Cruise Planners Conference: New Tools and Updates

Brian Shultz Cruise Planners 2018 Editorial Use Only Photo by Cruise Planners mid-year conference
Left to right, Michelle Fee, Brian Shultz and Vicky Garcia donned race car attire to show Cruise Planners franchise owners and agents how to "Take it to the Maxx" during the group's mid-year conference at Port Everglades, FL, last week.

With more responsive design, CP Maxx, the new proprietary booking and customer relationship management (CRM) tool for Cruise Planners franchises, has already increased the agents' engagement with Cruise Planners' headquarters (called Home Office) by 22 percent.

That's compared with engagement rates posted with the previous eRez system it replaced in December 2017. 

Now fully deployed, CP Maxx is much faster too, said Brian Shultz, chief information officer, Cruise Planners, in talking to agents attending "Taking It to the Maxx," the mid-year convention of Cruise Planners at the Broward County Convention Center at Port Everglades, FL, last week.  

Agents can read Travel Agent's initial story on the CP conference, covering kick-off remarks by Michelle Fee, CEO and co-owner/founder, and Vicky Garcia, co-owner and COO. Cruise Planners said it had record 2017 sales and that the first four months of 2018 were trending much higher. 

Revving Things Up 

Sporting a motorsports race driver's suit, Shultz said CP Maxx took two years to develop and more than 10,000 man hours to create. An agency advisory board helped with ideas and testing the prototype, and a full beta test over a six-week period was open to all CP franchisees.

"In racing terms, we like to think of technology as the engine in your car and the technology tools that we build will help your business run smoothly and efficiently," he told the agent audience. He outlined many new enhancements that either have been made or are on the horizon.

Now fully deployed, CP Maxx now supports more types of travel and can be used on either a desktop, mobile phone or tablet. Reservations are no longer based on the type of travel, but rather are vendor based.

The system's dashboard now can be personalized to the agent's own style with a "dashboard 'sort' of panels" for the home screen. Links can be customized, and there are new reports.  

New CP Maxx reports show which clients are currently traveling, which have recently returned and what the agency's volume is by vendor. These reports can be filtered by payment type and type of travel.

Fee said she was most excited by a new Hot Lists feature: "For a long time we’ve been coaching you to run reports, run reports...but then it hit us, ‘why don’t we do it for them."

Now the new "Hot Lists," a one-click solution, has been added to both the Dashboard and as a new report within the reports section of CP Maxx. Agents can click to show milestone anniversaries, milestone birthdays or which clients haven't purchased travel recently.

Clients who haven't booked will show up in a future Hot List, so agents can re-engage with them.

Other recent CP Maxx enhancements include the new Hotel Comparison, so an agent can send clients a comparative feature showing six different hotels.

A new Cruise Modification function allows guests to change certain aspects of the reservation including the cabin, category and names of passengers tied to the booking.  ​​​​​

New in Sales & Marketing

To dovetail with the new Hot Lists, CP's marketing department has created e-Cards that match up with those if clients wish to send personalized cards. 

In the reports section of CP Maxx, agents can also take bulk actions, such as sending e-Cards to everyone on their list and so on.

While Hot Lists have only been out a month, "we're overwhelmed so far to the response to this tool," said Shultz. More than 6,500 e-Cards have been created from the Hot Lists.

In discussing branding, client engagement and promotion, Garcia told the audience, "Sales and marketing are your tires because without tires what happens? You're not going anywhere."

She also said branding with American Express and Big Blue Box were invaluable to agents in making the brand bigger and that, in turn, helps agents grow their businesses. 

So what's newly launched? New marketing tools include stronger analytics, new Spanish language marketing materials, personalized travel deals – which provide higher click-through rates – loyalty reward gift cards, and Alexa; they've all launched this year.

What's Your Travel Style?: CP also just launched "‘What’s Your Travel Style?’” said Garcia: “We have the data. We know what your customers have bought...What we don’t know is what your customer wants to do on vacation.”

She said that resides in the client's heart and mind, and isn't something a company can buy. So CP recently developed a new electronic survey about such topics as art, the beach, budget, culture, entertainment, family, food, golf, land, spa, shopping and more.

Clients complete a "What's Your Travel Style" survey, and then they'll receive more targeted marketing.

Also, with an incentive campaign running now through June 30, agents can help their clients potentially win a $500 American Express Rewards gift card and the agent could win a $250 gift card.

In just three weeks, 5,000 clients have filled out the survey. The information captured in it will help agents better target their marketing to the individual client. "Data is power," Fee emphasized.

Post-Cruise Welcome Home Trigger E-mail: Agents typically send emails to clients after they return home, asking them about the voyage. But "we felt like we were missing one more selling opportunity," said Fee, so now agents have a new post-voyage "welcome home trigger email" sent out five days after clients return home.

What's different? It will provide the client with post-cruise offers from six cruise companies -- Carnival Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises, Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Viking Cruises -- that as a policy will (for a limited time) match what the client might have paid in the future cruise office onboard their recent cruise, including any incentives.

Michelle Fee, co-owner and CEO, told the agents that not all cruise lines offer this, but some do, and "we are going to entice them one more time with a post-voyage offer." 

So after five days and after clients have settled back into home life, sorted through all their e-mail, paid bills and are back into their normal daily routine, the trigger e-mail about those offers hits them at the right time -- when they're back in the swing of things and still savoring their recent cruise memories. 

