CUSTOMER SERVICE

Silver Lining for the Broken-Down Carnival Cruise? Praise for the Ship's Crew

How Carnival employees handled a filthy, smelly fiasco in the Gulf of Mexico can teach you a thing or two about top-notch customer service.
The crippled cruise liner Carnival Triumph limps into port guided by tug boats February 14, 2013 in Mobile, Alabama.
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You've probably been paying attention to accounts of the terrible conditions aboard the Carnival Cruise line that lost power last Sunday and had to be towed slowly to land in Mobile, Alabama. 

It's hard to imagine how those 3,000 passengers felt, their vacations turned into a smelly, dirty, sleepy, hungry mess.  What a delight when they arrived on shore early this morning to a hot shower and a good meal. 

According to reports, though, most endured the unfortunate incident with grace and patience.  Others took advantage of the situation; I read accounts of looting as well as drunken and disorderly passengers. 

But what stood out to me most is what I've read about the Carnival staff.  Apparently they were "helpful," "fantastic" and even slept right next to the passengers on the deck.  On that ship, there are 1,000 employees, one for every three passengers.  They stepped up in a bad situation that no one could have anticipated.  They had every reason to complain about their own lot, but they didn't.  They served the customers and tried to make everyone as comfortable as they could. 

What does that say about Carnival and the kind of organization it is?  It says that management built a company with loyal employees who feel valued themselves.  That's what separates good cultures from bad ones.  And you can measure it best when your employees are faced with a major, almost insurmountable challenge.

I've got to give credit to Carnival's leaders.  My guess is that they have a vision and a set of core values that they encourage their employees to live by every day.  I'd bet they show employees that they care about them in the totality of their lives and invest in growth and development. 

When you show your employees they are the most important asset in your business, they will fall on a sword for you in bad times.  They won't complaint, start a mutiny, or jump ship.  (No pun intended.)  They will remember what you did for them, and they will do the same for your customers.  They will do their best, offer great service, and make a bad situation as tolerable as possible. 

What's the long-term result?  While some of those passengers may wait a while before taking another cruise, they will also tell everyone they know that the one positive in the whole ordeal was how the staff reacted and took good care of everyone on board.  That will sell lots more Carnival cruise tickets.

IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Feb 15, 2013

PAUL SPIEGELMAN | Columnist | CEO of BerylHealth

Paul Spiegelman is the chief culture officer at Stericycle and founder and former CEO of BerylHealth. He also co-founded the Small Giants Community with Inc. editor-at-large Bo Burlingham. You can read more at PaulSpiegelman.com.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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