Building a boating village
What if your customers never forgot about their boats’ preventative maintenance? Service bays would be full, needless warranty claims would be reduced while high-margin preventative service would increase, work orders would write themselves and consumers, dealers and manufacturers would band together in one friendly, collaborative space.
This is not some utopian fantasy, but rather a ready-for-primetime idea called My Boat Village from the same man who successfully modernized a portion of the famously inefficient American medical system.
The plan? Bring boat manufacturers, dealers, service yards and boat owners together in a reciprocal, information-rich online environment with mutual benefits for all. Owners could look up information on any components of their boat and be automatically alerted to necessary service reminders. Service requests will seamlessly arrive at technicians’ desks, immediately generating a work order. Dealerships have happier customers, due to better-maintained boats. Boat builders end up with less warranty claims and, also, happier repeat buyers.
Hatched in Medicine
My-Villages, Inc., founder/CEO Kevin Hutchinson previously launched Surescripts in 2002, which enables healthcare professionals to access information when and where it’s needed. A good idea whose time had come, Surescripts grew to quickly dominate the market: today it’s used by 60 percent of physicians and more than 99 percent of pharmacies, according to the company. By enabling electronic prescription routing, real-time eligibility checks and nationwide access to patient medication history information, Hutchinson has risen to national prominence for his work in the medical industry.After seeing a need to bring similar communication, collaboration and personal connections to the boating industry — where complex products need frequent preventative maintenance much like the human body — Hutchinson is ready to apply his concept to the services sector, starting with boating.
The concept, if successful, will eventually spread to other industries like housing and RVs. After a year of development, Hutchinson is unveiling My Boat Villages as a free service available to any boat owner, but generally aimed at vessels in the 35- to 85-foot range.
Users of the free service can connect, ask questions or share with any fellow village members in the marine industry, including aftermarket equipment manufacturers, industry experts, dealers, service technicians and other boating enthusiasts.
Another My Boat Village feature addresses a fundamental human weakness: not reading important documentation. While equipment manufacturers and OEMs could fill libraries with their content, such as maintenance tables and service recommendations, it’s widely accepted that such documents often go unread or are misplaced. My Boat Village acts as a clearinghouse for such information — some 17,000 maintenance recommendations and counting — allowing owners or service providers to easily search and find the information based on the equipment’s make and model.
The premium paid service, tentatively named MV Advisor, takes the service a step further and, Hutchinson says, reverses the flow of information, bringing it directly to the boat owner. A boat’s “profile” is entered into the system, containing service records and general boat information. Users can also link the profile to their social medial, blog, websites or other online content. When a particular service item is due, the owner will be notified and, through integration with DockMaster software, a service order can immediately be created at the dealership to streamline the process.
“This system will not only remind the owner when something is due, but I as an owner can also allow the service technician to be reminded at the same time I am reminded,” Hutchinson said. “So in essence, I’m ordering the preventative maintenance to be done at the time I am being alerted that it needs to be done.”
While owners will pay a yet-to-be-determined subscription fee — likely based on the size of the craft — service yards will be charged a monthly fee for each technician. At this point, Hutchinson expects the service to cost technicians approximately $49/month, and to be free for dealers and boat builders, unless either chose to offer the service to its customers as a free, mutually beneficial upgrade.
Other benefits on the business end include the ability to capture customer and vehicle analytics, local sales trends and directly engaging with existing and potential buyers.
In order to create a critical mass of users on all ends — owners, service, showrooms and manufacturers — Hutchinson is focusing his efforts on his new home and headquarters in the Jupiter, Fla., area. The company currently has 12 service yards in the Jupiter-Fort Lauderdale area to create the program’s first community.
Hutchinson added that aside from ease of use, it’s important to impart the benefits of this technology to all potential users and beneficiaries.
“We have amazing electronics on these boats now, we have the ability through satellite communication to do all kinds of unbelievable things from a technology standpoint, whether you’re near the coast or away,” said Hutchinson.
A New Way of Doing Business
By targeting boats in the 35- to 85-foot range, Hutchinson says My Boat Village is only looking at about 7 percent of the marine market, but expects it to move into other segments, most likely including work boats within the first year and a half.
“This isn’t going to be something that appeals to 90 percent of the industry, [and] we’re not assuming that is going to be the case,” said Hutchinson. “We’re actually targeting a very small segment of the boating industry, but as we learn more from service technicians about what they want to do with it, it may work its way further down into the market.”
Similar to Surescripts’ impact on hospitals, clinics and pharmacies, Hutchinson expects My Boat Village to significantly upend the traditional way of doing business in the marine industry.
“This isn’t one particular boat builder getting a leg up on another boat builder … [or] one service yard getting a leg up on another,” Hutchinson said. “Just like we did in healthcare where we changed the way physicians, pharmacists, patients and health plans interact, we’re going to change the way in which boat builders, equipment manufacturers, boat owners, service yards and technicians coordinate and collaborate with one another — and it’s got to be at the industry level for it to be really successful.”