Multihull Solutions’ approach to customer service and cruising catamaran product packaging breaks new ground and sets the business ahead in the tough Australian yacht brokerage market.
Managing Director Mark Elkington established Multihull Solutions in Mooloolaba, Queensland two years ago bringing with him 15 years experience in broker and charter yacht business. The business concentrates on new and pre-owned cruising sail and power catamarans. The company motto of ‘service starts before choice’ is delivering good dividends as the business steadily grows its market share in Australia and New Zealand. 'Seven out of 10 people are buying boats from us come from referrals and repeat business, and we have a 70 per cent turnover rate on our pre-owned boat listing.'
The service element of the business starts at the first contact and continues throughout the buying or selling process. Utilising the concept of relationship building, the team step a potential customer through a carefully and professionally managed process of consultation towards achieving a successful outcome and long-term relationship.
Queensland catamaran owners Val and Peter Sailsbury are advocates of the Multihull Solutions business approach. They purchased one of the first 40-foot Fountaine Pajots bought into Australia in 2005 when Elkington was running EC Marine. 'We had a mono trailer-sailer for many years. Choosing a catamaran was about space and flatness which suited us as we wanted to live on board and go cruising. Once I had been on a catamaran there was no turning back. For extended cruising we love the cat as there is so much space indoors and outdoors.
'We found dealing with Multihull Solutions very pleasurable. Any little problems that popped up have been solved with no hesitation. They do listen to what you want. And whatever you want done, they are there with their one-stop shop,' Val said.
Val and Peter Salisbury camping onboard a Fountaine Pajot Trawler power catamaran waiting out the summer before returning to Fiji to sail their boat home - Multihull Solutions: - Multihull Solutions?nid=81242
Back to the drawing board and Elkington’s first question to a potential customer on meeting them is what is their plan. 'We want to understand their cruising plan, their experience and then their budget,' Elikington said.
'Once we have the customer brief of what they want to achieve, whether it is a blue water trip or a coastal trip or weekender boat out of a yacht club and what is their budget, we then define a group of boats that will work for them. If their budget is for example $200,000, we will convince them to wait if they actually want to do something that requires a $300,000 spend. We won’t sell them what is on the table. We will recommend they wait a year or more and advise them they need to get this amount of money together to do their project well. If they still want to do it, then fine, we will happily work with them.'
With a customer demographic often placed in the ranks of retired, semi-retired or exiting the main-stream corporate environment, Elkington finds about one third of customers have some sailing experience, mainly in monohulls, with the balance having no sailing experience.
For those new to catamarans or sailing; the ‘adventurers’ as Elkington calls them, they often consider a choosing a catamaran and cruising as a exciting lifestyle option. 'In doing their research they find a catamaran is a generally a safer, more stable platform for living a cruising dream than monohull where on their first sail they are likely to go straight on their ear. They feel much more secure on a catamaran.
'For customers who lack catamaran experience and are concerned about how to handle one, we focus initially on how we can train them prior to their boat arriving. We work out how they can afford the time to come along to sailing programs with our team to get them familiar with everything from reading a chart, to backing out of a berth and understanding currents and tides. Our team explains to them how they can get to the level they need to start their plan whether it is a cruise up and down the coast or across the ocean. We bring them up to speed with trip planning, anchoring, boat management, understanding maintenance and running costs. Then we can even help them with putting together a five-year financial plan for them which often the new owners need so that they can understand the costs of owning the boat.'
Lake Macquarie’s Jock and Jo Shumack, while coming from a small monohull boat and windsurfer background, fit comfortably into Elkington’s ‘adventurers’ category of customers. Deciding not to join the grey army on the road, but rather get out on the water on a boat that was stable and comfortable, the Shumacks went looking for their dream at last year’s Sanctuary Cove Boat Show. By June 2010 and with the support of Multihull Solutions, they purchased a new Fountaine Pajot Mahe 36.
'Multihull Solutions are probably the best people that I have bought anything big from. They were not all pushy; they let the boat do the talking. When we did make the decision to buy the boat, it was all communication. When we went up to take delivery they just made everything really, really easy. When it came time to sail it down to Newcastle, one of their staff, Rossco Clarke, delivered the boat with me and I had an intense sailing course having never really been to sea before.
