ONSITE: CWT Aims to Elevate Customer Experience


Schaumburg, IL--On the first day of its national meeting, held at the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel & Convention Center, Carlson Wagonlit Travel for the first time unveiled its "Project Transformation" strategy to the public, which--as its name suggests--proposes to revolutionize the interaction between agents and clients by enhancing the customer experience.

"Today is a whole new ball game, though the faces may be the same," said Don Kennedy, senior director of business and franchise development for CWT. "We don't just want a satisfied customer, we want a loyal customer." The first phase of CWT's plan went underway in 2006, after the principles of the strategy were discussed exclusively with its agents at last year's national meeting.

Project Transformation consists of four components, which include an upgraded consumer web site; the Excursion Society, CWT-exclusive private shore excursions for premium cruise customers; the Carlson Wagonlit Travel Certified Travel Specialist program, a 195-credit professionalism program; and a personalized travel planner that agents can send to customers which encompasses a personalized thank you from the agent to the client, route maps and detailed itinerary information, among other things.

The idea behind Project Transformation is to do for travel what Starbucks did for coffee, Roger Block, executive vice president for CWT's associate division, told a room full of roughly 900 travel agents-the agency's largest national meeting attendance yet-during the general session late Thursday. "People are happy to pay five times more for the convenience and experience" of Starbucks-branded and store-bought coffee, Block said. "We've got to get to the point where travelers rely on us for the best experience."

Carlson Wagonlit executives also discussed at length the revamping of its brand, its updated direct mail pieces and the advent of the Excursion Society, certification program and the personalized travel planner, which officially debuts on Monday and currently covers 145 ships, 11 regions and 110 ports of call. "As you can see," said Kennedy, "Project Transformation is a cross functional approach."