For P&O Cruises’ Senior Digital Marketing Manager James Lee the business of how customers book their cruises is paramount to his job.

In between filming the stars of Strictly on board one of P&O’s ships, and begrudgingly chatting to Sky Sports about how Pompey are performing this season, he managed to squeeze in half an hour to take part in our Call on me podcast above. Here’s a quick summary of the call. 

Working for everyone

The reasons people visit the P&0 Cruises website vary hugely. Whether it’s for inspiration, information or to actually book a cruise, the site has to work for everyone. Some people may use the website purely as a brochure and then head to a high street travel agent to book. Improved tracking and understanding these customer journeys is an area the brand is working hard to achieve.

Being human

Contact centres are really important for P&O Cruises. This is partly because of the human contact element. “There’s only so much you can get from a live chat.” says James. Some P&O guests will want questions answered about specific ships and cruises, and real conversations can offer a level of detail that’s difficult to replicate online. Within these customer calls, P&O Cruises strives for genuinely interesting conversations from their contact centres, manned with call handlers who have first-hand experience of the particular cruises on offer. How the brand connects the online customer journey to these phone calls, however, is something they admit they need to work harder on. In making that connection, they could make their phone calls more relevant, and ultimately more valuable for everyone.

Selling experiences

As a brand, P&O Cruises has unique insight into their customers. They know the type of people who will be booking certain cruises, and when, and can optimise ad spend to target them accordingly. In a competitive space, instead of purely competing on price, the brand uses the emotional hooks of cruise experiences as a differentiator. Looking to the future, this will include more VR so people can experience life on board and explore some of the destinations they will land in on these cruises. And the brand has been branching out with wider engagement, for example a competition to name their new ship to be announced in March 2018. No, don’t even consider Boaty McBoatface…

Cruise control

“The cruise industry is dynamic and fast-moving” James continues. Huge changes are happening, including the 2020 launch of P&O’s largest ship that will host a whopping 5,200 people. And by then James predicts we’ll see some big developments with the likes of chat bots and voice search, but he concedes that the human touch will likely always trump Digital.

You can also hear James at the Travel Marketing Conference on 28 September, where ResponseTap will also be speaking.