is an international consulting and third party management company serving the marina and boatyard industry since 1988.





This article, by Carl Wolf, was published in Marina Dock Age –  May/June 2016

The first impression your marina makes will set the tone for a possible future relationship for a new customer. When a potential customer stops by your marina, you’ve already achieved a significant marketing victory.  A first impression can be what a person views as their car pulls in to the marina’s parking lot or as they enter your marina by boat.  But it can include a lot more. Everything that a person sees, hears, smells, feels and tastes, could possibly be creating that first impression, which can be a lasting impression.  Put yourself in the position of a first time customer visiting your marina.  What do you expect when you arrive?

Take a Marina Tour

You, as the customer, enter the marina parking area and you notice the property is inviting with professional signage; landscaping that is being maintained, and lawns and flower beds that are edged and weed free; the property has been policed for litter, and the trash cans are not overflowing. The parking lot, curbs and sidewalks are swept, litter free and maintained.

As a customer visiting the marina by boat, you observe that the marina’s exterior and signage are welcoming, and the entrance is well marked and maintained. Inside the marina, you can feel the calm waters, compared to the wave action outside the marina.  The fuel dock is inviting, clean, well-maintained and staffed with courteous uniformed employees. The waters within the marina are free of litter. The docks are tidy with coiled lines, washed down decks, cleaned and maintained power pedestals, and wood (decking, uprights and fender boards) that is solid, and hose bibbs that are drip-free.   

As you enter the marina building to visit the dockmaster’s office, you notice that the building is well maintained, was recently painted, and the grounds are free from trash. The windows are clean, the floor has been recently waxed, and the brochure rack is organized and clutter free. Walking through the store aisles, the displays are clean, professionally organized, dusted and stocked with new inventory.  The counter is open, with minimal obstructions and arranged in an orderly fashion. The uniformed marina employee is courteous, informative and responsive to your inquiries. When offered, you accept a fresh cup of coffee from a separate counter that is clean, with milk that hasn’t expired. 

While the employee summons the dockmaster, another employee is competently replying to a boater’s inquiry over the marine radio. Listening to the marine radio, it’s quite apparent that this employee is aware that her voice is being publicly broadcasted over many miles and heard by many boaters. Her voice is one of confidence and professionalism.

After being contacted by the counter employee, the dockmaster greets you with a firm hand shake and escorts you into her office. The dockmaster’s office is professional in appearance, has a relaxing atmosphere, distraction free, comfortable chairs and organized with no loose stacks of paper.

After discussing what the marina has to offer, the dockmaster takes you on a tour of the marina. The restroom and shower facility is clearly maintained on a regular basis, and the facility is clean, has no out-of-order signs on any of the fixtures, clean lavatories/sinks/urinals and showers with no hair plugs on the floor drain or soap melting in the soap dish. The air has great circulation, minimal humidity and smells fresh. The floors are spotless, dry and have no stains under the urinals or lavatories.

As you walk the docks, the decks are firm, lines are neatly coiled, electrical cords are not hanging in the water, and the wood is splinter free. The docks and piers are clutter free of unused boat gear, batteries, bicycles, grills and old dock parts. The floating docks are stable, while the fixed docks are solid and in good repair.

As your tour takes you through the boatyard, you notice the boats are neatly stored and organized on boat stands and cradles. Unused cradles, trailers and boat stands have been removed from the property and stored elsewhere.  The service/parts department reception area is fresh, organized and free of obsolete magazines and newspapers. 

While observing the hoist hauling out a yacht from the water, you notice that the equipment has been recently painted, has new cables, and is quiet and free from oil stains and rust. The technicians and equipment operators are wearing clean, stain-free uniforms, proudly representing their marina. The marina’s vehicles have been recently washed, are free of dents and scratches and parked in assigned parking spaces. The marina’s work boat is free of water and trash in the bilge area, and is waxed and has new lines.

Creating Relationships

You need to invest time and effort into creating an inviting first impression culture. Your marina needs to define, train, test and continually reinforce your staff of the importance of a positive first impression. Create a continued dialogue between management and employees on ways to improve the first impression. It is your opportunity to create a long-term valuable relationship with your customers. You must view and act accordingly as though each and every impression made to a customer visiting your marina will be their first impression. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.






