Royal’s Freed On Attracting The Next Generation Of Cruisers
In her presentation at the Vacation.com conference, Royal Caribbean’s Sr. V.P. Trade Support & Service, Vicki Freed put the focus on sales strategies designed to help agents attract the next generation of clients.
She spoke of the joint need of agents and cruise lines to find new cruisers: "Royal Caribbean has done a lot of research that really talks about who the new cruisers are.”
"There are 3 groups who are on the fence that are about ready to take the cruise vacation, but we really have to talk to them a little bit differently; we have to really share with our travel partners about who those prospects really are,” Freed said.
She defines the 3 groups as: action-packed travellers; indulgent relaxers and adventurous families. Each group needs to be addressed differently, Freed told the large V.com audience, but there are some commonalities.
"If you look at our "Come Seek" commercials, our whole campaign isn't showing these large buffets of meals that we used to show in the past," she noted. "It's really talking to them about experiences and adventure and really giving them a new look at the cruise industry."
So how can agents reach these groups? One way of reaching someone who is close to making a buying decision is to simply listen to them. Freed said the best travel professionals are professional listeners. "When you ask good qualifying questions, you can gather so much consumer information. It's really important to let your clients tell you their story.
"Today we rely on TripAdvisor, and consumers are looking online, and they're always looking at, really, a reference from somebody they don't even know. They rely on that person's opinion. I'm always amazed by that." In that vein, testimonials are powerful, Freed said.
"I hope that you're having [satisfied clients] post on your Facebook and even your website," Freed told agents. "When people can talk about the great service they receive from you and they can talk about their great vacation experience, it's going to encourage more people who haven't done business with you to want to do business with you."
Learn about your clients’ ultimate travel dreams, Freed advised: "When your clients go to a financial advisor, that advisor really does map out their life over a course of 10, 20 or 30 years. And if you think about yourself as a vacation planner, you should know what's on people's bucket list… You should ask people, 'What are destinations that you're interested in going to?'
"And once you start writing those destinations down, ask people, 'Is there a particular time in your life that you want to take that cruise in Europe?' And when you ask people, generally they know when. They might say, 'Oh, it's my 25th wedding anniversary' or 'When my child graduates from high school or college.'"
Staying connected to the client is important. "We talk about branding, but branding isn't about getting your name out there," she noted. "Branding is about you and your employees connecting with the consumer. You have a wealth of information about your consumers.
"You know when their birthdays are, you know when their anniversaries are. If you hear them telling you that their kids are graduating from college or high school, send them a note, because it's that easy to really connect with the total customer experience."
Freed thanked agents and spoke eloquently about the future of the partnership between the cruise lines and agents. "You truly are the gatekeepers to so many vacationers. So I hope you're all ready to take this challenge with us. We're committed to taking this challenge with you. We want to be the partner that you look to when it comes to working stronger and better together."