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Joerg Schmikale | 20 August 2019

Dog on Board, or how cruise and ferry lines can add value with pre-booked services

Dog on Board, or how cruise and ferry lines can add value with pre-booked services

“Dear Mrs. Smith, thank you for having been our guest on our mini cruise,” the email begins. “Your opinion is very important to us, and we would really appreciate your feedback.”

Mrs. Smith has just come back from a two-day mini cruise. Satisfied with her trip, she gladly opens the survey that is linked within the email. The first question asks for an overall rating of the trip. On a 1-10 scale, she picks a 9: she had a very good experience. The next question asks who she travelled with, and offers three options:

1) alone

2) with family

3) with friends.

After a moment of hesitation Mrs. Smith selects option 3, “with friends”. Although, as a matter of fact, Mrs. Smith took the trip with her two pugs, Bonnie and Clyde.

Giving customers the options they desire

Bringing a dog onboard a cruise ship may not be a very frequent occurrence. However, Mrs. Smith was very happy when she discovered that the ferry line company offered this service. If she hadn’t been able to take her dogs along, she would have had to bring them to a pet pension – something she would have been hesitant to do, after a bad experience during her last vacation.

Offering this kind of service can provide consumers with added value – and a good reason to choose one operator over another one. However, welcoming pets on board brings its own set of difficulties.

So, how should companies go about it?

In most cases, the ferry company would need to provide pet owners with a special cabin on the vessel. This would create some additional costs for the ferry company – such as the need for more intense cabin cleaning, or providing a pet toilet.

When it comes to ticketing, offering passengers the option to book an extra ticket for their pets might not be the best solution. “How many adults, children and pets will be traveling?” No - that does not sound like a sensible booking option. Instead, companies could provide the option to bring pets along as an extra service, perhaps in connection with specific cabins.

Pre-booked, extra services are a great way to enrich the customer experience while at the same time adding value, and a powerful differentiator, for the company providing them.

Of course, the “extra service” option, available for a fee, may not make sense for all operators. Take a luxury cruise from Tokyo to Singapore, where travelling in the ‘Owners Suite’ can cost more than 40,000 euro per person. A guest booking a cabin for this price would expect to purchase an all-inclusive package, with premium service included. A luxury operator wouldn’t want to irritate its highest paying guests by adding extra fees for bringing a pet along. On the other hand, a two-day mini cruise on a ferry might cost just over 100 euro. In this case, it would make sense for the ferry company to offer passengers the option to add their pet as an extra, with a separate fee.

Adding value, for the customer and the company

A few years ago, Mrs. Smith went for a mini ski trip with her husband. They booked a ferry journey to Sweden for 139 euro per person. As meals were not included in their tickets, the couple pre-booked a dinner in the buffet restaurant. They had taken the trip before, so they knew that when the ship leaves the harbor, passing through the fjords towards the open sea, you can get spectacular views if you are sitting by the window. When booking their table, the Smiths made sure to select one of the just 15 out of 100 tables in the restaurant which are by the window. This required a 3 euro extra fee per person – but the amazing views made it worth the cost to the holidaying couple. And finally, to complete the dinner experience, the Smiths decided to add the extra wine package.

For the ferry company, pre-bookings can add value in multiple ways. Passengers can secure the service they want in advance, with the knowledge that it will be delivered at the right time, with no hassle (or difficult decisions) required during the journey. At the same time, pre-booking gives companies multiple options for upselling. A company might decide to keep ticket prices low, therefore selling more tickets, and still earn money with add-ons. In addition, pre-bookings enable companies to plan their staffing and purchasing more accurately, which can help reduce costs. In case of guest cancellation (of the specific service or of the whole trip), the company should have a way to post no-shows, so that staff on board can maintain a clear overview of what products are available, with updated statistical data.

Making it a unified, consistent experience

Considering all the different types of services which you can offer for pre-booking, from pets to meals to special seating, and the different parts of your business that these services can affect (purchasing, staffing and rostering, catering, and more), it makes sense to manage these services not as standalone offers, but as part of a larger value creation chain. From a technical point of view, you can get value from connecting the tools you use to book and manage these services to your other IT solutions, such as your reservation system, inventory management, customer service management, restaurant and retail store management systems, and your accounting system.

Now, if you are running all these operations with separate systems, integrating all of them might be easier said than done. Integrations can be costly and complex, and often don’t allow businesses to see what is happening in real time, as the different systems can’t communicate seamlessly. As a result, businesses are left with a plethora of systems that they need to open and check to understand what their customers desire, what they have been doing, and what is actually available in terms of products and services on offer. A unified commerce solution like LS Central would be the ideal choice for a company that wants to control its value creation chain from bookings and pre-bookings, to retail sales and food services, to financials. With a unified commerce solution, you can see what is happening across your business at all times, take smart purchasing and staffing decisions, and cut needless costs, concentrating your efforts and budget on what delivers value. 

Most importantly, you can keep track of each customer’s purchases and preferences, and use this knowledge to create experiences that put your customers at the center by delivering exactly the products, services, and offers they desire, when and where they desire them.

Would you like to know more about our unified commerce solution, and how the LS Retail solutions deliver value to ferries, cruise liners and other passenger vessels worldwide? Get in touch: our experts are ready to answer all your questions.

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