Making the Right Purchasing Decisions

This article, by Dennis Kissman, was published in Marina Dock Age –  November 2011

I think it is a fair statement to say that everything that makes up a marina will eventually wear out, break down or become obsolete.  If you agree with that statement then when it becomes time to add, upgrade, replace or do nothing you need to ask yourself am I making the right decision, is it the right time and for the right reason.  This is what I refer to as the “decision making process.”

There is no one right answer, each situation must be judged on its own merits and circumstances.  Too many marina owners do not think of all the consequences when making some business decisions relating to their facility and as a result these decisions often fall short of expectations.  If too many of these business decisions are made in this manner the business will not achieve its economic potential and will eventually fail.

There are too many possibilities to address in this one article.  It may be best to use some examples to explain this thought process when making physical changes in your marina but first, there is one thing that will always have an influence over the decision making process and that is how is it going to be paid for.  Unfortunately, if money comes into play too early in the decision making process the end result may not be what is expected or best for the property.  I mean this in two ways; if you have unlimited financial resources it can be just as instrumental in making the wrong decision as having too few funds available.  The key is to striking the right balance between funds and needs.

Here are a list of thoughts that should enter into your decision making process.

-If what is being installed is buried underground or behind walls where it will require additional costs to get to when something goes wrong, and it will, I look for the best product available and make sure that it is installed right.  In this case top of the line is better than average.

-Separate “nice to have” from “must have to maintain or improve cash flow.”  “Nice to have” is part of your wish list and does not belong on your maintenance list.

-If safety of staff or customers is an issue that has to have the highest priority regardless of cost.  If you think because you have liability insurance you are protected, think again.  If your insurance company finds you neglectful in maintaining your property they can deny any claim made against you and your business.

-Select the right tools and of the best quality to maintain the property.  Poor quality or inadequate tools will shorten the useful life of the marina’s equipment and facilities.  If you do not have the right tools to properly maintain your equipment and facility, inevitably short cuts will be taken when performing maintenance thus reducing the expected life of what is being worked on.

-If for three years in a row you spend more per year on maintenance than the annual depreciation expense of the asset consider replacing the asset.

-If you have more than one asset that is the same and parts are starting to fail, cannibalize the assets and replace only the number of like assets that are necessary.  An example of this is sectional floating docks.  Let’s say that one section has a bent frame while another section has a bad float.  Combine the serviceable parts into one and only replace one section.  You may find that you do not even need that one section and not have to replace it.

-Just because technology has changed from what you currently have it does not necessary mean that it is better or will last longer.  Look for a proven track record over some slick advertisement telling you how good something is.

-If you request competitive quotes for something, and you always should, be specific in your request.  If it is not in writing and in a manner you understand do not assume. Ask questions and get clarification before signing that contract or purchase agreement on the dotted line.

-Be sure that by extending the useful life of an asset that it will not become obsolete before the end of its extended useful life.  A good example of this is what happens with docks.  As boats get wider sometimes perfectly good docks become obsolete because they cannot accommodate the newer and wider boats.

-Plan repairs and replacements to occur when it will have the least amount of impact on your ability to generate income.  This is not always easy, usually when it is the best time to conduct repairs or install replacements it is in a slow cash flow period.  The way to minimize this problem is to keep a perpetual list of needed projects.  The list should include a brief description of the project, the estimated cost, whether or not it will be done in house or farmed out and a priority in relation to the other work on the list.  This is a living document and can change on a daily basis particularly relating to the priority.

-When it comes to equipment such as forklifts, boat hoists, transporters, vehicles and office equipment, consider the tax implications and available cash to decide whether it is better to lease or buy.

I think it is worth mentioning again that cash will influence what, when and how something gets done in your marina.  But, if you wait to add the cash element into the equation after going through the steps that brought you to a particular decision you will have a different perspective regarding cash and usually find a way to come up with the necessary funds to get the job done.

