Removing stress and giving clients more than they expect: Are these keys to brand loyalty?

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crystal dining
Dining aboard Crystal Serneity

As I write this, we are on a boat in the Indian Ocean somewhere west of Reunion Island and east of Madagascar. If you don’t know these places, you would be in the majority. This is a part of the world less traveled, especially by people from North America.

Frequent readers here know that, after I grew up in Vancouver Canada, I experienced my life discoveries in Africa as a young adult, specifically Rhodesia turning to Zimbabwe in 1978-80. Outside of a brief visit to Zimbabwe five years ago, I haven’t returned, and certainly these parts are unfamiliar to my wife and 20-year-old son (though they’ve been regaled with Africa stories since they came into my life (and our son is probably the only person among his peers who knows what Cannan Banana and Bujumbura mean).

(Canaan Banana was the first Zimbabwe president. Bujumbura is the capital of Burundi in east-central Africa, a former Belgian protectorate).

In any case, about two years ago, my wife volunteered: “Let’s go to Africa,” and I set out to figure out a way to do this without putting her through unreasonable stress. We hadn’t heard about Crystal Cruises, but there was a trip from Mauritius to Cape Town, and it looked like it would take us to some interesting places in a degree of comfort.

We signed on for the trip — long in advance of the scheduled departure date.

About 20 months ago, we discovered that the same company had a Caribbean cruise, sponsored by Vivian’s university alumni association. With much less planning, we signed on for that trip.

It turned out to be an exceptionally enjoyable experience. My wife can be fussy, but she enjoyed every minute. The service staff on the boat were exceptionally accommodating and appeared to truly enjoy their work. In the “luxury cruise” market segment, gratuities and unlimited alcohol are included in the program (and there is a regular Alcoholics Anonymous meeting on the boat for those who would find the booze temptation dangerous.)

We also found during our Caribbean travels, that the company had lowered the fares and added some really strong incentives for our African travels — it seems not many people wanted this route. No problem: We were granted the extra goodies, including business class return airfare (for a modest $999 premium), with a $500 fare reduction.

And that brings us here, with more surprises. An upgrade to the “Penthouse” level, with an extra-large stateroom and butler service. The butler smooths out all the details. As an example, we decided at the very last-minute to request a “sold out” excursion; the butler arranged it with minutes to spare, and tracked us down far from our room as we were having breakfast.

Last night, as we returned to our room, we discovered a couple of jewelry box pins on our bed; we had been accorded a “milestone” category on the company’s loyalty program — which includes a $150 onboard credit, paying for that excursion we had just taken and a bit more.

Needless to say, we’re rather enjoying our rather luxurious vacation. It isn’t cheap, of course, but when we add up all the perks and goodies, it is turning into great value. And I don’t need to watch the clock as I write this post because the Internet access is unlimited and free.

Yes, you may say, this is a wonderful cruise but what does the experience tell us about construction marketing?

waterfront mauritius
The waterfront in Mauritius

I’m becoming a brand ambassador for Crystal Cruises. This puts me into the “10” in the Net Promoter Score category. And if you can achieve that level of client satisfaction in your business, you’ll undoubtedly reap the rewards –including positive (and totally free and unsolicited) publicity and word-of-mouth recommendations.

How did Crystal do this:

  1. They got the basics right. If you are cruising, you want a clean and comfortable room, good food, and entertainment/experiences.
  2. They delivered more than they promised, and we had any reason to expect. Clearly the suite upgrade helped, but I wasn’t expecting a few bonus points on the company’s loyalty program; and
  3. The company created a culture where every employee — whether it be housekeeping, maintenance, marine, or food service — found enjoyment in the work, and shared the enthusiasm and respect with the paying clients.

Can you achieve the same levels of client service/value within your own business? I can’t easily answer that question because I believe I have failed to reach these levels in my own enterprise.

That’s okay. We cannot expect perfection. But I will respect really good work when I see it. Indeed, in this context, a vacation in a remote part of the world can provide insights that have value much closer to home.

Care. Go beyond the basics. Surprise with wonderful excess. And you’ll enjoy the magic of brand loyalty. And these are the keys to marketing success.

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