'Everything that they did was really professional, friendly and lovely, and they have kept in touch. Every few weeks they give me a call and I have one of three mobile numbers I can call at any time of the day or night if I am in trouble and it will be answered. And they do answer and help me. They are just a supremely good sales organisation,' Jock Shumack said.
Elkington listens to the customer’s brief before making a recommendation. He then presents them with a comprehensive folder of options with specifications, prices, benefits and options. 'If we don’t have the product for them, we will tell them. But, we will try to steer them in the direction of a possible appropriate product through direct contact or mediating a contact.'
With an attractive list of new catamarans, both sail and power, to choose from, it almost seems surprising that there wouldn’t be one to suit a keen buyer.
The Multihull Solutions teams list brands that compliment each other. In the international list of top 10 multihulls, they represent six brands in Australia and New Zealand - four in the sailing market and two in the power cat market. 'The reason we selected theses brands is because they provide the very best value for money. The brands offer a stepping stone in pricing and performance from a comfortable blue water cruising boat, to performance boats and then high-performance boats.'
Starting at the lower end of the scale in price and performance is the very popular French-built Fountaine Pajot range. A production boat range with a set-up and go approach, these superior handling entry-level boats in 36, 41, 44, 48, 56 and 65 foot sizes offer blue water-cruising comfort, value for money and a five year warranty.
Next in the range is the comfortable Brazilian-built Dolphin which offers a faster performance design in sizes ranging from 29 to 65 foot.
For those customers wanting high performance and exotic materials, the Catana range is the recommendation. This range of semi-custom boats are lighter, much faster, but also more expensive. 'If you want to turn on the speed, then you turn on the cost.'
A new entry to the sailing catamaran market and at the top end of the price list is the Sunreef Sail. This boat is offered in response to moving power boat owners into sailing craft. This is being achieved by incorporating a fly-bridge on a sailing boat. Replicating their experience on power boats while offering cost efficiency, owners can sit up high and see what is happening around them including when it comes to berthing the boat. 'Their running costs are less than a power boat while still travelling at a comfortable speed. We are doing a 58 footer now and eventually Sunreef will offer a smaller size.'
In the power boat catamaran range are two brands - Sunreef Power and Trawler. The Sunreef boat is built for long range cruising. With an emphasis on comfort, style and safety, these exceptional yachts are designed especially for clients seeking luxury, comfort, stability and incomparable space. The 85-foot boat is semi custom built while the 40 and 45 metre boats are full custom built.
The Fountaine Pajot Trawler is an outstanding ocean-going boat with a host of special features which include exceptional fuel consumption, state-of-the-art design, autonomous controls, high standards of construction and a sleek layout. The Trawler is a production boat in the smaller sizes while in the bigger end, it is semi custom built.
For those wanting to purchase a pre-owned sail or power catamaran, Multihull Solutions, offers a select range of boats. 'We only deal with quality production boats. Before we list it we ensure we know the yard it was built in and under what guidelines it was built. The only boats we will list are those built from a basis of knowledge and ones that we feel comfortable in recommending. As long as the yard or builder is reputable we will list a boat, otherwise how we can advise customers on a boat if we don’t know it ?'
With only about 20 boats on the list at any one time each listing is exclusive and highly managed. Elkington’s team works out if there is a market for the boat and what will be the most effective marketing campaign. The next step is to produce a comprehensive, professionally presented colour brochure which matches the boat. 'Our decision for this side of the business is not volume, but quality. This way we know the boats we are listing rather than have 100 boats on the list which we simply can’t all know personally.'
Multihull Solutions sail and power catamarans will be on display at the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show, open 19th to 22nd May 2011. For more information, contact Multihull Solutions http://www.multihullsolutions.com.au
Multihull Solutions Australia, 33-45 Parkyn Parade, Mooloolaba QLD 4557.
Telephone Toll Free on 1300 855338, +61 (0)7 54525164 or by mobile +61 (0) 427 889910 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Multihull Solutions New Zealand, 9 Westhaven Drive, Westhaven, Auckland 1010.
Telephone Toll Free on 0508 68 58 47, +64 (0)9 9031000 or by mobile +64 21 2777777 or email email@example.com