I am sure that some of you reading this article could add to this list from your own experience.  Keep in mind it is not necessarily a specific list that is important but as long as you have a methodical way of going through your decision making process and follow that process you will maximize the financial resources you have available and keep your marina in good shape.


Turning Over Marine Store Inventory 

This article, by Carl Wolf, was published in Marina Dock Age –  April 2015

Some would say that a marine store at your marina is a core part of your business.  It might be, but how well do you know how if your inventory is selling?  Stepping back, let’s look at the basics of understanding the dynamics of an inventory. 


First, understand who is going to be buying your marine products.  Are they boaters who dock or store their boat at your marina?  Is your marine store the only one in the area? Will other boaters come from other marinas or boatyards? Does your marine store have nautical gifts which could attract a larger segment of the population?  Does your marine store have a seasonality or slow season to it?

Regardless of what segment of the market you are catering to, price your merchandise so that it sells out by the end of the season, if you expect to realize a profit.  Pricing has a direct correlation to your inventory turnover.  Do not sit on merchandise that is either obsolete or is about to become obsolete.  If the end of your season is approaching, discount your merchandise so it sells.  Obsolete inventory is only going to go down in value the longer you hold on to it.

Boating merchandise fits one of two categories: perennial staples, such as bottom paints, cleaners and mooring lines; and trends or fads. For these, stay updated by using your suppliers as barometers to understand the boating market trends, especially trends that are fading. 


The inventory turnover is a measure of the number of times inventory is sold in a time period, such as a boating season.  The equation for inventory turnover equals the cost of goods sold divided by the average inventory.  At a minimum, you should be able to turn your inventory at least twice a year. 

The inventory turnover ratio is a key measure for evaluating just how efficient your marina is at managing the company’s inventory and generating sales from it. Usually, a higher inventory turnover ratio is preferred, as it indicates that more sales are being generated given a certain amount of inventory.  Turnover ratios you should aim for at your marina:

Target turning over your inventory three to four times per year.

Minimum inventory should be turned at least two times per year.

Your inventory becomes obsolete if it has not turned over at least once per season.

Break your inventory down into segments of like type items.  For example:

  •      Fuel - gas and diesel;
  •      Parts - spark plugs, propellers, and gaskets;
  •      Marine supplies: cleaners, paints and hardware;
  •      Groceries: beverages, snacks and ice.

Be careful not to be skewed by a high turnover of one segment of your inventory.  You can have a high turnover of fuel, but some engine parts may be on the shelf for more than a year.  When you combine a fast turnover item like fuel with a slow moving item, it will skew your results and lull you into believing you are doing better than you really are.

Obsolete Inventory

Let me ask you “What do you consider to be obsolete inventory?”  We consider inventory items to be obsolete if:

  •      The items have not turned over at least once in the year.
  •      The items remains in stock after the boating season has ended.  For example, marinas in northern waters still have anti-freeze and/or shrink-wrap in inventory after the boating season has ended.
  •      The date on an item has expired, such as flares and perishable beverage/food items.


In financial accounting, the term inventory shrinkage (sometimes truncated to shrink) is the loss of products between the time of purchase from supplier/vendor and the point of sale.  Shrinkage can be attributed to employee theft; shoplifting; administrative errors; improper supplier controls; cashier errors; items damaged in the marine store, and perishable goods not sold within their shelf life.  Shrinkage affects your profitability, as it relates to the difference in the amount of profit your marina will generate.

Funds and Taxes

If your inventory is not moving, your profit and loss statement will reflect it.  As you review your balance sheet, you will see how much of your working capital is tied up in carrying slow moving inventory.  Inventory sitting on the shelves at the end of the year is susceptible to year-end taxes in many states.

Continual Review

Be cognizant of the dynamics of your inventory.  Review your inventory controls policy on a regular basis.  Test the inventory and create safeguards as needed.  There will be a day of reckoning.  That day may be at the end of a calendar year, as your marina is being re-financed or worse yet, the day you put your marina on the market.  The controls you have in place concerning how your inventory is managed will have an impact on the marina’s bottom line.  The controls can mean the difference between having a profitable year or not.