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At sea, technology takes guest services to a whole new level

Passengers want to share their cruise expectations and experiences PHOTO: MSC Cruises
Technology is transforming guest services on board cruise ships, while the power of social media is helping lines monitor and improve guest satisfaction.

‘The ship offerings are now so rich and varied we need to help guests understand what services are available to them and this can be achieved via online platforms,' MSC Cruises CEO Gianni Onorato said during a Seatrade Cruise Global talk on innovation.

Onorato cited the need to accommodate all the expectations of different customers by adding more features to improve the experience.

Wayfinding, customized communications, booking services

Technology also can be used to address common issues such as removing bottlenecks in popular areas at busy times, helping people find their way around the ship and to make the most of their experience on board.

The MSC For Me app was launched in June 2017 and it’s now on the majority of MSC ships. It will be going into newbuilds and is being retrofitted into legacy ships.

‘We can notify customers of activities. It’s a customized way of communicating with the guest. Crews can also have access to guest information to help book services,’ Onorato added.

Further, MSC is embracing technology to attract millennials by integrating Zoe, a voice-enabled virtual personal cruise assistant, which just debuted on the new MSC Bellissima.

‘In the future we can expect to see the cruise industry embracing robotics, artificial reality and virtual reality. The Internet of things will come to play a significant role in guest services along with a big focus on ensuring a stable and rapid Internet connection with the right level of bandwidth,' Onorato said.

At a separate Seatrade Cruise Global panel on social media, Luca Pronzati, chief information officer, MSC Cruises, said artificial intelligence can be used to 'create greater efficiency with staffing systems. It can be used to allocate staff. If they have delivered well they can be put back into a similar role. This goes a long way to ensuring the customer experience.'

Social media key to customer satisfaction

The power of social media is being recognized by the cruise industry as guests look to share their experiences on board via digital platforms. This also gives operators the opportunity to carefully monitor guest feedback and look for ways to improve their service offering.

Mobile technology allows cruise ship operators to track the flow and monitor the visitor journey for friction points. It can be used to improve the guest experience to a higher degree, said Ole-Kristian Siversten, SVP growth & transformation executive, Global Eagle.

‘Guests pay a lot of money for cruises and so want to share their expectations and experiences. Digital platforms help achieve this,’ Pronzati said.

‘If a guest has a good or bad experience on board, they are far more likely to post it on social media networks, so cruise ship operators need to monitor this feedback to ensure customer satisfaction,’ he added. ‘Digital media can be filtered through and the content pooled to pinpoint negative issues.’

Cruise ship operators have the opportunity to ‘utilize social media by creating selfie moments around the ship that are not disruptive to services,’ Pronzati pointed out.

Balancing human interaction and technology

‘Analytics can be used to encourage shore excursion bookings. Products can be offered in line with guest interests, or recommendations can be offered based on their interests,' he continued. 'There needs to be a balance between human interaction and technology to help understand guests better and to better serve them.'

Connectivity at sea is more important than ever, but satellite technology is expensive, noted Ole-Kristian Silversten, SVP growth & transformation executive, Global Eagle.

Yet it's the enabling factor behind the connected experience. Satellite technology has been costly, but pricing has come down for on-board Internet connection, according to Greg Ross-Munro, CEO, Sourcetoad.

‘The richness of experience we enjoy on our mobile devices will just keep increasing so on-board connectivity is paramount,’ he added.