A Customer Service Disaster

The tragedy associated with Costa Concordia’s crash off the Italian island of Giglio is one of epic proportions.  The more than a dozen passengers that have perished, the others still missing, and the trauma faced by those that safely fled the cruise ship, combined with the news reports of potential negligence on the part of the ship’s Captain, makes this voyage one that will live in infamy.

As a person who has been on seven cruises, with my first being on the Costa Riviera back in 1986, this tragic accident really gave me pause to think of how often I have taken for granted the safety drills conducted by these cruise ships I’ve sailed on.  Thousands of people each week are told to report to their muster stations on the first day of the cruise, most of the time before the ship leaves port.  This August, I sailed on a Carnival ship from New York, leaving one day before Hurricane Irene hit.  Our Captain instructed us we would veer 300 miles east to avoid the major impact of the storm. Even so, that next day at seas was the roughest I’ve ever experienced on a cruise ship.  Carnival did a good job of keeping passengers informed and I must say when we underwent the muster drill, I paid extra attention, knowing we were facing riskier conditions at sea.

Despite the misfortune of the Costa Concordia, I have not been deterred from cruising and I look forward to scheduling one in the next year or so. However, it certainly will not be with Costa, which is owned by Carnival Corporation.

How this company has responded to this crisis has rewritten the textbook on how not to do customer relations.  Just over the past day, the company announced it was not going to offer full refunds to the passengers of the ship but was going to provide a 30% discount for future cruises.  Below is an excerpt from a Gawker.com story, which cites a news story in the British Telegraph newspaper:

Those passengers fortunate enough to survive last week’s cruise ship disaster will be happy to know that their next seafaring vacation will come at a reduced cost. Costa Cruises spokespeople confirmed to the Telegraph that, “The company is not only going to refund everybody but they will offer a 30 per cent discount on future cruises if they want to stay loyal to the company.”

As the Telegraph story states correctly, this offer is an insult to these poor people that have been traumatized by the ineptness and negligence of their ship’s officers.  Eventually, law suits as deep as the Mediterranean are certain to abound.

Is this what Costa management should be offering?  What are they doing on other ships to reinforce ship safety?  They should be out front with new safety initiatives as they deal with this crisis, not insulting passengers with a 30% offer on a future cruise.  These are individuals that are thankful for being alive, let alone getting on another ship.

Costa should show humility and make sure they not only get to the bottom of what truly happened, but make sure these passengers are cared for, receive whatever they need to get home safely and ensure that they provide whatever resources it takes to ensure there is no environmental disaster off the Italian coast.

Costa’s customer service right now should be focused and committed to the safety of its passengers. That’s all. Forget about marketing cruises.  The survival of their busieness is at stake and how they deal with safety is crucial to whether anyone will book a future cruise with them again.

Instead of embarrassing themselves further they should take a page out of what Royal Caribbean’s CEO and President has done.

I have only cruised once on Royal Caribbean, yet I am on their email marketing list.  Today, I received the following letter from the CEO, reinforcing the company’s commitment to safety.  I thought it was a nice touch to reaching out to their consumers and outline their commitment to safety.

Dear Thomas,

All of us at Royal Caribbean International continue to extend our heartfelt sympathies to those affected by Carnival Corporation’s recent tragic incident on the Costa Concordia. As a Crown & Anchor Society member and loyal Royal Caribbean guest, we know you may have some questions as the situation continues to unfold.

At Royal Caribbean International, the safety and security of our guests and crew is our highest priority. It is fundamental to our operations. Our maritime safety record over our 42-year history illustrates our commitment to the safety of the millions of guests and crew that sail on our ships. The measures we take in the interest of safety are many, often exceeding the regulatory requirements – these are all part of our ongoing commitment to innovation and continuous improvement in every aspect of our business.

To address some of your questions and concerns, here is a video that will provide an overview of safety onboard our ships; the training of our crew, officers and captains; and the many regulations that govern our practices. Click here to watch.

As a past cruiser, we know your friends and family may be asking about your own time at sea. We hope that you’ll share this video along with your personal Royal Caribbean experiences with them, and reinforce that cruising continues to maintain the best safety record of any industry in travel.

Thank you for your continued support and we look forward to welcoming you aboard again soon on one of our ships sailing to 270 destinations worldwide.


Adam Goldstein

President and CEO

Royal Caribbean International


One Response to “A Customer Service Disaster”

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