With Strong Service Recovery, Cruise Lines Find Silver Lining

After any service failure, a business has the opportunity to fix the problem. If the business responds quickly, efficiently, and in a straightforward way, it may even end up with higher customer satisfaction and brand loyalty than before the problem occurred.

Over the past month, we’ve seen a series of unfortunate incidents for cruise lines. Strong winds and poor weather caused problems and delays for Carnival’s Inspiration. Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas was rocked by rough waters, causing some injuries to passengers. With the prevalence of mobile devices and laptops, passengers reported their discomfort right away. It’s not so much what happens, but how cruise lines respond that really affects loyalty to the brand.

When Coyle’s hospitality consultants perform service recovery tests on cruises, for instance, they give ships the opportunity to identify guests’ problems and address them accordingly. Cruises, like many businesses, are susceptible to forces beyond their control; that’s why good service recovery practices are a key to guest satisfaction and brand image. Cruise mystery shoppers often pinpoint what is working and what isn’t within a cruise line’s service recovery program.  

An industry that takes its chances with nature has to be able to respond to factors that affect guest satisfaction. In an age when anything ‘bad’ is instantly tweeted to thousands of followers, addressing problems quickly is more important then ever. We found Carnival’s ability to quickly respond to a crisis last month earned it credibility among guests who otherwise might have easily turned their backs on the line (see our previous post, What Carnival Did Right). Even as  Brilliance of the Seas is still cruising, Royal Caribbean has already given passengers credit to spend on board as well as full refunds. It may be an expensive decision for RCL, but it has a tremendous customer-loyalty payoff.

In this National Geographic Traveler piece, Chris Elliot writes that the recent cruise troubles couldn’t have happened at a worse time, occurring during a period when most people book cruises. These incidents give potential passengers reasons to hesitate. But Chris Driscoll of Cruise Week is more optimistic, concluding that these fleeting issues will have just a short-term impact. And speedy resolutions, like Royal Caribbean showed, may even enhance passenger trust that if anything ever should go wrong, the line will address it in a fair way. If adversity has one silver lining, it’s the opportunity for a brand to showcase its solid, caring, and efficient approach to customer service recovery.

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