- Dario Jerković
Hurdles In Charter Business
I don't know about you, but I've always preferred people that say hello when you meet them in the streets, in a shop, or workplace. It brightens your day and brings a smile to your face. There is no need for an elegant curtsy and whatsoever. A brief hand wave, a nod, a wink even, is a minimum one can give to acknowledge the person in front of them. Simple as that. Even the basic courtesies have been extincted. We rush, tackle, and don't even lift our heads from our phones, from ourselves in general. You cannot say hello when you don't even see the person in front of you. Ignorance begets ignorance. If you don't care about people, the people won't care about you, for sure. The human race seems to alienate itself, but there is a problem. We cannot hide from each other. If we cannot implement basic courtesies in everyday life, how can we expect to do so when it comes to business?
That working with people is difficult isn't some grand revelation. Dealing with myself on daily basis is a challenge, dealing with others even more. To err is human, right, and an individual can even acknowledge his flaws, but not a single chance he will tolerate them on another. Along that line, the clash is inevitable. Some jobs don't require direct contact with people. You communicate, do business, but not on a day-to-day basis and not in person. On the other hand, some other jobs do, as you are in the grind all the time. Waiters, doctors, nurses, agents in call-centers, who can envy them? Every day they get to work with, serve, and solve problems for all sorts of people. Happy, sad, grumpy, hurt, angry, unsatisfied, betrayed, a palette of human emotions to handle. And you have to do it if you want to do your job right. That is the work of a psychiatrist for a paycheck of a not-psychiatrist. One day you succeed, one you don't. I would dare to say that, at least a bit, working in a yacht charter business falls into the same category. Not the most complicated job, but not simple at all, specific maybe. At least we inside think it is. Specific in terms of the mentioned communication between the client and us, the Charter company, and our employees.
Yacht charter in Croatia has been booming for more than a decade. Still, new people ar coming to experience sailing in Croatia for the first time. Chartering a yacht for the first time in a foreign country generates difficulties. It does to the experienced ones as well. Correct me if I'm wrong, but most problems before boarding in the yacht charter business come from the lack of communication and false expectations, the former often causing the latter.This lack of communication can occur in the client-agency-shipowner triangle, resulting in something nobody wants, an unsatisfied client right at the beginning of the charter week.
They can become unsatisfied for a variety of reasons, but the most often ones are:
GENERAL F... UP - an enemy of every human being, not just the client and the owner in the charter business. This nuclear bomb is something that pops up when you least expect it. It can have so many forms that you diagnose the general part only after some time, nerves and spirits lost. One of the forms can be a boat-overbooking, an obvious mistake in the world without replicators and holograms. The poor soul involved in this kind of...problem...will have every reason to be agitated as a lot of money went to a week of nothing. The second example is a scheme where a non-existing agency sells you the boat it doesn't own, or it doesn't even exist. It is not so common nowadays, but one can never be careful enough, and your trust should go to renowned agencies with proven experience in this business.
DUDE, WHERE'S MY BOAT?! - even though an overbooking could easily fit into this category, there are enough problems we can squeeze into this one. For example, sometimes Lady Destiny gets playful and decides to unleash the whirlwind. Or it's your boat being the one caught in the winds, or the hands of an inexperienced sailor, resulting in a piece of fiberglass floating on the water. Hoping for a great week on the sea, you get the "where to" headache instead. "Where to" sometimes is the exact problem. Coming into the wrong marina to pick up your boat is not something that will bring a smile to your face after hours of driving. Ok, maybe the hysterical one. And yes, it does happen. Same as booking a boat that doesn't exist, so be careful when you pick your intermediator. And the winner is... The most common problem between the client and the charter company is check-in and check-out time. One is easily and understandably annoyed when left waiting for the boat from the morning till the afternoon. Seeing the yacht and not being able to take it falls hard. Nevertheless, the boat has to be properly cleaned and prepared for the next charter. People usually think that a cleaned boat is a prepared one, and then expect it to be delivered soon after, which is not the case. All kinds of proceedings continue after the cleaning, and even after taking care of that part, one of our employees has to be free to give the proper check-in on the boat. It takes time to finish all the things mentioned. Sometimes your boat will be ready in a record time, and sometimes it stalls, depending on many circumstances. That is why we came up with the EARLY CHECK-IN at SunLife. For a small extra fee, we give an advantage to your boat, making it ready earlier. Having an Early check-in option scheduled or not, no one can board before our green light! It disrupts our preparation, and is just rude. Even more rude is putting presure on our cleaning ladies to speed up their work. That sort of thing gives us bad goosebumps. :) We know, the sun and long ride to the marina can wear you down, make you edgy and you yearn for sailing. Isn't it better than to take a walk, have a swim or grab a bite while waiting? You can find everything inside 10min walking distance from the marina, relax and hop on the boat on your way back.
THAT'S MY MONEY! - nobody likes to part from his money, but it's what makes the world spin, right? There can be many scenarios where the clients think they should not pay for something. Thinking the item has already been paid for or should be included in the price. This problem can be easily solved by reading the voucher we send before the charter, stating all remaining costs and other important info. By reading, we mean actually READING the material.☻
We can compare an unsatisfied client with a drunk person. No offense, guys! You can divide people having one too many into ones that evaporate happiness, take it on the chin, or the ones that want to punch you into yours.
