Luxury the Way You Want It

 

In Key West: I recently visited the Hyatt Key West Resort and Spa, which is a gem of a property in the heart of town. This is an intimately sized hotel that has it all, including a spa and a great pool bar and restaurant; it’s also right on the water with ready access to water sports and, of course, to Key West’s drop-dead sunsets.

 

What fascinates me most about sailing with Seabourn is the experience on board with the crew. When we traveled with them last summer, we had a sense of elation that we were amongst kindred folks who really understood us. The level of service was extremely high, yet at the same time, we felt very comfortable. The interactions were authentic and never stuffy. I had the feeling everyone else on board felt the same way, even though we were from different parts of the world and different ages.

I now know why, after speaking with Pamela Conover, president and CEO of Seabourn, who graces our cover this month. She says that the crew is trained to observe how guests interact with them and to act upon those observations. Say, for instance, a passenger indicates a preference for a more formal style of service. That is exactly what they’ll get. On the other hand, maybe a guest’s style is to joke around as they’re being served; the crew will exchange pleasantries in a more lighthearted manner to accommodate that behavior.

Observing guest preferences as they relate to food is also fascinating. Consider a bowl of nuts. If I snack on the nuts, but leave all of the cashews aside, chances are I won’t be served cashews during the cruise again.

Seabourn is delivering luxury service the way the client wants it, creating a level of customer satisfaction that can be measured by the fact that two-thirds of its passengers sail with them again within the next 18 months.

I can’t help but think that such a service philosophy, that of responding to a client’s preferences one-to-one, is what luxury travel advisors should adapt to—if they haven’t already.

Listen to how your colleagues speak to their repeat customers on the phone. Are they asking them questions about their preferences that they should already know, or are they instead at the ready, with the client’s information on their computer screen so they’re able to speak knowledgably about their travel habits? Here’s a worse-case scenario that drives the point home. I’ve used the same car service for three years, frequently and consistently, and every time I call I have to recite my full name, company, home address and phone and credit card numbers. While it’s unlikely your agency works in a similar manner, be sure it’s not even close to engaging in such behavior.

Instead, be proactive. Ensure that your travel advisors are using a knowing tone with their clients as soon as any conversation begins, such as: “I know you prefer the late seating when you cruise, and I’m confirming that you would like me to request a table for two for you by the window,” or “I know the last time you stayed in a hotel suite you weren’t happy being on a lower floor so I’ve confirmed that you’re above the 10th floor for this trip.” Then, be sure to follow through.

Taking another tip from Seabourn: Do your travel advisors adjust their styles to adapt to their clients’? Is there a chance they may come off as brash to your more formal customers or dreadfully low key to those who seem to prefer a lot of lively interaction? That’s a more complex issue, but one worth considering.

Remember, people like to do business with people who remind them of themselves. The cost of delivering luxury the way people want it can be very low. However, the profits reaped from doing just that can be very high.