By City Cruises MD, Kyle Houghton
Providing our customers with an excellent experience has always been at the heart of how we operate at City Cruises. Our river boat sightseeing and dining cruises showcase the best of London during the day and night in comfortable surroundings with great commentary and on board facilities. We wear our “No 1 Sightseeing Tour Operator” badge with pride.
All of us a City Cruises know we have a fantastic product portfolio. We remain a family run business and have been providing services for nearly 30 years. In the last five years we have grown our operation, investing in new boats, new products (the latest being a night time Indian-buffet cruise), new offers with our high-speed RIB ride ThamesJet, and have moved outside London for the first time with our City Cruises Poole operation, which is also expanding.
Customer Centric Training
However, as we all know, great service comes from more than just having a great product. It is about the feelings we evoke in our customers when they book a trip with us. It’s about the welcome they get from the moment they first click on our website, to the greeting they receive on board, the at-table service they enjoy, and the goodbye and follow-up at the end of their time with us. It’s about the people we employ and the relationships they build with the public.
Being customer centric is vital to the entire City Cruises culture and team. We therefore ensure our external and internal training programmes instil this value in all team members. We know that our people are the public face of our company and in many ways our people are the public face of London. What they experience with us may well colour their perception of the capital, so it is even more important we deliver, and deliver with excellence. This is not something we take lightly.
Alongside health and safety (not insignificant on a water-based operation), systems management and wider job training, we also focus very specifically on what excellent service looks and feels like, on meeting customer expectations (and the complexities of a hugely international customer base), on communication, delivering brilliant moments and creating lasting memories.
But, what is the point of brilliant customer experiences on board a world class product if a large majority of our visitors are only, as a result of being tourists in London, one time guests? Yes we do as much as we can to ensure they revisit and we ensure they are aware of the full range of options we have for them to try during their stay, but the fact remains that these are in many ways transient customers, in our hands for very short periods of time.
Our focus over the last 18-months – two years has been to turn fleeting visitors into brand advocates. In fact, not only turn them into advocates, but turning them in to tangible advocates – ones we can see and track the impact of.
Garnering Brilliant Reviews
And we have done this by tuning into, and switching on, some key review sites. We welcome being rated and we welcome our customers commenting on how we are performing, because we know we have the systems in place to deliver a world class experience.
We also understand that this is precisely the sort of granular information customers need when they make their booking choices. Studies in the last two years have shown that 80% of travellers read up to 12 reviews before making a booking (PhocusWright 2013) and 84% make purchases after reading about a produce or a service on a blog (Research Now 2014). It is therefore more important than ever to be positively represented in the large array of review sites available throughout the globe.
So in addition to the more traditional methods of providing clear mechanisms to feedback customer comments, such as a dedicated email address and profile pages on TripAdvisor for all of our products, we are proactive and also actively encourage our customers to rate us using Feefo, a truly independent feedback tool. Feefo issues an email to all of our customers with a simple tool that ranks both product and service and an optional free text field. This provides an overall ranking for the product and provides our customers with a transparent method to quickly rate their experiences and review others without having to upload a review on a site where they may or may not have a profile.
Good Reviews Lead to Success
And it is paying clear dividends. 2014 was a successful year for City Cruises in terms of customer satisfaction results, with nearly 97% saying they would recommend us to friends and family. As well as seeing record-breaking summer and winter seasons, the company recorded above average customer satisfaction scores, a survey completed in June 2015 delivered a record NPS score moving from 7.3 to 9.5, scores that brands such as Audi and Apple regularly achieve.
The company also recently received an overall member rating of 100% from trade partner Travelzoo, became a Feefo Trusted Merchant, and was awarded a TripAdvisor 2014 Certificate of Excellence.
In addition to regular field surveys and mystery shopper exercises we also welcome bloggers on board, and canvass (and share) their truthful opinions
By focusing on customer service, and training for excellence; encouraging all our customers, but especially visitors to London, to review their experience with us and by linking these back to our website and tracking bookings we have created an army of “one time visitor” advocates. We no longer put our blind faith in word-of-mouth, but know that by capturing people’s reactions, we can harness them and boost our business.
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Managing Director of City Cruises
Kyle Haughton joined City Cruises in 2011 as Managing Director. Before that he was with First Choice Holidays, BAA, Sunway and Redwing Holidays. Kyle’s experience spans innovative strategic business, brand strategy and customer service engagement.
He is an experienced, approachable and well-connected travel industry business practitioner working in a variety of complex business environments with multiple stakeholder demands.