How cruise lines can navigate to higher revenue for the 2013-2014 season

Turn more shoppers into buyers in your customer contact centers

By Bob Davis

cruise line call center sales growth

I wrote about this subject back in 2011, and the time has come to bring it to mind again looking toward the 2013-2014 season. Here’s the story: The call came into a cruise line’s customer contact center. The caller, an older man, was having trouble navigating the company’s web site. He wanted to know how to select the best stateroom to suit his needs. The agent was very knowledgeable, competent and enthusiastic.  She answered all of his questions, yet she asked very few questions of her own. Believe it or not, she did not even get the caller’s contact information!  Although the customer was more than happy with the help, to the agent this call represented just another shopper who might buy—and then again might not.

My firm, Robert C. Davis and Associates ( has been working on customer contact center effectiveness projects for years, and few have represented more promise than the effort to turn shoppers into buyers in the cruise line industry. Yet as the industry continues to make the transition from dealing mostly with travel agents to dealing with consumers, the skill-sets required to make this transition are lacking in most customer contact centers.

The first step – taking control of the call

The first step in turning shoppers into buyers is to take control of the call. The person asking the questions is in control. Use a transition phrase such as, “I would be happy to help you navigate our web site. So I can see what you are seeing, please tell me, which trip you are looking to take?” Let’s say the customer replies that he wants to take The Caribbean cruise. “The Caribbean cruise? That is so great! Have you ever been before?” Now the agent is in control of the conversation.

Using The Quality Conversation

I have written extensively on customer contact center agents holding what we call Quality Conversations with  potential customers. One of the hallmarks of a Quality Conversation—and a critical difference between a customer service call and a sales call—is making an emotional connection with the customer. Use questions such as, “Are you celebrating something special with this cruise?” or “What was the best part of your last Caribbean vacation?” The customer will reply with something like, “Well, we really enjoyed seeing a double rainbow between the Pitons at sunset as the ship pulled out of port in Castries, St. Lucia.” At this point, you will have made that emotional connection.

It is also essential to qualify the customer for time and commitment. Every caller represents a certain level of opportunity. Quality questions will help uncover how much opportunity each customer brings you, and how immediate that opportunity could be. Ask questions like, “When are you planning your next vacation?” or “When do you plan to make your decision on this trip?” These questions are critically important because the answers let the agent know where the customer stands in the buying process.

Understanding the customer’s buying process

Additionally, agents must understand the customer’s buying process. To do so, ask questions like:

  • “How long have you and your wife been considering this cruise?”
  • “What other cruise lines are you considering?”
  • “What do you like most about our cruise line? What do you like the least?”
  • “How will you go about making your selection process?”

Many agents try to avoid these questions because they like to avoid conflict. But these questions are an essential part of the Quality Conversation—and turning shoppers into buyers—because they show customers that the agent is genuinely interested in them. Agents who ask these questions show that they’re on the customers’ side and want what is best for each customer.

Overall, I define the Quality Conversation as a meaningful and mutually rewarding dialog that occurs when a person takes and clearly conveys a genuine interest in another individual’s wants, interests and needs. It goes beyond building rapport to make an emotional connection and establish real trust. And The Quality Conversation is essential for any cruise line  that wants to turn shoppers into buyers  in the customer contact center.

To learn more about the Quality Conversation—and the results it has driven for companies across a full spectrum of industries—visit and for more information.

Call me today at 678-548-1775 or email to arrange a free consultation on how RCDA can help you drive revenue dramatically higher by turning more shoppers into buyers.