Five lessons on working with purpose

This is the first time in a year that I have had no internet. I struggled with it at first, but the time ‘unplugged’ has proven to be most valuable. I brought one book along on this trip – Inspired Inc (which I consumed with fervour) – is full of lessons on working with purpose. What I did most in my free ‘air time’ was reflect, explore and discover why I spend my energy where I do.

Please forgive me if this post is a little self-indulgent. I do realise that in the last year or so I have not been blogging as regularly, and I wondered why. I am definitely still learning. I am deeply curious. Yet I have also discovered that I need space and time away from the every day to observe. I race a lot from project to project, and it leaves little time to stop and reflect.

In the last few years since creating the Big Red Group with business partner David Anderson, it has been all hands-on-deck. Facing the ship forward (oh there will be lots of boating puns in this post); establishing our evolved sense of purpose; aligning one the team on shared values. As well as updating systems, processes… and the pursuit of relentless and consistent execution.

I am energised by this sense of purpose ‘To shift the way people experience life’.

During this trip cruising Alaska, I have spent a lot of time observing how the cruise line runs its business. And I realised there is much for me (and perhaps other businesses) to learn from this cruising experience.

From the moment we boarded the ship I could see business lessons unfolding in front of me, in almost every interaction with the onboard team…

Lesson 1: Empower everyone on the team to enhance the customer experience – know the product intimately.

The boat is big, housing thousands of guests. Yet every point of contact was personalised. We had booked experiences for each of the ports, and there were reminders, offers of upgrades and additional options presented by the crew at every opportunity. The real-time booking system meant that a barman or attendant – anyone on the ‘team’ – could quickly alter or change a booking or reservation on our behalf. No questions asked. Personal reminder cards and a personalised app with all our restaurant and activity bookings meant we knew exactly what we were doing and when. Each team member seemed to live by the philosophy that it was his or her job to make sure everything was perfect for us.

Lesson 2: Bundled products make it easier for the customer – know the customer really well.

During our first lunch (and interaction with a team member), a charming well-trained waiter responded as we ordered a drink, whispering, “I can give you five beers for the price of four because you are my first customer on this cruise”. And then he jested that every customer was like his first. Now whilst the cynics amongst you would say, “You’ve been supersized”, here is the truth… We were likely to drink more than five beers in seven days. I reflected that our waiter also appeared to have the authority to be himself, show some personality, and ultimately ‘close the sale’ and make us feel special. The bundle made it easier for us.

Lesson 3: Building anticipation and connection – Did you want the photo with that?

In our room, there were a few extra touches like flowers and champagne, offered after we booked the trip. Throughout the two months prior to our journey, there were different services, experiences and activities offered – ensuring we were excited about our forthcoming adventure. This included booking shore activities, and then after they were booked, checking that we had all that we needed for that day… “Did you want a photo?” My husband (always the romantic, which they must have realised), had even arranged for chocolate strawberries to be delivered in the evening of our first day. It instantly elevated the experience of my first cruise.

Lesson 4: Deals close the sale.

There were bundles and offers throughout the week which I have mentioned – but how and when they were offered made the difference. We had booked a spa treatment before leaving home – but once there another upgraded deal was presented by the technician: One massage turned into two, and a blowdry into a hair treatment and a facial. This might have appeared as a ‘hard sell’, but I liked the way that the team were maximising the experience for us, as well as making sure they were fully booked. It showed they were running a business within a business that people really value. They were intentional about the success of the cruise too.

Lesson 5: Future sell – and stay connected.

Two days before the end of the cruise we received more personalised special offers, videos and recommendations for what we could do next with the cruise company. “It is always good to plan and have something to look forward to”, they said. “We have personal consultants on board to help find the next holiday for you,” inferring that we were now part of the cruising ‘family’. And (of course) there was a financial benefit for booking early too.

Is this too much? Is it oversell? Or is it a business that is predictive and looking to individually serve each customer how they want to be served?

As soon as I opened my laptop back in the world of Wi-Fi, pretty much the first email was a customer survey about the cruise… and there must have been 100 questions on every aspect of the trip. I filled it all in, as I am curious to know if that data will be used to serve me an even more customised experience in the future.

My experience was seamless I was on holiday, and I trusted this business to deliver the right thing at the right time. And while I suspect there is a very fine line between trust, service and ‘being a bit weird about what they know’, the customer experience was impeccable.

I also looked up the company’s mission when I returned to Wi-Fi. I did not see it printed anywhere on board, and I was curious….

The purpose:

Through excellence we create once-in-a-lifetime experiences, every time.

I believe that each team member did his or her bit in bringing this mission to life… working with purpose is truly powerful, but it is most impactful when it filters through consistently to every single part of the business – especially the customer.


Also published on Medium.

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