officeAny marina or boatyard owner/operator knows that finding good employees can be compared to searching for a needle in a haystack. But once a good team is established, the next step is providing the appropriate training. Marina Dock Age spoke with the operators of three marine facilities in the U.S. to learn about their employee training practices and programs in an effort to shine a light on why it is so important to find the right people, and then provide the right training, so they can help improve customer relationships and increase profit margins.

Lauderdale Marine Center

Lauderdale Marine Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida is the largest recreational service and repair facility and shipyard in the U.S. The 60-acre complex has 200 in and out-of-water berths, can haul up to 485-tons, and provides dockage for yachts up to 200 feet in length. LMC has over 20 on-site tenants representing all primary shipyard trades and is home to several international builders’ aftermarket service centers, brokerage, a superyacht charter company, and more. With a full-time staff of 92, employee training is a key factor in LMC’s success. President Doug West shared details on the company’s training programs and why management feels that their employees are just as important as the customers they serve.

The Lauderdale Marine Center in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida has 200 in and out-of-water berths, can haul up to 485-tons and provides dockage for yachts up to 200 feet in length.

Lauderdale Marine Center developed and launched the LMCx training program in 2019. What makes this program different from a standard training course?

All our employees completed LMCx, a Customer Experience program, in late 2019. Last year, we did a refresher course, where we teach the difference between customer service and customer experience. We developed our training program to help our team members understand the entire customer journey and all the touchpoints along the way. We also wanted to demonstrate how each one of those touchpoints impacts the perception of the customer and may affect the likelihood of the customer returning.

Can you explain the difference between customer service and customer experience?

Customer service is more transactional and typically only aids in a specific area or situation. However, Customer Experience is the sum of every interaction a customer has with a company. It could be a visit to the website, a call to the office, a trip to the restroom, an interaction with a technician or even dealing with a sub-contractor.

Why is it important to Lauderdale Marine Center that employees learn these skills?

Our employees are our internal customers, and we are acutely aware that the level of external customer satisfaction will never exceed the level of internal customer satisfaction. With the foundation being our internal customers’ engagement, we couple that with customer experience training to expand our focus to external customers.

Lauderdale Marine Center launched its LMCx employee training program in 2019.

Customer retention is paramount for our success. If we do not build relationships with customers and see the experience from their eyes, we risk losing them. It is important that every team member understands they play a critical role in the perception of the customer and their decision to continue to return to Lauderdale Marine Center.

In addition to employee training, your facility also offers mentorship programs. Why does Lauderdale Marine Center feel it has a responsibility to maximize the potential of every team member?

We ask a lot of our people, and in return, we are committed to helping those individuals who want to increase their career advancement potential. This program gives them the opportunity to learn valuable lessons and obtain advice on dealing with the many challenges they face during their career.

The mentors are the senior leaders of LMC, and we meet in a group format with the mentees. The curriculum is developed during the first session with input from the mentees on the areas they want to improve upon. This initial session also works as a team-building exercise, as they get to learn about other team members that they typically do not work with on a day-to-day basis.

All sessions are conducted after hours. The mentors volunteer their time and the mentees are not compensated for the sessions.

You have also placed a lot of focus on the management team at LMC since satisfied employees start with good managers. How did you come up with the Leadership Training Program?

As we started building our team five years ago (2016), we brought in people from many different cultures. Some had formal leadership training, but many had not. We knew if we were going to achieve our vision, everyone needed to be on the same page.

We started by having our Employee Advisory Council develop our company vision, mission, and company values. Once we accomplished this, we conducted an employee engagement survey to see our strengths and weaknesses. Based on the results, we developed LMC’s Leadership Training Program.

The primary focus areas are acquiring a leader’s mindset, understanding, and practicing servant leadership, understanding the different social styles, building high-impact teams, and achieving high team performance.

There are 10 sessions in total, and each is between an hour and an hour and a half in duration. We are currently working on session six and hope to be complete with the first round by the end of the third quarter. Then we will do refresher courses. We have 24 participants.

How have these programs helped improve customer satisfaction at Lauderdale Marine Center?

The ultimate measure of this success is customer retention. In 2020, our repeat customers were 80% of our total customers. And of that 80%, 40% had multiple visits.

We receive a lot of feedback from our customers about how helpful and professional our team is and this is apparent when you look at employee engagement. Our team is very passionate about what they do and taking care of our customers.

Having put so much effort into employee engagement and our LMCx, we have extended the availability of our training to our tenant partners and our Contractor Advantage Program members through quarterly contractor seminars. We fully understand that as a facility with over 300 authorized contractors, they are also an essential touchpoint in the customer journey and have an impact on the overall experience. Our goal is to raise the bar for everyone in the industry. We need to provide support for these companies to ensure we all keep our mutual customers coming back to Ft. Lauderdale for their service and repair needs.

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