When Vicki Freed launched her inspirational e-mails, "Vicki’s Tips" last year, a strong initial response from agents was almost a given based on her reputation with the trade over the years in matters pertaining to sales issues.
What’s a little more surprising is that more than 6 months in, Freed is apparently managing to provide fresh thoughts each day, displaying an empathetic understanding of the daily life of the agent. Based on comments Cruise Week has received, readership numbers are high, and Freed is talking about the customer experience in a way that resonates with agents.
”Find out what you’re passionate about, know yourself, know your customer,” she writes in one.
That theming is important in an era when client empowerment is a catchphrase among all suppliers. What Freed provides are practical measures agents can take to empower their customers. Freed notes, “It takes a bit of time - but it is so worth it. I am grateful to be in an industry that is so special, both from the people we get to work with to the imprint we make on consumers' lives.”
In an industry where if cruise line X does something well, cruise line Y will be following shortly thereafter, no one has yet attempted to offer their own version of Vicki's Tips. It's quite possibly because there aren't too many lines that have executives with 30+ years of sales experience in the business.
Freed rarely references Royal even obliquely in the messages, and is more apt to quote Oscar Wilde ("Be yourself; everyone else is taken”) or remind agents to reach out to the inspiring people in their lives. “So much of what I write about is common sense, easy reminders on how to be successful and grow your business," she says.
What makes these daily tips important is that they represent an investment in time by Royal Caribbean to have a high-level exec spend time on boosting agent business. This comes in an era when the CLIA numbers indicate the percentage of business done by agents is declining and more direct business is taking root.
Additionally, all signs in recent years point to a growth in business sourced from overseas. That someone is flying in the face of trends to take time to cater to agents is in a way surprising, but in another it's not: In its annual report this week Royal Caribbean wrote, ‘“Travel agencies continue to be the primary source of ticket sales for our ships. We believe in the value of this distribution channel and invest heavily in maintaining strong relationships with our travel partners.”