This interview is part of our Moving Forward Blog Series, where we ask major brands how they’re adapting to changing consumer expectations from a loyalty perspective post-pandemic.
Since the CDC implemented a “No Sail Order” in mid-March for the entire cruise industry, it has given cruise companies time to examine their experience and, more importantly, listen to feedback from customers.
The “No Sail Order” is in effect through Oct. 31 so companies like Celebrity Cruises have been busy gathering information from loyal customers, hoping to start operating before year’s end.
We caught up with Andrea Shey, Director of Loyalty Marketing, Celebrity Cruises, and here’s what she had to say about:
- New consumer behavior
- Why listening to customers is even more important now
- Involving loyalty program members as Celebrity Cruises re-imagines the entire customer experience
- What customer loyalty will look like in the future
Jim Tierney: Consumers have found new behaviors during the pandemic and there has been a seismic shift toward ecommerce. How do you think these new behaviors will impact Celebrity Cruises now and after the pandemic?
Andrea Shey: These new behaviors such as shifting toward ecommerce and paying attention to health and safety protocols in everyday life will have a lasting impact for Celebrity Cruises. The new way people live their lives will shift into how they travel and vacation.
Digital and mobile capabilities will take on new meaning as we move toward minimizing touch points and creating a more seamless and efficient experience for guests, from booking their tickets to embarking on their vacations.
We’re leveraging digital platforms to integrate new health and safety practices, like physical distancing.
For example, recently we introduced a reimagined safety drill developed by Royal Caribbean Group, known as Muster 2.0.
One of the least-loved, but most important parts of a cruise vacation—the safety drill—has been transformed from a process designed for large groups of people into a faster, more personal approach that you can complete with your own travel group on your own time.
Our guest-empowering mobile app will be used to deliver scheduled arrival times, expedited boarding, digital stateroom keys, stateroom automation, and many other features crucial to new health and safety practices that require social distancing.
We’ve invested in our ecommerce platform to make every part of the user journey seamless.
With all the cruises that were suspended, we added the ability for members to redeem their Future Cruise Credits directly online without having to talk to an agent.
We also added a new ‘Loyalty Hub’ where members can get all their loyalty information in one place including their points balances, tier benefits, points required to get to the next tier, upcoming sailings, and special offers.
Jim: Listening to your customers is a top priority. How has that changed, if at all, during the pandemic?
Andrea: Listening to customers has become even more important than it was before the pandemic.
Customer preferences and feedback have always been a top priority for Celebrity Cruises. It drives everything from our deployment and services onboard to our website design and loyalty offers.
But now, we need to understand more than ever just where customers want to cruise and how they want to buy their tickets.
We need to understand how they are feeling about traveling, what it would take to get them back onboard one of our ships, and how we could make them feel safe.
Everything we are planning for our Healthy Return to Service is based on the research and guidance of our Healthy Sail Panel of leading medical and public health experts, the CDC, and our guests.
Jim: Having loyal customers is always important for brands. As brands slowly emerge from the pandemic, what are your customer loyalty goals?
Andrea: Our loyal members will be incredibly important in our post pandemic recovery. We know they can’t wait to return to cruising and the experiences they share on social media and with family and friends will go a long way to instilling confidence in others to cruise.
We are focused on bringing our loyal members back onboard in a way that is safe for them, for our crew and for the communities we visit while still providing the amazing service and vacation experience that Celebrity Cruises is known for.
Jim: How is Celebrity Cruises responding to consumer behavioral changes and how can the brand leverage these changes to attain greater loyalty?
Andrea: While we’re reimagining aspects of the Celebrity Cruise experience, we’re involving our loyal members in this change process so they can be part of the solution and know how important they are to our future.
We are being open and transparent in our communication and communicating frequently to share the latest news and progress.
Most recently we shared the recommendations of our Healthy Sail Panel–a 65-page document outlining how sailing can continue in the current environment.
I know many of our members read it from cover to cover. Once Celebrity’s specific protocols are finalized, those will be shared with members, as well.
Jim: Are there any specific changes or updates you’re planning to make to your loyalty program?
Andrea: If there’s any silver lining in the COVID-19 cloud and our subsequent pause in operations, it has given us the rare opportunity to look at things we’ve always wanted to do with our brand and figure out how to make them happen.
We’re looking at some new features and enhancements to the program. Our immediate focus is on looking at whether any of our new health and safety protocols will require some temporary or permanent changes to certain benefits and events onboard.
Jim: What do you think customer loyalty will look like in the “new” retail reality?
Andrea: Customers are going to remember how their favorite brands handled things and treated them during the pandemic, and they will remember it for years to come.
At Celebrity, our members expect us to uphold a certain standard not only when it comes to our ships, our excursions, and our dining, but also to guest, crew, and community safety.
Loyalty programs of the future will need to have “the stuff” like points, tiers, and rewards, but the soft benefits like servicing and taking the time to explain what’s happening, fair and flexible cancellation policies, and ongoing transparency will become even more important.
Jim: What is the most important thing retailers can focus on for the rest of 2020?
Andrea: How to be there for your loyalty guests when and where they need you most.
Jim: An attractive loyalty program can be a key differentiator for a brand. How can a loyalty program spark engagement and increased revenue as the country slowly re-opens?
Andrea: A loyalty program can spark engagement and increase revenue by listening to member feedback, understanding their business objectives, and marrying the two together within the confines of the new world we live in.
For example, our main point of engagement with members is when they sail, earn points, and get access to complimentary services onboard.
But we have been out of service since mid-March. None of our members are sailing or earning points. Members told us how much they miss cruising, how they wish they could still be earning points to get to the next tier and how they can’t wait to travel again.
So, we created a new program called Power Up Points where members can earn points to help them get to the next tier by participating in activities from home.
They can complete their online profile, take a quiz to learn about new ports we’ll be traveling to in 2021, participate in social media activities, or make a booking and earn points.
It gives Celebrity valuable information, gives members a chance to keep earning, and keeps members engaged with our brand.
We’re listening to our members and targeting them with personalized offers based on what they are telling us about when and where they want to sail.
We are testing new offers that always give members an edge in pricing over non-members, so they know how special and important they are to us.
We’re designing new experiences to keep members safe, but also optimizing their vacation. And members are the first to know the latest and greatest details of our return to service.
Like Andrea shared, the silver lining since the shutdown in mid-March has been the opportunity to examine the entire customer experience.
It’s given Celebrity Cruises the chance to listen to all customer feedback and use that to enhance the company’s loyalty program and total experience.
The key aspect is ensuring customers that health and safety protocols are in place.
Making sure customers feel safe about every part of the experience will go a long way toward re-engaging the company’s loyal customers on a higher level soon.