P&O Cruises: agents are ‘absolutely critical’ to our success

The sales boss at P&O Cruises has pledged to “leave no stone unturned” in his drive to improve relationships with travel agents.

The cruise line has come under fire from agents in the past for its direct sales promotions and long hold times for its call centre.

Rob Scott, vice-president of sales, marketing and brand at P&O Cruises, told a Travel Weekly webcast: “Our view is agents are absolutely critical to our success in the future.

“We’re absolutely focused on enhancing the tools and the relationships we have with agents.

“We have work to do in our direct channels, and they’re not replacing agents, we just have work to do to improve those as well.”

Scott took over from sales and marketing head Alex Delamere-White in May, with new additional responsibility for multi-channel guest communication and travel trade relations.

Now that cruise operations have resumed, he said the company needs to “get back out and start to rebuild some of those relationships face-to-face…to support agent recovery”.

“Over the next 18 months, it is about truly what we can do to help our partners rebuild their business as well, because we are so entwined in the success,” he told the webcast.

Although the cruise line did lose staff amid the pandemic, Scott said it continued with marketing such as Facebook live events for key launches and its Shine Rewards Club.

He said P&O Cruises has kept frontline agents engaged with the brand and worked “one-to-one” with larger agencies about training and other issues.

“We haven’t always got it right; we’ve had to make some difficult decisions, usually in response to guidance,” he admitted.

“We’re always striving to get better at that. We hear agents say it’s difficult to contact us, or our guests saying it is quite hard at times – so we’re investing in our contact centre [and] we created a dedicated line for agents.”

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He said more staff were added to the contact centre during August and September and more efficient technology will be implemented in 2022.

Furthermore, he is looking at resources for the sales team and online training tools.

“I’d love to be in a position to put more boots on the street. That will take time as we start to rebuild the team,” he said.

“We have to make sure it’s really easy to do business with us.”

He also said his personal approach to his new role is “very much about relationships”, adding: “I’m very open. I trust that people I work with closely will pick up the phone to me and tell me if it’s not working, if something’s not right.

“I want to recover as much as I want our agent partners to recover.”

He said he and his team will “leave no stone unturned” in their drive to find opportunities with the trade.

Scott has also joined the executive committee of cruise body Clia UK & Ireland, to represent Carnival UK brands Cunard and P&O Cruises.

“That was such an instrumental forum in driving government debate and guidance,” he said, praising the work of Clia UK & Ireland director Andy Harmer and his fellow committee members.

“It is really important to me to be seen to be championing the industry,” he said.

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