This is the fourth installment in an examination of customer service in nine countries - and customer service aboard the MSC Preziosa
Customer Service on The MSC Preziosa. (for the previous installment, see this link)
In the last post about the MSC Preziosa, I didn't have a lot of kind things to say. Although the negative customer service experiences still vastly outweigh the positive ones, it's only fair to acknowledge that there are indeed some positives. They are somewhat isolated, but they do exist.
One worth mentioning was a little service recovery piece done by the young Brazilian woman server who looks after us at dinner. During the first dinner onboard, we were all shocked that MSC was charging extra for coffee and water. The server was most apologetic, and was clearly a little embarrassed when I asked, "So, what is there to drink that is included with the dinner?" It turns out, apparently, that an MSC Cruise Line definition of a 'meal' does not include anything that is liquid.
For us, it was the final straw in what had been a day of nickel-and-diming and surprise surcharges. On sheer principle, we couldn't bring ourselves to pay extra for something that had been included on any other cruise we had been on. So, the second evening, we brought our own water bottles.
On the third evening, however, our server appeared with bottles of her own - and filled all of our glasses. Clearly she identified that she had some unhappy customers, and was taking steps to correct it. I don't know if she asked permission, or if she just decided to do it on her own (which is why I'm not using her name!), but she deserves a lot of credit for taking ownership and trying to turn a negative into a positive.
Smiling, happiness or just ordinary pleasantries continue to be a rarity on the MSC Preziosa. The crew behaviour is a stark contrast to the MSC promotional videos that play all over the ship, showing happy, friendly staff and claiming a relentless focus on customer experience. The exceptions, and we have had a few, have been outstanding, however. I wonder if those employees realize how much of a positive difference they make.
One young Balinese server was laughing and regaling us with life in her country. By the time she moved on, everyone was smiling and happy. When I start my own cruise line, she's the first person I'm going to hire.
The Customer Is Always... Annoying?
"Can you make me a whisky sour" I asked the nice server from Madagascar. She checked with the bartender and came back. "No," she said. "We can only serve things that are on the menu."
"Huh," I said, having already had more than one in other bars over the last few days. "Okay, then, how about some Pinot Grigio?" I pointed to the item on the menu. A few minutes later she arrived with four glasses of something that was definitely not Pinot Grigio.
"Um, I don't think that's Pino Grigio," I said, pointing at the bubbles. Off she went to check with the bartender, then came back with, "Yes, the bartender says it is." In typical Canadian fashion, we decided not to make a big deal of it, and just took the sparkling wine.
When we were finished, I decided to do a very un-Canadian thing, and approached the bartender. When pressed, he admitted that he had substituted a sparkling wine because he couldn't find the one we had ordered. Obviously, he thought we just wouldn't notice the bubbles.
I then asked him if he had sour mix. He said they did. I asked why he couldn't bring himself to pour the whisky (I pointed at it) and sour mix into a glass. He just looked at me like I was the most annoying person on earth. At that point I just sort of gave up.
All of these things, of course, are little things. Trivial, in the grand scheme. But the collective impact is huge. Later that evening, the four of us were comparing the MSC Preziosa to other cruises we have been on. It was unanimous that, given a choice, this is a cruise line we will avoid in the future. And THAT is the cost of poor customer service right there.
Shaun Belding is CEO of The Belding Group and has been consulting and speaking on customer experience for 23 years
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