Is great service important to you? Tips for making sure you get the best service!

There are lots of different reason to take a cruise and one of my favorites is the great service that the cruise lines offer. I can honestly say with just a very few exceptions, we have received  fantastic customer service from nearly every single person we have encountered on our cruises. We have found the crew,  from the cabin stewards, to bar waiters, to the guy manning the hand sanitizer station, and the dining room waiters to be extremely dedicate, courteous and professional. Yet, I have talked to fellow passengers and read plenty of online complaints about poor service that have led me to ask if I was even on the same cruise or cruise line as the complainers. This question, has led me to conclude that it is the signals that one sends out as a customer  and the conflict resolution skills that one utilizes may lead to either great or poor customer service. Hence, following two basic tenants of human nature, I offer the following tips to make sure you receive excellent service.

1. Exude a Positive Attitude

You’d be amazed at what a difference it makes to greet others with smile and a friendly attitude. Remember your ship’s crew members work long days on their feet and it can make a difference just to have someone treat them in a kind way. I’m not talking about the term “panglossianism” which describes baseless optimism, but a positive attitude based on the fact that you are on a cruise vacation where you have every reason to be excited about new experiences, meeting new people, trying new foods, enjoying old favorites, and having the opportunity to step away from the work of your every day life. This is the one week or two of your year where you should have little worry or care, so cruisers should reflect that circumstances in a positive attitude.

2.  Show a Proper Level of Respect and Appreciation for the Professionals who Work on Your Ship.

When you are back home working in your chosen profession, you work hard and expect those efforts to be appreciated by those around you. Crew members on a ship are no different.  They get up in the morning and set out to do the best they can at their chosen profession. From the cabin steward who cleans your room to the bartender who makes your drinks to the waiter that brings your food, they are professionals. The cruise lines provide them training and a certain expectation level which they must meet or they would not be allowed to continue in their job. With that in mind, I have the following “Do’s and Don’ts

Do Show Respect for their Profession:   If there is something that would truly make your cruise experience more enjoyable don’t hesitate to ask. However, respect the fact that cruise employees are serving both you and other passengers. Making ridiculous demands will make it more difficult for them to serve the other passengers for which they are also responsible.  I have seen others talk down to crew members or indignantly berate them for minor infractions. Even though they are trained in dealing with difficult or rude customers, it is just human nature not want to offer the best service to people who are rude or indignant.

Do Use Common Courtesy: Show your appreciation with a little bit of basic manners a “Please” and “Thank You” go along way towards making the crew feel appreciated.

Do Communicate Your Appreciation:  When you have a special request, let the person who fulfilled the request know how this has made your cruise better. This appreciation might extend beyond a simple thank you to explain how much the extra effort meant to you. To you cabin steward you might say, “Oh, thank you so much for bringing that extra blanket, now I can sleep warmly while my husband has the temperature where he likes it.” Or to your wine Steward you might say “Thank you so much for recommending this wine, it is exactly what we like.” Of course you can always show your appreciation through the tipping system. If you use auto tipping or prepaid rather than individual envelopes, you can simply mention to them that you have utilized the system, that you want them to know how much appreciate their service.

Do Use a Patient and Positive Tone of Voice:  Always use a professional courteous tone when working to resolve an issue. Raising one’s voice is never necessary to resolve an issue on a cruise ship.

Quite honestly, we’ve only had two major service issues in all our years of cruising: less than desirable dining room table assignments and an over extended wine steward.

Twice we were assigned a big table when traveling with our pre-teen children, and once our table was in  a poor location behind the stairs. In all three incidences I patiently waited my turn with the maître d’  on the afternoon of embarkation day and explained to him in a calm patient way,  why I wanted a table change.   In all three incidences, the  maître d’responded courteously and made the necessary arrangements.

With the wine steward we learned from our mistake of joking about the problem and in not addressing the issue in proactive manner. Our wine steward seemed to be assigned to0 many tables. He would bring our wine out right away and place it on the table, but did not return in a timely manner to open the bottle. We had a running joke about it with our other table mates until the Head Maitre d’ came by our table one night and asked if we needed anything. We joked that we needed a cork screw, but if we had been a bit more proactive, that  Maitre d’ would have insured that we had better wine service for the rest of the cruise. I did learn my lesson from that experience and addressed the issue proactively before we even ordered our fist bottle on future cruises. We have had more than excellent wine service ever since.

Don’t Escalate Before  You Have Given Your Provider an Opportunity  to Take Corrective Action:  The first person to ask for corrective action should be  your assigned crew member.   He or she would rather have the opportunity to please  you, the customer, rather than get in trouble with their supervisor. If you have a very minor issue, for example your room not being cleaned when you are out of the room. You probably can discuss your schedule with with your cabin steward or find a way of letting him know when the room would be available for cleaning. If you are not happy with your dining room meal selections, let your waiter know right away so that he can bring something else right away.

Do Escalate When Necessary:  Working with your immediate provider will probably resolve most issues in a timely manner. However, if you have discussed a service issue with the immediate service provider and it has not been resolved, then open the line of communication with the immediate supervisor. If your issue is a legitimate one, most cruise lines, which strive for the highest level of service, will work quickly to provide the additional resources, training or assistance needed to resolve your issue. Again, exuding  a positive, professional, proactive attitude is your most effective tool in helping you to resolve your issue.

Do Address the Issue, Not the Person: Anyone who has ever taken a management course knows this rule, but it not only applies toward business but also when addressing service issues from the customer’s point of view. Discuss the specific area for improvement with out putting down person. This can be a little tricky when the person involved may be at the root of the problem, but for the most part any service issue can be addressed in this way. Just remember to be specific about the areas for improvement. For example when escalating: “I am concerned that our house keeper may not have sufficient training in the area of shower cleaning or perhaps doesn’t have the proper cleaning agents, because there is still mold in my shower after I pointed it out two days ago.” or “I believe that our wine steward may be assigned too many tables as we have to wait for our wine to be opened and are refilling our own glasses.”

Most importantly phrasing the issue in this non-confrontation way gives the opportunity for the service people to offer a solution rather than having to defend their employees or their actions.

Do Report Issues Promptly: This is particularly important in your cabin and your dining room experience. If you notice something early on in the cruise, like a cabinet that won’t stay latched, report it right way so that the crew can fix it. In the dining room, if a dish is not to your liking your waitstaff can quickly replace it with something else. Don’t cut off tips or wait to put the issue on the end of cruise comment card.

Don’t Dig in Your Heels, Be Flexible!: Digging in your heals, insisting on one thing,  when something else might be just as good (even if it wasn’t your original choice), will simply make your situation more difficult if not impossible to resolve. If your excursion gets cancelled find another one that looks nearly as good or get a refund and enjoy spending it on something else. If the kitchen runs out of your entree,  find something else that looks good, or use this problem as an opportunity to request something special a head of time for the next night. Remember that the crew will use all the resources they have available to them to resolve your issue, but because the cruise ship has somewhat limited resources, they may have to work with you to find acceptable substitutions.

A cruise is my vacation of choice mostly because of the excellent standards of service maintained by the cruise industry. Critics might say I am  a panglossianist, or Polly Anna, who just enjoys cruising so much that I don’t see the problems. However, I truly believe that excellent service and standards of the cruise industry are the main reasons for its success. We invite our readers to share their experience with service levels on different cruise lines. What techniques have you used to resolve service issues?   What mistakes have you made in handling service issues? When you had service issues how quickly and to your satisfaction were they resolved?   Have you ever run across fellow passengers or crew who definitely need an attitude adjustment?  Please share with us your thought on the issue of customer attitudes, resolution techniques and service in the cruise industry.