Regent Has Innovation on Cruise Control

Sophie Vlessing describes how personalized experiences help Regent Seven Seas Cruises sail away with its customers' loyalty.

When we embarked on our mission to differentiate Regent Seven Seas Cruises to our customers, we adhered to an important principle: Merely satisfying our guests' basic needs is not sufficient in the highly competitive world of luxury travel.

We realized we needed to provide unique and personalized experiences to fulfill our guests' wishes and to strengthen their loyalty. To achieve those objectives, we listen to our customers, analyze and communicate their insights throughout our organization, deliver innovations in response to that insight, measure the results, and then we do it all over again. We remain committed to a constant cycle of innovation designed to enhance the customer experience.

Within our guest strategy and marketing department, we apply innovation to four major areas. First, we drive customer centricity across the enterprise while transforming marketing to be more personalized and relevant based on the customer insights we collect and analyze. Second, we serve as a strategic resource and service center for revenue-generating activities across sales, reservations, and planning. Third, we communicate the Regent brand message across numerous channels (in person, online, and in print) to drive demand for our company's global product portfolio. And fourth, we differentiate the Regent customer experience across touchpoints while building emotional connections with customers.

Examples of recent innovations include our Online Innovation Community, Customer Advisory Panels, Circles of Interest, and Unique Discoveries newsletter.

Through our Online Innovation Community, we invite past guests and prospects to share their impressions of our brand and their ultimate customer experiences. The Customer Advisory Panels we host on our ships during cruises, in one-to-one and group sessions. We've found that our guests are so engaged with the brand that they truly enjoy giving feedback and appreciate the opportunity to do so.

Two important customer insights emerged through those channels last year. First, we learned that our guests are willing to pay a premium for truly unique and memorable experiences. Second, we learned that our guests value camaraderie and opportunities to socialize with people who share their interests onboard. We used that guidance to design a number of marketing, service, and communications initiatives, including Circles of Interest.

While most cruise lines invite lecturers on board and offer different shore excursions, Circles of Interest offers guests the opportunity to explore destinations through a specific lens-such as food and wine; active exploration and wellness; art, design, and culture; history, archaeology, and literature; and other interest areas-that resonates with them.

An integrated set of onboard and on-shore activities are designed around those themes. For example, food and wine enthusiasts attend cooking workshops onboard through our partnership with Le Cordon Bleu schools, interact with guest chefs, and visit local wineries and restaurants at different ports.

We also integrated our Circles of Interest offerings into our marketing, a move that has helped us access a new audience of prospects. Rather than sending out general cruise information to past guests and prospects, we use our customer and prospect information to suggest specific programs pertaining to their interests. Guests who expressed an interest in food and wine, for example, now receive information about that program. Our response rates have significantly increased as a result.
Our personalized marketing starts before the cruise and continues after guests return home. We send our guests a personalized photo album to help commemorate their trips. Prospects considering future cruises can visit our Web site's personalized travel planner, where the information they enter informs a customized brochure with information tailored to their interests and destination preferences, as well as a personal letter from Regent President Mark Conroy.

Our Unique Discoveries newsletter, which includes print and online (where guests can view their past transaction history) components, received gold honors at the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International Adrian Awards last year. We also were selected in 2006 as the World's Best Cruise Line in Conde Nast Traveler's Readers' Choice Awards.
The awards are only one barometer of our success. Customer feedback to our new programs has been strong, as have the metrics we track. Our customer lifetime value (CLTV) increased 6 percent from 2005 to 2006 while our Return on Customer (ROC) grew by 7 percentage points during the same period.

We're happy with the results but not content to rest on our laurels. Our approach to delivering an unmatched customer experience remains a journey, not a destination.

Contact Vlessing at