In my years as a Charter Captain, Communication with my Clients has been the key to successful trips and happy customers. There is no such thing as too much communication and you will find that your clients will have a greater comfort level fishing with you, especially if you do a good job of setting expectations from the very beginning.
Let’s start with the initial contact that you have with a potential client: You will likely receive an e-mail, Google Business comment, Direct Message via social media or even a good, old-fashioned phone call. Regardless of how a potential client reaches you, you MUST RESPOND AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! Why?
- People appreciate prompt responses to any inquiries. They do not like to wait.
- You’re not the only game in town. Your potential client is likely contacting several captains in your area. Whoever responds first will likely nab the charter.
- Even if you’re booked or otherwise not available, responding quickly reinforces to the client that you are organized, professional and THAT YOU CARE. This will lead to referrals and other booking opportunities down the road. Trust me.
You initial reply, whether in writing or verbal, should include these important questions:
- When would you like to fish? Date? Time of Day?
- How many are in your party?
- What would you like to catch?
- Are there any children in your party? What are their ages?
Once I’m armed with the information above, I can shape the trip to meet the potential client’s needs. At this point, I ALWAYS call the potential client to introduce myself and to get a feel for the interest of the potential client. Very quickly, you’ll figure out whether the person on the other end of the phone is “window shopping” or price sensitive. Be prepared for the occasional potential client who wants to beat you up on the charter rate or otherwise ask for your “best price.” You need to be prepared for this question! My philosophy has always been “My Rate is My Rate” and it is non-negotiable. More often than not, a client who asks for a cheaper rate is going to be bad news. They are likely to be a pain during the charter, will probably not tip and are not inclined to be pleased with your efforts – regardless of how many fish you catch. These potential clients are HARD PASS. In this case, I politely recommend that they seek another charter captain. It’s simply not worth it.
On the other hand, when the call goes well and the potential client is ready to book the trip over the phone, explain your rate and how the client can give you a deposit to hold the date. This is also a good time to set expectations regarding the types of fish you hope the catch and how the bite is likely to be. NEVER GUARANTEE THAT YOU’LL CATCH FISH! That is a trap! I tell my clients that I guarantee that nobody will work harder to put them on the fish than I will.
While discussing the trip, find out the age of any children coming on the charter. If the children are young – age 10 or younger – you should change your strategy to fish areas with more fish instead of trophy fish. Young children have short attention spans and get bored quickly. The key to making them happy is constant action instead of fewer bites from bigger fish. Most kids just want to catch fish – they don’t care how big the fish are. You’ll find that happy kids lead to happy parents, which leads to a better tip and glowing reviews.
STAY IN TOUCH
As the charter date draws near, call or text the client with details regarding the weather and how the bite has been. Use this as an opportunity to confirm where to meet and recommend what to bring such as jackets, sunscreen, etc. Again, this sort of contact reinforces to the client that you are on the ball and that you CARE.
DURING THE CHARTER
Some charter captains I know have a difficult time carrying on a conversation with the client while on the charter. When you’ve run out of “small talk,” I suggest that you talk about what you love the most: FISHING. You will find that most clients are fascinated with how you fish – the knots you tie, how you run the boat, how you find your baits, etc. They want to learn. TEACH THEM.
I find that clients appreciate it when I explain how and why we’re fishing an area with certain tackle, certain lures, at a certain time of year, among a myriad of other details. Clients also love to know what other species might be living in the area where you’re fishing, especially the more exotic species. It’s also a good idea to explain the best way to handle the fishing rods once you’re hooked up and why. This is especially important when using circle hooks versus “J” hooks.
When hooked up on fish, be encouraging and have fun while fighting the fish. We all want to catch fish but don’t turn into Captain Ahab by barking out harsh orders during the fight. Nobody likes to get screamed at. The same holds true when the angler makes a mistake that causes you to lose the fish. DON’T BARK AT THEM! Have YOU caught every fish that you’ve ever hooked? If you haven’t, then don’t beat up the client. Help the client learn from the mistake and reassure them that you’ll catch the next one. Remember: This is supposed to be FUN.
AFTER THE CHARTER
Hopefully, as the end of the charter nears, you’ve caught plenty of fish. On the way back to the dock, re-live with the clients the highlights to reinforce the great experience on the water. This is also a good time to send the clients a link to your online reviews page so that they can leave a review while they’re still euphoric about the fish that they caught. It’s also a good time to hint at a tip – but be subtle. It goes without saying to be very gracious when receiving payment, especially when a tip is included.
The day after the charter, make a point to send a text or e-mail to the client to thank them for the charter and that you hope to fish with them again soon. Again, this sends the message that you are on top of things and appreciate their business. Also, remind the client to leave a review if they had not already done so.
When it comes to communicating with your client, there is no such thing as too much COMMUNICATION.