Service is a Two-way Street
Is excellent service after the sale impossible to find in the houseboat industry? Not at all. But it doesn’t always happen automatically. We can’t stress enough the value of clear communication and a positive rapport between buyer and builder.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions when they need to be asked, or you may soon be left to your own devices without much recourse. It’s really that simple. If communication has been a problem through the building process of your custom boat, now is not the time to dwell on the past. Concentrate on the here and now, and don’t be bashful about asking stupid questions. When you’re dropping six figures for the boat of your dreams, that price ought to include at least a dozen knee-slapping inquiries.
In the enthusiasm to buy your new houseboat, you will probably research every major houseboat manufacturer you have heard of, visit several factories, speak to countless sales personnel and/or company presidents and spend hours on the Internet soaking up every last word written about your houseboat manufacturers of choice. You should do all of this, and more if time allows, because your houseboat will be one of your most precious purchases to date. But again, if have questions, you’ve got to ask them. Even in the best interpersonal relationships, a question unasked is an answer likely not to be given.
Should you lean towards keeping those questions and concerns to yourself, just imagine the frustration and anger you will feel if after you have been though the planning, preparation and purchasing of your houseboat you discover it has a defect. This could be as minor as a plumbing leak, or as major as a wiring blunder that ignited the entire boat. Who is responsible for the repair? Who is at fault? Where do your rights lie? While there are thousands of positives of the houseboat industry, one of its significant downsides is a common lack of effective service after the sale.
In too many instances, once that boat is yours, the problems that come with it are yours, as well. Because houseboats are a intricate web of electrical, plumbing and sanitation systems, they are prone to consistent maintenance and upkeep. Houseboat staffers have met with hundreds of houseboat owners over the years who list poor service after the sale as their No. 1 complaint with their new investment.
These are statements made by owners like yourself: · “(The manufacturer) really hasn’t taken care of us like they said they would. We have a list of things to fix on board that they promise they’ll get to, but we haven’t seen them yet.” · “We were lucky to buy our houseboat from (this manufacturer) because they’re the only ones that come out to fix anything on our dock. In fact, all of our neighbors call (this manufacturer) and pay them to fix their boats because their companies won’t do it.” · “As soon as we bought the boat, (the manufacturer) disappeared.” A common complaint of new houseboat owners is that their phone calls are not returned or that the service department is too backed up with projects to attend to their needs immediately. Often, these needs are never met by the manufacturers themselves, and out of desperation, the owners pay out of their pockets for the repairs to be done.
In the worst scenarios, you can become tangled in a legal mess with a houseboat manufacturer and your insurance company. One owner even called us to tell that as an insurance agent, he represents his friend and dock neighbor whose months-old houseboat sunk as a result of what was determined by an independent surveyor to be a manufacturer defect. Ouch. The company’s response to the situation was to “bill the insurance company.” The insurance policy states that it does not cover accidents caused by manufacturer error. At the time of the phone call, the manufacturer was still denying responsibility and the man was still without his new houseboat.
What You Can Do: Be assured that good service after the sale is not impossible to find. It may take extra effort, and some luck, but again, by just asking a few questions you can put yourself in the driver’s seat and increase the likelihood of a positive experience after the papers are signed. For example, while still in the initial stages of discussing models, floor plans and options, pose these questions to the sales representative: ·
How exactly do you handle service after the sale? Walk me through a the process of how a (plumbing, electrical, etc.) problem is fixed.
How many full-time employees handle houseboat repairs and maintenance? How many calls do they handle per month?
Where will my warranties be honored? Who handles the repair of onboard appliances?
What guarantees can you offer me that you will provide me with the service that you say you do?
What resources do I have if I am not happy with the service I receive? May I call your superior if I feel my needs are not met?
Speaking to other houseboat owners candidly about the service they have received from their houseboat manufacturers is the most effective and honest way to garner an objective view of the service to which you will sign your life away. If you are new to houseboating and don’t have many (or any) houseboating friends yet, don’t be shy about driving to the nearest houseboating marina and walking down the docks during a prime boating hour. If the cold weather prohibits this, try asking the marina for the names of a new owners. If you explain your purpose, they may be willing to help.
Don’t be afraid to question the sincerity of the responses you are receiving. (Do so in a cordial tone, of course.) Your money and your peace of mind is on the line. Remember that the houseboat industry is large enough that you can probably go elsewhere and find a quality boat, so take your time and allow the manufacturer to win you over. After all, you’ve come this far. Just take your time, ask the questions, get the answers and move on.
A Final Note As with any major consumer purchase, your needs should always come first. If your houseboating experience has been marred by poor service after the sale, and your frustrations have grown steadily, we extend our condolences. If you have exhausted your resources and still feel slighted by your manufacturer or houseboat broker, write to us and allow us to publish your letter for the entire industry to read. The best way to improve this weak area of the industry is to educate others of its prevalence.