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Remaining Relevant

The following article is an authorized reprodcution from Cruise-Week, a well respected cruise industry publication in which I was recently quoted.  I am interested in your feedback on the issue. Is your travel professional relevant to you? and…why?  I appreciate all responses.  Either post them here or email me at matt@justcruises.com   Thanks 🙂

When Princess recently announced they’ll soon have digital documents going directly to the client, eliminating the expense (and need) for the agent to forward documents to the customer, agent reaction was generally positive. Most expect the practice will spread.

One agent commented that it frees up his staff to concentrate more on sales and marketing. However, he expressed concern that the change does illustrate how it’s becoming harder for agents to stay relevant once the client is actually sold the cruise. “From then on, it’s to the cruise line for this and that,” he worries. “Eventually, more clients are likely going to say, ‘Well, I’m comfortable dealing with the cruise line, I’ll just book with them.’”

Another agent, Alfred Hernandez, Express Travel, Miami, says the document change becomes a burden on elderly clients and, hence, on the agency: “I think with time clients will be accustomed to not receiving these [from the agent], as we all went through this with the airlines.  On the other hand, we do have clients that are not computer savvy.”

Still, assuming the vast majority of consumers are fine with receiving documents in this fashion, once the sale is made, what does the agent do to stay in the picture?

Hernandez replies that even in this era of dwindling margins, one way is simply to provide amenities. “It all depends on the profit margin,” he says. “You have to think outside of the box in order for first, the client to be loyal and keep coming back, and, second, to be profitable. No matter how loyal the consumer, if they go to Macy’s and find a product for $100, and then go to Dillard’s and find the same product for the same price but they receive a gift that is worth $10 for purchasing the product, they will purchase at Dillard’s.”

In terms of relevancy, Matt Cervone, Just Cruises &Vacations, Michigan, says the cruise lines can help the agent by simply identifying the agency by name with phone number and/or email address on the document page; doing so shows the client that the supplier considers the agent to be relevant in the process after the sale.

“There’s technology now to do so, and doing so supports the agency community,” says Cervone. “I get that it’s complicated from the cruise line perspective, because the varied business models out there have different servicing needs–but we need cruise line support.”

But Cervone has no worries about remaining relevant after the sale whether he sends out the documents or not: “The reality is if the consumer has any challenges, they call the agency. We see it all the way through until departure; we’re busy dealing with what they want to know about packing, what to do in Cozumel,  and so forth. They talk with us right up to departure.”

As for when there’s not such dialogue, Costa President/ CEO North America Maurice Zarmati suggests: “If they’re not contacting you, contact them. Sixty days out, give a phone call to say, ‘Are you O.K.? Any questions at this point? Anything I can do for you?’ Do the same thing 10 days out.  Even if everything is O.K., it builds confidence in the consumers’ minds that their well being is top priority in the agent’s mind.”


Sincerely,

Matt Cervone

Chief Escape Officer

Just Cruises & Vacations



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