Launch of an Oceanis Yacht 62 in Flensburg in Germany
Beneteau’s network of dealers are using their initiative
The Situation Differs From Country to Country
Although most of our dealers worldwide are now closed to customers and suppliers, their staff is working behind the scenes to prepare a return to business. Of course, the scale of these actions varies, since the restrictions differ from country to country.
« In our region, we have been lucky to be able to continue to welcome customers, on condition that they live nearby and that they are not travelling to us from another region. We have been able to meet our customers and to reassure them that, when the time comes, the boats we will deliver will satisfy their expectations. Naturally, we are observing social distancing and hygiene guidelines to a T. We are still able to launch boats. We also sent a truck to Marseille this week for a load of Suzuki engines for our outboard powerboats, » says Thorsten Bergheim, our dealer based in Flensburg in Germany, on the Baltic Sea.
In San Diego, on the west coast of the United States, the situation is very different. « In people’s minds, California is a relaxed state, with a population of surfers! In reality it’s not like that at all. The rules are very strict here and everything has come to a halt. The marinas are closed and the police are active. Naturally, we organized remote work from the outset. This has worked pretty well. Our sales teams are focussing entirely on support and advice, to stay in touch with our customers. We are available if anyone wishes to talk to us about their future projects. We continue to get the boats ready, making sure that there is only one person working on board at any time » says Barrett Canfield, President of South Coast yachts.
It is the same story in France, where the business of our dealer Cras Nautique on the sites of Paimpol and Saint-Quay Portrieux, has ground to a halt in the last 3 weeks, but where the staff continues to provide a service. « We can still take boats out, take care of careening and launch them in St Quay, but not in Paimpol. We have many of our customers’ boats in storage. These are either new boats that need to be got ready, or boats we service. We work on a voluntary basis with skeleton teams. We have adapted our work schedules. We keep going whenever we can! Naturally, we are observing social distancing and elementary safety rules: one person per boat, each person uses his own tools. The aim is to be ready, whenever the season gets underway again, » says Yann Plusquellec, in charge of the Paimpol site.
« We are fortunate to have customers who are very understanding and who support us all the way. We have been working with them for 17 years and everything we do is completely transparent. At a time when things are difficult everywhere, we are reaping the benefits of a trusting relationship that has grown over the years. This is the strength of the BENETEAU community » stresses Barrett Canfield. « We have stepped up our presence on social media to keep in touch with our community. »
« We receive voice and text messages from customers who aren’t contacting us about their boats, but just asking us how we are and if all the staff and their families are okay? They are a joy to receive! It is our job to take care of their boats, which are often their most prized possessions, and we know this. We are keeping in close contact, » adds Yann Plusquellec.
« We know that everyone wants to have their boats as soon as possible, but not at the expense of safety. Our customers fully understand that the job will take a little longer. They are aware of the considerable work that needs to be done and the specific set-up that we have had to implement to ensure our workers’ good health, » says Thorsten Bergheim.
Closely Knit Staff
For Barrett Canfield, this unprecedented situation will at least have one positive outcome. People will pay greater attention to others. « Our staff knows that we are all in this boat together. We have concentrated on balancing out professional and private lives. This period has given us all an opportunity to focus on our families. We know that employees in good health who are happy outside of work are a great asset to South Coast Yachts and its customers. Our joint task is to provide the best possible conditions for work to resume and our employees are committed to achieving this while looking out for each other. »
« Each person has their own private situation and we are taking each of these into account, without imposing anything. Our workshop manager’s wife works in a hospital, so he takes care of the children. So he stays at home. He comes by early in the morning, to move one or two boats and facilitate the engineering team’s work before going home. Each person contributes in their own way. We are fortunate to have a closely knit staff, » says Yann Plusquellec.
« I am very proud of our teams, » stresses Thorsten Bergheim. «We all take care of each other, much more than we did before.»
Dealer Associations Come Together
Rodolf Guasch, President of the BENETEAU Dealer Association in Spain
« Spain has been greatly affected. All the dealers are closed until further notice. During recent weeks, we have been focussing all our efforts on reassuring our staff and our customers about the financial health of our companies. Our partner SGB Finance has helped a lot with measures to postpone our monthly payments. In my dealership, we have been holding Zoom meetings twice a week, to discuss things and review work in progress and to find out how everyone is faring. This is important for morale. We enjoy joking and keeping things light enough to motivate everyone working from home. Between dealers, we are currently studying how to pool our stocks and to prepare to get back to business, with the goal of getting as many boats as possible into the water by early June. BENETEAU is also facilitating shared information on stocks, to be able to meet demands quickly and limit as much as possible the delays in delivery caused by the temporary halt in production. »
Oscar Bellandi, President of the BENETEAU Dealer Association in Italy
« All our dealers are also closed, even the workshops. A good deal of our customers run companies, so they are very understanding, since they too have had to reorganize or suspend business. We are all waiting to see what will happen. However, the Italian dealers are continuing to move forward and preparing for business to resume. In my dealership, we are taking advantage of the time to rethink our customer relationship and information tools. This is important for the future. Behaviour and expectations will change in the future. Although the coronavirus has forced us to increase our social distance, it has also encouraged us to innovate and find new solutions to strengthen the relationships we have with our customers, to extend our availability and form closer ties with them. »