Do you run into situations when your customers return the rented watersport equipment in the condition it was not before? Is it always worth a confrontation? Tune in to learn great tips about this topic! Do not let significant damages interrupt your season!
Hey everyone, thanks for dropping in for this week’s episode of the Weekly Wave presented by WaveRez. I’m your host Greg Fisher, and today we’ll be talking about how to deal with damage to your equipment by a customer.
In the previous episode, we spoke about how to handle difficult situations with your customers, and we briefly discussed some ways to deal with damaged equipment. We’re going to dive in a little deeper on this topic, and share some great tips to improve your processes.
When one of your customers comes back from a trip, and you notice damage, you’ll never really know how the customer will react. First and foremost, you want to insure the safety of your customers, but you also need your equipment to be brought back in good condition so it can be rented to the next customer. I’ve seen equipment damages spiral out of control to the extent that operators not only have to come out of pocket for the damages, but they have to deal with potential credit card disputes, bad reviews, and the loss of future revenue. The operators that have the best results with equipment damages are well prepared, and hold themselves accountable even when it’s not their fault. Let’s first discuss damage prevention.
If you have a lot of damage to your equipment, it might be due to your orientation or check-in procedures. Most states and insurance companies have requirements for educating their customers regarding boaters safety, but most operators go above and beyond. Some operators will simply not rent to new boaters, or provide additional training to insure they have everything they need. No one ever said too much training or education is enough, but find ways to get the message out prior to arrival, such as sending a safety video in their confirmation email or text. If your check-in process is already too long, then you might have unhappy customers. Remember, It’s OK to simply refuse service to some customers that are a risk to themselves or other boaters. If they are struggling to leave the marina, or they appear incompetent, then you may want to reassess the situation.
When customers are checking in, you need to walk out to the boat with the customer and have them document any current damage to the boat. Some operators take a video or photos so there is more solid proof. It only takes a moment, and it provides ammunition if a customer is trying to dispute. On a personal watercraft, I found using white duck tape to cover minor damages as a simple way to hide and document previous damage. It also looks better visually. And if it’s possible in your state, get as much information from the customer as you can, such as valid photo ID, phone number, and credit card details. Have the customers sign a document with the cost of replacement or repairing the boats so they are aware. Some of this info will be helpful if damage is excessive and you need to file legal action.
Now when a customer comes back from their trip, the first thing your crew should be doing is walking around the vessel and checking for damage. If damage is spotted, ask the customers if they know anything about it. If they say they aren’t responsible, review the check-in documents and photos to verify their claim. If they are found to be responsible, you have the right to ask for damage fees, but it’s not always that easy. I find most operators will write off the small damages as a cost of doing business. It’s also not worth a confrontation over a small fiberglass repair. The aftermath of a damage negotiation could be more costly with credit card disputes, and negative online reviews. However, if the damage is significant, it could greatly impact your operation. Here are some great tips that some operators found helpful in this situation.
The first one is, call law enforcement if the customer is being argumentative. Law enforcement cannot force them to pay for your damages, but their presence usually helps keep the situation calm. Second, do your best to negotiate, even if you get significantly less. Having to go to court will take a lot of time, and we really don’t have time for that. However, if the damage is so great that you can potentially lose your season, then you might want to consider speaking to an attorney. Third, if you do get payment for damages, try to get it in cash. Credit card charges can be disputed, and I’ve seen it many times where the customer disputes the damages after the fact. If you do get damages put on a credit card, write it out on paper and have the customer sign off. This document will be helpful if a dispute takes place.
Damages to your equipment will happen, and it’s something every operator deals with on a regular basis. The best offense is a great defence. Have solid check-in procedures, know the consequences, and value your time. It doesn't have to be a difficult situation if your crew is prepared!
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