CLIA’s Peter Kollar cruise training blackboard

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CLIA’s Peter Kollar talks gives agents advice about the best way that they can sell cruise from going on a famil. Here are his top tips.

Travel Agents work hard, so when the opportunity comes up for a cruise famil, it generally is time to let the hair down and enjoy what the cruise product is all about – de-stressing. But many times this “I’m free from work” outlook leads to a heavy sail-away party, leaving the agent a little too relaxed and loquacious after an overindulgent tipple or three.

But I am here to improve you as an agent, so pop the Panadol and let’s get you being the best cruise specialist you can be; and it follows last month’s article that revealed the highest knowledge that you can obtain is non-conceptual knowledge – the onboard experience. As an agent, it is paramount that you take the opportunity of this famil to really step above your competition with these following tips (…and you can still enjoy yourself).

Evaluation form

It starts BEFORE the cruise, by setting up an evaluation form you can use over and over again on different cruise products, and hopefully after time you can develop a real database of;

Onboard experiences

Condition of the ships (rooms, bars, lounges, etc.)

Efficiency of the program (entertainment, dining, etc.)

Crew service

I will make it fun; I don’t want you running around in a lab coat, checklist, and clipboard. After all, enjoying the cruise itself is the major factor in appreciating the experience. My tips on what your form should include are at the end of the article.

Observe through your clients eyes

You should know YOUR clients by now. Are they families, more mature, young at heart, retired, etc.? That could mean you need to observe accessibility around the ship for physically challenged clients, or kids clubs for families. Observe some more, but this time take in the details – are there empty dishes outside staterooms for long, are there long waiting for the elevator, what are the announcements like, what are the service times at the bar, does the bar waiter know you drink double Cointreau on the rocks with a slice of lemon the second time you are there (hint for anyone who sees me onboard!)? Record all that you can, even in your evaluation form below. But always remember, ALWAYS, that one client will think the ship is so much fun with loads to do, and another will think the same ship is too crowded and noisy. Keep a balanced approach.

Oh, and don’t forget, if you don’t watch shows normally on a cruise, fine… go see one anyway. You need to EXPERIENCE it all – and you never know…you may end up enjoying it. If not, walk out – it’s free!

Test the service

To some this may seem cruel, but test the staff. Order extra at dinner, something not on the menu, or something you can’t pronounce. If something is broken in your room, ask for it to be fixed (and record your findings). Some ships over deliver, some under deliver, but again, a balanced approach is needed because one scenario doesn’t mean it’s always like that. But this, more than a ship inspection, is the best thing you can get out of a famil, because nothing beats the onboard flow of things and living it. Be realistic of your expectations depending on the product you are on. I can’t expect a 3000 pax contemporary vessel to pounce on my request, but if they do, that is “totes” acceptable (see evaluation form).

You can learn more from other passengers than you ever will in a brochure

Ask questions to strangers (over a beer or wine), I do! Ask if they have cruised before, if they have been on this ship or line before, and socialize! Don’t take their word on the product, because too often I have found them blinded by their limited cruising, but respect their experience for what it is. If you want to stand out as a Master or Expert in Cruising, have a blog and record their conversation. Most agencies these days have Facebook or Newsletters, and reporting on your experience with other passengers is that one step above what the average agent is doing.

Overall, have fun, enjoy as much as you can, but remember your time onboard will help your sales more than any training could. …oh, and show your respective rep what you are doing, including your Evaluation Form below – I am sure you will be thought of again on their NEXT famil (Hint, Hint)! After all, you are showing respect to them for allowing you to be part of their product and cruise. They only have so many spots on offer!

Tips for your Evaluation Form

BASIC SET-UP: You probably know by now how the cruise industry is always changing its product & experience, so it needs to be flexible. Not just the spa, the gift shop, the show lounge, etc., but odd things that matter to people. For example, two years ago we wouldn’t have really thought about Wi-Fi being as important as it is to the modern day cruiser, and current trends at the moment are Zumba and Cooking Classes. In other words, try and think of all aspects of cruising.

FUN RATING SCALE: Make it fun for yourself. Give yourself a rating scale, something that is motivating for you. They used to call me the “Russian Judge” because I always gave the lowest scores, but make your own personal “fun scale”; I know a few agents who wouldn’t write “excellent” or “10”, but would put “totes” or “Uber Cool” on the top of their scale.

A CONTROL GROUP: Like any scientist, the only way they can prove facts is by having one group as a control group. For our example, I am talking about being consistent. An example (and I use this on EVERY ship inspection I do as well), I ALWAYS order the salmon. That is because I love it, especially when fresh, but it also gives me a great conceptual grading system relative to all the other salmon meals I have consumed on the other ships. I can really tell if the kitchen is “fully sick” or not!

Overall, you shouldn’t just have observations, but a system where you can easily compare one ship to another in an easy, visual way, even a Spreadsheet set out in a nice, balanced manner can do the job. A good template means everything is covered, it doesn’t take long (10 minutes here and there), and if done well, you have a clear conscious to spend the rest of your downtime in peace with contentment. If you have read to this point in the article, you’re probably in the highest 5% of potentiality of agents. If you actually take action, you will be in the top 1% of performers!