Who’s Your Cruise Director?

by: Doug Michaelides

When I was a kid, on the rare occasion that the family would eat at McDonald’s, I remember my Dad marveling not at the food, but at the efficiency of the hamburger production line.  This made quite an impression on my young mind since I’m now an avid observer of business systems, particularly in the service sector.

So it wasn’t unusual for me to ask a colleague who recently returned from a family vacation, “What did you learn about business from Disneyland?” (He looked at me strangely and muttered something about “Goofy”).  And when I went on my first cruise vacation, I enjoyed learning how a cruise ship operates.

While the ship’s captain, as “CEO”, is the most important crew-member from a navigation and safety perspective, for vacationing passengers it is the cruise director that really matters.  On my cruise, “Cruise Director Lisa” was relentlessly dedicated to ensuring that I was getting what I had paid for – a good time.

When your core value proposition is “have a good time”, it makes sense to have a senior manager responsible for ensuring it happens.  In fact, for any business it would seem wise to have an executive responsible for the customer experience.  Yet while the senior management in most companies may care about customer satisfaction, it is rare that anyone is proactively thinking about the quality of the customer experience in a structured fashion.  Maybe there’s an annual customer satisfaction survey, but generally it is assumed that clients will speak up if they are not satisfied.  Sometimes they do but sometimes they just sail off into the sunset without even saying “bon voyage”.

So why not appoint a “cruise director” in your company?  Make her responsible for documenting, monitoring and improving the value delivery system and the customer experience, especially for major accounts with which you desire profitable, long-term business relationships.  Of course she mustn’t be the only person responsible for customer satisfaction.  Everyone that touches the customer has a part to play and all managers must have customer service related objectives.  But the cruise director is the one that has her eye on the entire customer journey and coordinates cross-functional initiatives to ensure an outstanding customer experience is consistently delivered.  Because of the tight linkage between customer experience and brand, I’d be inclined to nominate the CMO for the job, but perhaps I’m biased.

Get on board with this idea to ensure better-satisfied customers, more referrals and repeat business.  After all, if your customers aren’t thinking of your company as the Love Boat, they might just start heading for the lifeboats….

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