ESPRESSO dramatically reduces the steps needed to make a booking—to five, according to RCI's Vicki Freed, svp sales, trade support and service.
'This will help agents focus more on customers than their screens,' predicted Celebrity's Dondra Ritzenthaler, svp sales, who called ESPRESSO 'innovative and sexy.'
There is no cost to agents. ESPRESSO's development is part of the $100m, five-year commitment the company made to travel partners in 2012.
The system, developed from agent feedback, has 'a whole new look and feel' and is optimized for tablets, giving agents the freedom to engage their clients whenever, wherever they are, noted Azamara's Ellen Bettridge, vp sales and marketing.
Millennials want to be engaged, Freed said, so an effective way to sell them cruises is by using tablets to involve them in the research and booking. Similarly, ESPRESSO is expected to appeal to next-generation agents. It can be used on any device.
Agents log in to Cruisingpower.com to launch ESPRESSO. Search parameters include ship, destination and departure date. Results are categorized by sailing, cruise-tour packages and promotional fares. A sidebar lets the agent continually refine the search.
A new interactive deck plan clearly indicates available staterooms and gives details and photos of the room with a simple click or touch. Plus, agents can search for 'closest to' rooms and wait-list a specific stateroom. Up to four staterooms can be selected without switching screens.
ESPRESSO also provides side-by-side comparisons of itineraries with pricing and available promotions—a huge agent request, Ritzenthaler said. Agents can compare individual pricing and inventory against group space.
They can make a booking using their client's loyalty number, which automatically populates information in required fields. Or, if they don't know the loyalty number, they can search for the client. Their cruising history is displayed, along with the promotions they've been sent.
To review a booking, agents can find it using a word or two, such as the client's last name or the ship name, triggering a predictive search tool to find the record.
If a travel partner needs help, they can choose an automation support desk for live chat or request a call.
'We service our partners the way they want to be serviced,' Freed said.
Sales executives from the Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara teams will be going on the road in February and March to train agents in South Florida, New York, Chicago, Toronto, Dallas and Los Angeles. Each session lasts four hours. Plus, agents can take 90-minute webinars.
Freed and Ritzenthaler assured ESPRESSO is so intuitive to use that extensive training isn't required, but said the sessions will help agents become adept.
Some 2,500 agents are expected to get in-person training, and Royal Caribbean has purchased tablets to use on-site for this purpose, while 1,000 to 2,000 more retailers are targeted for the webinars. 'Our goal is to reach 20,000 travel agents,' the number the brands interact with regularly, Ritzenthaler said.
It was decided there was no need to incentivize agents to use ESPRESSO.
'It's such a benefit to them,' Ritzenthaler explained, adding: 'It's an amazing tool. It will help them make more money.'