It’s not always easy to find the right yacht service provider. In a worst-case scenario, a botched repair or refit can result in significant funds being wasted and additional work being needed to fix the yacht the way you wanted it in the first place.
“Costs are very important right now to owners, captains and crew, so it’s vital that they have a relationship with a service provider that is responsible for everything they do while delivering superior service, quality work and competitive pricing,” said Dennis Foster, founder and CEO of Foster’s Yacht Services in Fort Lauderdale.
Seeing a need for greater accountability when dealing with projects that can cost millions of dollars and take months to complete, Foster’s created a web-based tool that allows its clients to monitor progress anytime they wish, from anywhere in the world. Since implementing the interactive project-tracking system four years ago, the company has used it on about 60 jobs. Response has been enthusiastic.
“Our web-based tracking tool is unprecedented. It really puts our client’s minds at ease during the project,” said Foster. “It keeps them informed with the most up-to-date photos and schedules, so they don’t have to call all the time or travel back and forth to Florida to see what’s going on.”
It works like this: As soon as they sign a contract with Foster’s, patrons are given card access to the private sector of the company’s website. Each project gets its own page with a unique login code and password.
Each custom web page includes the project schedule, broken down by week, with line items for the specific tasks for that week and whether each one is “in progress” or “completed.” A status bar at the bottom indicates if the project is on schedule or not.
In addition, dozens of images of the boat are taken before, during and after each task, documenting the work and describing each step along the way through detailed captions. “You need good documentation with clients of this stature,” said Foster. “A picture is worth 1,000 words. They can see what’s going on at every stage and, since I came up as a repair guy, I can talk them through the steps as needed.”
Foster and his Director of Marketing and Social Media, Christopher Savage, are the ones who take the photos and upload the content to the web pages. They also record video on occasion and will post these as well. The next inspiration, said Foster, is to install cameras in the boatyard for live streaming during working hours, so clients can watch their repairs take place in real time. He expects this to be up and running in about six months.
The benefits of the interactive project-tracking system are many, said Foster. Aside from the comfort it can afford the boat owner, it can also help brokers, surveyors, manufacturers, insurance companies and captains who have an interest in a particular project – especially one involving a recent or pending sale, or a warranty or insurance claim.
“I can send the same web link to all the parties involved, and they all have access to the same information in one place,” Foster said. “For example, if I’m doing a job on an Italian boat that needs warranty work done, the manufacturer can see everything online. They never have to come to the yard. It relieves pressure for me and instills confidence for them.”
Foster sees the project-tracking system as an outgrowth of his desire to provide a boutique yacht services experience. “I manage every project. You talk to one guy. I get your project scheduled, you watch it on the Internet and we’re done,” he said. “It’s convenient. It’s personal. It’s comfortable.”
Because Foster’s clientele can include affluent businessmen, athletes and entertainers, the anonymity provided by the new tracking tool is another benefit, said Foster. The company handles a lot of repairs and refits for these and other customers, but also does boat modifications, customization and upgrades – even completely rehabbing older yachts.
Foster oversees his team of yacht repair specialists from the company’s location at Lauderdale Marine Center. The largest marine facility in the U.S., Lauderdale Marine Center offers 50 acres of working space and the ability to haul out boats from 15 to 160 feet.