A word from your cruise director

April 24, 2014
Bryan Clagett

It’s the last day of vacation and I’m writing this post from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, somewhere near Great Abaco island in the Bahamas. My family is very loyal to Royal Caribbean, much more loyal than we’d ever be to our bank or credit union. I’m just being honest. And no, I’m not delirious from the Norovirus. In fact regardless of all the media hype I’ve never had it, nor do I know anyone who has.

So what has Royal Caribbean done to earn my family loyalty? For one thing, they work hard to exceed expectations of each of my family members. My bank and credit union don’t even recognize that I have kids. That’s a shame considering both kids have socked away some cash that sits in a Capital One account. Royal Caribbean goes out of its way to get to know my kids and their cruising needs. They have programs for a variety of teen age groups, and on each cruise they create a community of teens in a place they call The Living Room. I know a lot of credit unions offer teen accounts, but there really is little community or engagement associated with most. If your teen account is just a “product” and not an experience, it’s not going to do well. And ask a kid if they need or want a credit union (I bet most don’t know what one is).

Royal Caribbean has a fantastic loyalty program. I’m in the Platinum Level, and proud of it. Their program rewards frequent cruisers with cash savings on trips, on board purchases, VIP events, gifts and even drink discounts. Bartender, I’d like another Lava-flow on the double. Ah, so nice. When was the last time you recognized your loyal members? Do you know who they even are? Royal Caribbean now provides their loyalty users with lapel pins. Now I’m personally not ready for such a fashion statement, but I will say I did see dozens of older cruisers donning the lapel pins.

One guy had 5 (I thought he was an Admiral at first). That’s really remarkable loyalty. Aside from great stateroom accommodations, Royal Caribbean emphasizes choice. I have my choice of what to eat, when to eat and where to eat. I have a vast choice of destinations, ships and excursions. Choice is rather important; even in banking. The more options you provide your members, the greater your odds of differentiating your brand. You want to be different. Speaking of differentiation, the cruise line has done a great job of designing very unique ships. Have you ever been on a ship with a Boardwalk? How about a merry-go-round? You can even take cooking classes aboard some of their ships. So are you just cookie-cutter or are you providing something unique, something exciting and something different? Or are you offering the same thing every other bank or credit union does?

We have been on seven Royal Caribbean cruises. While the ships may be different, over time, we’ve noticed incredible consistency amongst the cruises. They have really done a great job of setting our expectations. It’s almost as if they choreographed our cruise experience. You know, I bet they have. From the moment you set foot in the terminal, to the moment you disembark, a plan is being executed to assure pure delight. What path does your credit union take its members on? Does that path include the member’s family?

I’m not proposing that Banking can ever be as fun as taking a cruise. But I do think there are many things the financial industry can learn from the cruise industry. They’ve completely taken ownership of the consumers experience. And they manage that experience every step of the way. There are new players entering the banking arena, now including Facebook. If we don’t soon reinvent banking, someone else will. It’s time we really look outside our ever so familiar credit union industry, and we need to do it before the ship sails. Time for another Lava-flow. Bon Voyage.

See more at: cuinsight.com/a-word-from-your-cruise-director

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