We've had it all. Fist -and door-banging, swearing, threats, eye-rolling, you name it. Of course, these events all become anecdotes as time goes by, but at that moment in time, they are not something to laugh about at all. People can do lots of wrongs when angry or not in their best self. Then they can urinate from the stern directly into the sea in a marina full of people, yell on staff and call them names, or even take parts of boats with them as compensation. A flying shoe (or was it a flip-flop?) was even sighted in our office once. The client was so unsatisfied that he wanted to go barefoot on a pilgrimage to get revenge on SunLife. We get that sometimes people are exhausted, tired, fed up with lots of things, but we have to be civilized at all times. We are also tired and sometimes angry at our work. When you try and give your best to help someone, make him feel at home, and guide him to make the most out of the vacation, you don't expect him to cause you problems and damage on the boat. No one likes damage, and no one does it on purpose, we hope. We are human and make mistakes, but covering them up by deceiving and causing someone else to cover the costs instead of you isn't something anyone should do. Like when you super-glue a boat's window you broke, or you use a marker to cover the scratches, it makes us angry, and it feeds distrust. That way, when there is a valid ground for complaints and claims, no one will want to address them at all.
That brings us to the "check-out". The two hours in a beautiful week in Croatia can ruin everything. As Croats like to say: "Check-in is a chamomile compared to the check-out". The reason behind that is that the check-out in the yacht charter business is specific. Unlike when you rent a car, return it, and go around it looking for scratches and checking fuel level, checking out off the boat is a whole different thing. The boat in the charter is an accommodation unit, equipped with an engine, moving across the vast and deep, blue space, susceptible to winds and currents. Thus, very prone to damage. Even more so than the car. Of course, more experienced skippers can handle the boat better than inexperienced ones, but the damage can happen if you're in the port all tied up, let alone while sailing and maneuvering. If the boat returns in a condition worse than upon check-in, someone has to cover the repair costs. That's when it becomes interesting. We like to think that the minority try to dispute they are responsible for causing the damage. They discuss it in various ways laying down all sorts of arguments.
IT WAS ALREADY THERE! - no, it wasn't. ☻ This is why we go through the check-in process. We explain the boat and its features, tick off boxes, equipment on the checklist, with a remark section below where you can write your comments and damage you see on the boat. You are free to inspect it yourself once more and report any novelties. Often people ask what about the underwater part? Of course, you can't check it yourself (unless you jump in), so how can you be sure there's no damage on it? First of all, client security is of the utmost importance to us, and we wouldn't do anything to put them in jeopardize. Secondly, it's not our interest to leave our property damaged and risk further damage. And, finally, all boats go through a diver's inspection upon arriving in the marina. The official marina diver keeps a log of any damage from the previous charter week, making it easy to check if anything occurs. Another thing of great importance is that, when you check up the boat and find some damage or malfunction, you are to report it to us immediately, before you leave the marina so we can deal with it on spot. And please, take your time and check the boat which you will be living on for a week. No rush to sail out as you can sail into a problem. If your problem needs our intervention, we have 24hours to solve it. Only if you report the problem/damage, and we cannot solve it, are you to ask for a refund or similar. If we don't know about the problem, we cannot process it as such.
WASN'T ME! - then who was it? ☻ Sometimes, some things are out of our hands. Weather, unexpected series of events, someone else's negligence, all sorts of things can happen. None of your actions caused it or could have prevented it. Unfortunately, it doesn't change a thing. Our property has returned damaged and, if you don't have someone else take the blame, vouch with the insurance policy, you will have to cover the costs. To cover yourself, it's always good to arrange deposit insurance. For a small fee of taking the insurance policy/damage waiver, you can sleep without worries and enjoy your holiday in Croatia without having second thoughts. Rest assured, we will worry for you.☻
YOU'RE RIPPING ME OFF! - paying for something you didn't count on and still unsure it's your doing can fall hard. In the client's opinion, the damage is overpriced and we are taking advantage of you. We can assure you that is nowhere near the truth as damages in the middle of the summer chaos can only cause multiple headaches. It takes time, energy, connections, and money to acquire the replacement part in time to install it on the boat, not even mentioning the fuss when the boat has to be lifted off for further inspection. Believe us, we don't want you to cause any damage.
Back to the beginning, the perfect start of a client-company relationship would be a pleasant "Hello", followed by a short chat and maybe a toast. After that, everything is simple and easy. We will overcome obstacles and problems together as we get to know each other.
We love meeting new people, hearing new stories and experiences. That's the perk of our job. What we can guarantee is that every individual is different in its way. It takes time to get to know someone's preferences, the way they think and react. Some just want to get done with the business and start their charter, and there are some that like a good joke or a quick chat to get to know the country and its people. By building these relationships, we got many repeating clients, the ones that appreciate how we handle our work, and our friends. We can enter into a discussion with them too, but they know we always have their best interest and their happiness in our hearts. As should you. That is everything you need to know.
Hello to you from SunLife Charter, have a pleasant charter holiday with us!