Written By: Alan Jones, Former Editor Boating World Magazine
Some boat manufacturers feel their job is done when a boat is sold. At Barletta, we believe our job has just begun after the order is placed and continues as long as they own their pontoon.
Vice-President of Sales Jeff Haradine (JH) knows a lot about dealers and the issues they face because he was a top 100 dealer himself for many years at WakeSide Marine in Elkhart, Indiana, and has been a board member of the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas since 2010. He and his sales team have focused on building a dealer network of like-minded people who put service first.
Vice-President of Customer Experience and Parts Gary Baker (GB) has 37 years of experience in the pontoon industry and is responsible for a wide range of duties at Barletta, including parts, warranty, the White Glove PDI department, and the Customer Resource Center. Gary has been a boater and lake-resident for nearly three decades.
When Will I Get My Barletta?
JH: After a customer orders a Barletta, we know they can’t wait to get their boat and start making memories so we give the dealer real-time scheduling in our dealer portal with an accurate timeline of when a boat will go into production and when it will ship. We keep this information as accurate and current as possible because we know how disappointing it would be if a customer were expecting their boat and we failed to live up to that commitment. Occasionally, things can happen during the production process that might delay delivery, some in our control, and some outside of our control. We do everything we can to mitigate those circumstances and keep the dealer informed with any changes to delivery dates.
After the Sale Support
JH: Barletta’s level of commitment starts at the top with our president, Bill Fenech. He is so closely connected to our owners, he often calls customers after the sale to see how they are enjoying their new pontoon; I don’t know any other company our size that has a president that does that. After the delivery, we stay connected to our owners in a variety of ways. For example, we have a very active owners group on Facebook that we not only monitor constantly but engage with owners regularly. If we notice that someone is having an issue or concern, we immediately connect them with our in-house Owner Specialist and make sure their issues are addressed promptly.
Our dealers make sure new pontoon boat owners are comfortable with every aspect of owning and operating their boats and everyone is given detailed information about the operation of all components. They also work with owners to show them the many ways they can have fun with their boats. Those new to boating — as well as experienced owners — should take advantage of any offer by the dealer to learn more about the specifics of their boat and boating in general during walkthroughs because there is always something new to learn. We want our dealers to be actively involved with their owners and often that relationship morphs into a feeling like they are part of an extended family.
GB: After each boat has passed the Final Finish Inspection it then goes through our Pre-Delivery Inspection (PDI) process. Our highly trained PDI inspectors have over 100 checks to perform from the bottom up to ensure that we are producing the highest quality product available in the market. Multiple pictures are taken of the exterior and interior, which are uploaded in the unit folder along with all documents associated with the build for future reference. The goal is to deliver showroom-ready boats to our dealers, who clean and inspect the boat before handing the keys to our customers.
All Barletta Customers receive a survey soon after taking delivery of their purchase. The survey allows the consumer to grade us on their experience and allows them to make comments, good or bad. We want to know if there was anything, no matter how small, that fell below their expectations. We also have an owner specialist on staff who will reach out to our customers to discuss how we can better service them and make their experience a Barletta experience a great one.
JH: We’re always looking for ways to help our customers before and after the sale. Barletta offers an industry-first Holiday Hotline for all the major summer holidays. We know how important holiday weekends like Memorial Day are to our customers and it’s also clear how often simple problems go unresolved because a dealer may be closed or swamped with a massive influx of other customers trying to get out on the water at the same time. So, we man the phone lines over those weekends, to help people out of a jam. Of course, we can’t solve everything via phone, but we have saved our fair share of family weekends by reminding new boat owners about kill lanyards or how to charge a dead battery. It’s so simple and the little bit of extra care and effort speaks to how we feel about our Barletta family.
GB: Barletta operates a Customer Resource Center that offers customers documents listed under Owner’s Manual, Maintenance & Extras, Electronics & Entertainment and Engine & Power Steering. It’s a great place to find specific information on how to care for your Barletta. There you can obtain information about the best methods and products for cleaning your interior, flooring, pontoons and stainless steel parts. It also has manuals for electronics and other components. Additionally, with the surge of first-time boaters this season, we are beefing up our video library and not just with Barletta-specific videos but general boating how-to videos as well.
[Sidebar] What Makes Barletta’s Warranty the Best in the Business
Warranty Administrator Jesse Swain (JS) has 15 years of experience in the industry having served as Service Manager for Suzuki Marine and a Product Support Specialist for Mercury Marine. In his spare time he's an avid boater and has been racing outboard hydroplanes for 25 years.
JS: Barletta’s 10-Year Bow-to-Stern warranty is similar to others in many ways, but differs in the way we support customers on purchased parts that are used in our boats. Many companies claim to offer a true Bow-to-Stern warranty, but then exclude items that carry their own warranties, such as stereos, multi-function displays, electronics, radios, etc. We fully stand behind these items, even if the original manufacturer does not.
When reading a warranty, it’s important to pay attention to the exclusions and limitations. A big one we deal with is travel time/hauling/service call fees. It’s always the responsibility of the owner to make arrangements to get the boat to the servicing dealer for warranty repairs. If transient buyers purchase their boat online and then take it home — sometimes hundreds or even thousands of miles from the selling dealer or servicing dealer — a small problem suddenly becomes a large one. This reiterates the fact buyers should buy from a quality, local dealer whenever possible because that few hundred dollars of lower initial cost might be the worst money they ever “saved.”
Many of us at Barletta are Midwestern boaters ourselves, so we recognize how important every weekend is through the season. If the issue is on our end, we will expedite parts and get involved with the dealer to see about getting service initiated immediately. If the issue is engine related, we get involved with the engine manufacturer and ask them to expedite parts and service as well.
Some companies pay dealers a very low rate for warranty work, which can cause them to be reluctant to do the job in a timely fashion. Barletta pays dealers their posted retail labor rate and is very flexible when it comes to paying warranty claims. We understand that things can sometimes take longer than expected and work with dealers so they aren’t reluctant to repair warranty items.
Our goal at Barletta is not only to build the best pontoon in the industry but also to back it up with the best after-the-sale support and exemplary service. Anyone can sell a customer a boat; we want our buyers to be Barletta owners for life.