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Royal Caribbean Owning it Royally

A fire on board a large cruise ship is a serious event but this story failed to erupt into a social media wildfire. There were no line-ups of passengers waiting to tell news organizations of unspeakable customer service or lack of concern for passenger’s health or safety.  The reason has everything to do with how Royal Caribbean was prepared to handle a crisis before, during and after an event such as this, and it would seem they have learned from the past mistakes of others.

According to many passengers, the crew was so well trained that people were able to remain calm and relatively well informed. When the fire was extinguished people were allowed to return to their cabins and when they docked in Freeport all passengers were told that they would be flown back to Baltimore at Royal Caribbean’s expense, that they would receive a full refund for this cruise and a 100% credit towards another one in the future.  To meet and engage with passengers when they docked in Freeport was the CEO of the company, Adam Goldstein, and other executives with Royal Caribbean.

I have had the pleasure of sharing my message on customer experience and brand building with Royal Caribbean on two occasions; once to all of their captains, engineers cruise directors, and hotel managers and, later, to their board of directors.  I was invited to speak because RCI has made a commitment to continually improve their level of customer care.  For instance their “Own It Royally” program, among other things, empowers staff at every level to take responsibility of ensuring the best experience for all passengers. 

When visiting with them I got the sense that Royal Caribbean has invested extensive training and resources to ensure things do not go wrong in the first place but, if they do, that the organization fosters a culture of taking charge,  apologizing where necessary and making it right.  Paying for charter flights, refunding fees and giving a full credit for a future cruises is expensive but Adam Goldstein and his team know that the cost that doing anything less could be significantly more in the long run.  

There were 2224 storytellers onboard the Grandeur of the Seas on May 27 and although Royal Caribbean cannot control what people say, they can certainly influence the story these passengers will tell based upon the company’s response to the crisis. I personally think RCI’s timely and caring response will save the company millions in future revenue and might have actually improved their brand in the face of a this incident. 

The stock market seems to agree with only a 10 cent/share drop in Royal Caribbean’s stock price (which has more to do with the fact that the ship will be in repairs for 6 weeks and therefore lowering earnings projections).  The fact that the story fell off the radar of mainstream media within a few days also supports that.

I believe this is a perfect example of the new relationship between consumers and companies. No business can guarantee a problem-free experience 100% of the time, but they can guarantee a caring and timely response when trouble does occur.  Today, consumers can hold responsible those companies who fail to deliver their promise with an amplified voice.  The good news is that a growing number of companies are learning that doing the right thing is always the least expensive option; this is a win for everyone.