Marine customer service heroes and zeroes

Formanda being relaunched in August 2008
Formanda being relaunched in August 2008

What a difference a good customer experience can make.

I’ve often said you can eat an average meal at a restaurant accompanied by well-judged attention from the staff and it will far outweigh Michelin-standard fare accompanied by care-less or haughty delivery. It’s also a well-known fact that faulty goods put right by service above expectation will engender greater customer loyalty than a product that works right out of the box.

So what prompts this blog?

Well we’ve been buying rather too much kit for our boat over the past few months and the experiences have often been polarised between extremely good and disappointingly poor. I had a day of that today with one supplier outperforming to an extreme level and another requiring to be chased for goods that should have been despatched last July.

Here’s a selection from experiences of the past 18 months:


  • ASAP Supplies – good customer service throughout the team and reliable delivery.
  • Avis Engraving – friendly and fast turnaround of Formanda‘s custom engraved switch panels.
  • Barden – weird inclusion this as we have yet to buy anything significant from them for Formanda. But everytime we have got in touch or, as per this week, recommended someone to them customer service has been excellent.
  • Batman UK – cheapest supplier we could find of Trojan batteries when ordering in 2006 and 2008 – quick to answer emails too.
  • Cablecraft – brilliant supplier of cable accessories, next day delivery, good support and an excellent customer service experience today.
  • Comfort Afloat – Gosport-based marine upholster, friendly service when discussing requirements and allowed us time with sample books to sort requirements. Then good quality cushions and excellent post-sale support for a couple of adjustments.
  • Haslar Marina – great confidence in the staff and fair well beyond expectation (or contract) when we couldn’t occupy our rented hole in the water as planned last April.
  • Peter Kennedy Yacht Services – keen prices on Blue Sea Systems’ kit with helpful customer service. US-based but happy to deal with UK.
  • Skene Yacht Services – David Skene is a skilled and talented craftsman and wooden boat construction specialist who we would trust with our life, as indeed we have given the amount of work he has done on Formanda. Honesty like this is rare.
  • AES Wakefield – friendly and helpful supplier of Harnessflex conduit systems.


  • Marine Megastore – two orders placed, they declined to supply half of the first one (I presume because they got the price wrong), supplied one out of two items on the balance and still have another outstanding. On the second order (placed last July before I realised how bad they were) nothing turned up. I got a refund today on some of it but will not order again.
  • Mariners Hardware (US company) – late fulfilling our order for two custom boat vents and then hit us with an unquoted $200 delivery charge.
  • (Merlin) site takes orders for items that have lead times of several weeks, but with no indication at time of placing order and no follow-up communication. Not good.
  • Ropes and Twines – bale of 16mm nylon rope that wears very quickly and yellows in rain confirmed what we should have known, you often get what you pay for with prices that perhaps were just a little bit too amazing.
  • Royal Clarence Marina – we had two good years there but the ownership changed and we were faced with an arbitrary 30% price increase (on a tatty photocopy with a compliments slip) while the place was still a building site. Original marina manager Tony Dye is back there now so that is a bonus but Castle Marinas’ sharp practice has put us off spending a penny with them.
  • Seaglaze – actually not an entirely zero entry as we liked the initial attention to detail and the windows all fitted when they eventually turned up. The last part of that sentence provides the clue though…we could have been left seriously in the lurch if we had not decided to re-engine and thereby add several weeks in the shed.

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