As the transaction between Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and Apollo Management, LP (“Apollo”) nears completion and the infusion of $1 billion comes into the company, NCL announced today plans for a major travel agent initiative called Partnership 2.0. The Partnership 2.0 initiative will involve major changes to the way NCL does business to strengthen its relationships with travel partners, at all levels. The program includes faster payment of group commission, quicker problem resolution by establishing a fully empowered resolution desk, simplifying pricing quotes, enhancing reservations agents’ product knowledge, faster credit card processing, improved credit card procedures, and paying commissions electronically.
The initiative has been driven by quantitative and qualitative feedback from travel partners and has been enabled by Apollo’s billion dollar investment in NCL and Star Cruises continued commitment and vision.
“Partnership 2.0 is designed to make NCL better partners with the travel agency community,” said Colin Veitch, NCL’s President and CEO. “We have taken a look at the way we work with travel agents and identified key areas for improvement, ranging from initiatives, which will enhance our relationships at a headquarter level to major changes that will further improve the working experience at the front line agent level.”
Details of the changes include:
Ø Group Commissions:
o Starting January 1st, NCL will now process group commissions five weeks earlier with processing commencing seven days prior to sailing.
Ø Resolution Desk:
o A seven-day a week desk manned by experienced agents with specific expertise who will be empowered to resolve issues. Desk to be run by 20-year NCL veteran fully empowered and authorized to quickly and efficiently resolve issues.
Ø Simplifying pricing quotes:
o NCL has already reduced promo codes from over 1,000 to 32 to ensure travel agents get the same price quote every time they call in;
o A dedicated team shopping the GDS system for consistency and accuracy;
o An expanded dedicated team shopping internally for pricing consistency with training and then consequences if NCL agents aren’t getting it right;
o External mystery shopping from NCL’s external quality assurance partner.
Ø Reservations agents product knowledge:
o NCL has planned for doubling recurrent training in 2008;
o This month, phone agents are going through enhanced training on policies, pricing, promotions and the product;
o All policies are being reviewed for consistency and accuracy across all touch points for travel agents including GDS, ncl.com, the reservations desk, etc.;
Ø Credit Card policies
o In the next 60 days, NCL is upgrading its systems to greatly speed up credit card processing time;
o Any declined credit card will receive a call directly to the booking agent;
o Starting January 1, Canadian credit cards will be processed during the call with immediate approval status.
Ø Electronic payment processing:
o By the second quarter of 2008, NCL will be processing commissions and other partner payments electronically.
Aspects of the Partnership 2.0 initiative have been already implemented with more to come every month in 2008.
NCL Corporation Ltd. is the holding company for various subsidiary companies involved in owning and operating the ships of Norwegian Cruise Line, NCL America and Orient Lines.
NCL plans to build two new third generation Freestyle Cruising ships for delivery in 2010. NCL today has the youngest fleet in the industry, providing guests the opportunity to enjoy the flexibility of Freestyle Cruising on the newest, most contemporary ships at sea, and has recently added its latest new ship, the 2,400-passenger Norwegian Gem.