Fee said they're robust offers, such as onboard credits, upgrades or sometimes 50 percent off the deposit. 

New Video Marketing Partnership: “We all know the importance of video and how video marketing should be a part of the overall marketing mix,” said Garcia. CP already offers Video Network, in which agents are sharing their personalized videos on social social media or videos are even clickable online on the agent’s e-mail signature.

But now, based on trends that show video is king, Garcia says "we've actually partnership with our friends at Trifecta with a new video marketing program." 

Agents who sign up get five personal videos, lead generation tools, hands-on marketing tools and help in choosing a marketing budget. 

Garcia stressed the power of You-Tube, noting that it's the second largest search engine on the Web, and "you're missing out if you're not participating in You-Tube." 

She also said social media posts are expected to go the way of nearly all video in just five years: "Forget the boring posts we're all doing. It's going to be all video soon."

More New Agent Tools

Agents who maximize their business will efficiently maximize their profits, and here are some additional new CP tools to help agents do just that.  

New Trip Summary Platform: Shultz briefed the agents about a new trip summary platform with longer dynamic view, custom themes and step-based components as well as a flight look-up tool.

New Air Consolidator Fares: Still in development is another integrated tool for CP Maxx, the new GMT (Global Marine Travel) air consolidator that will provide contracted airfares for cruise passenger.

For example, a flight from Fort Lauderdale to Barcelona in published business class air would be $10,800, but only $9,600 via this new consolidator air tool. Agents can also buy published air through them for any trip as well.

By buying the consolidated air, the trip is integrated between air/cruise and the airfare is commissionable to agents. Agents also get 24-7 support.

Redesign of Agent websites: “We’re also making progress in the redesign of your websites,” Garcia told the agents. “We’ve selected a design firm and we’re moving to a new platform." It won't be a one-size-fits-all solution, and it will incorporate lead generation technology.

Directory Listings and Reputation Management: “Fifty-three percent of consumers contact a business within 48 hours of doing an online search, yet 18 percent of businesses have missing or incorrect phone numbers," Garcia said. 

"Even worse, almost half are completely wrong," she stressed. So CP is partnering with Sproutloud for assistance in directory listings and reputation management. Part one of the new partnership will help agents update and maintain accurate business listings. 

That will help CP agents "get found" and increase sales. In addition, the project will address reputation management – how to circulate positive reviews and to respond to ones that are not so positive.

Statistics show that moving a travel agency from a four-star to five-star rating could increase the sales coming from those directories by 20 percent.

CP will use enhanced Google My Business to capture reviews on business profiles across 60 such sites, so agencies can monitor the reviews, respond appropriately and have the potential for earning higher revenue.

CP Home Office Team Cruise Planners Photo by Cruise Planners Editorial Use Only

Shown in the photo above are the Home Office executive team for Cruise Planners. Left to right are: Dan Hicks, VP of franchise sales; Scott Koepf, VP of strategic development; Vicky Garcia, COO and co-owner; Tom Kruszewski, co-owner and chief financial officer; Michelle Fee, CEO, co-owner and founder; Matt Kruszewski​, VP of finance; Brian Shultz, chief information officer; and Theresa Scalzitti, VP of sales and marketing. 

New Intranet Platform: Fee said the organization heard the agents loud and clear that eSource, CP's existing Intranet technology tool, makes it a challenge to find the right information. So CP is currently developing a new Intranet platform, CP Genie, launching on May 15.

Expected to be more user friendly, it will "cut the clutter," says Fee. A one-stop shop for agents in search of information from CP's home office, it will show many new features in partnership with American Express, such as a global search function, special sales, partner resources, an image gallery and more.

CP Genie will also allow agents to personalize their home page experience and share ideas with clients on updates they may be interested in. Agents can also tap into blog posts and notifications.

When Fee announced that CP Genie also will be usable on mobile devices for one-stop communications from CP headquarters, the agents applauded.

American Express New Card Acquisition: For clients who don't have an American Express card, there will soon be a new card acquisition incentive program with instant processing available through Cruise Planners agents. .

Once the customer goes to a secure paid link (which the agent just forwards - not getting involved with the application) and is approved, the agent will get an incentive as well. Fee said more details are to come. 

Digital Destination Guides: Another new tool that's available now will help agents easily build hundreds of customized destination guides with interactive maps and provide them to clients.

Integrated into CP Maxx, these can be downloaded as a .pdf or agents can email them to clients and tie them to sales opportunities.

Similar guides are also in development for escorted tours. Agents will be able to bundle the destination guides, giving the client up to 10 different destination guides in one email with separate .pdfs. 

Summing It Up

Concluding with language from the conference's motorsports approach, Fee told the agents to consider the CP home office training and events team as “your windshield,” which helps agents see the business ahead, and accounting as “the fuel that keeps your engine going.”

She said business development is the “steering wheel,” helping keep agencies on track to reach their goals, while “sales and marketing are your tires, which keeps you moving forward. And technology is your engine, which keeps business running smoothly."

“Because, together we built the best car on the track, the green machine,” she stressed. “And we know that all of you are going to take your business to the max – by maximizing business, by maximizing your efficiency and by maximizing profits."

Finally, Fee closed by telling the agents that while CP strives to innovate and assist franchise agents with new programs, features and tools, “it would be meaningless if it wasn't for you... the driver behind behind the wheel."

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