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“Stay strong, stay resilient.” Those were Cruise Planners’ CEO and founder Michelle Fee’s opening remarks during a media session at Cruise Planners’ first-ever virtual forum, CP Forum, Virtually Yours themed, “Survivor.”

In fact, in order to make sure that Cruise Planners’ network of travel advisors “stay strong and stay resilient,” the home-based travel advisor franchise network and an American Express Travel Representative did not, as Vicky Garcia, COO and co-owner, said during the session, “put our heads in the sand in 2020.”

No, they did not. They created a range of new tools in order to “set up for success,” as Garcia noted, with Fee adding, “We took the time to prepare our advisors for the rebirth that is going to happen in 2021, equipping them with the tools they need so that they’re full speed ahead when 2021 turns the corner.”

One of the new tools announced yesterday during the first day of conference was the enhancements to the CP Mobile App: “You all know that our agents,” said Fee, “are one of the few that are armed with a mobile app, one that is specific to their franchise. Each one of them has the ability to control content. Their clients can click on their app, see their upcoming trips or book new ones, but up until now they only had the ability to book cruise and hotels. One of the newest features on the app is that their customers are going to be able to search for an all-inclusive resort and mark the ones they are interested in and even send a request to their agent for more details. We’ve also added escorted tours, and we’ve increased inventory of activities from Viatour. The advisor can view and manage their marked favorite activity so when the customer goes on and marks it as a favorite, the agent can see it and react to the customer. We are pretty positive that our agents will go crazy over these new enhancements.”

In a nutshell, here are some of the enhancements to the client-facing CP Mobile App that have been released: Updated home screen; All Inclusive Resort System; Escorted Tour Search; Viator Search; Accessing Buckets; and Viewing/Managing their Favorites.

“I think they’re going to lose their minds over it to be honest with you,” said Garcia.

A new tool launching in Q1 2021 is the Task Manager, which allows advisors at any time throughout their quoting, booking or servicing process to create a task to help them stay organized, follow-up and work more efficiently.

“It’s a chronological list of tasks related to either booking or specifically to that client,” noted Garcia. “These tasks will appear in their task list and automated reminders are set up for the agent such as ‘Don’t forget to offer insurance,’ ‘Check your client’s passport to make sure it’s not expired or expiring soon,’ ‘Send an e card to say “Bon Voyage” before the client departs,’ or ‘Set up a follow-up phone call.’ Those things that they are usually putting sticky notes around everywhere, they can now set up in the task list.”

In addition, advisors can create a Global Task list for scenarios that happen often. For example, if they make a booking for client, the system will automatically create the tasks related to bookings for the agent, so they don’t forget to do important follow up.

Next year will also see the debut of the Care Team, a newly formed department within the Home Office Team that will be a One Stop Shop for our advisors when they have questions, inquiries or issues. With one phone number and email address for the Care Team, the Care Team Advocate will take the issues and either resolve on their own or escalate internally if needed but take responsibility for that advisor’s inquiry until it’s resolved. Currently, Cruise Planners has already combined the two highest volume departments into the Care Team—BD Inbound Team and the IT Help Desk. Cruise Planners will continue to add other departments to the Care Team throughout Q1, 2021 until they have reached the goal of being their One Stop Shop. Additionally, a new Hotel Booking Engine will be launched in Q1 2021 that gives advisors higher commissions and savings for their clients. The system will also incorporate American Express hotel benefits such as Fine Hotels and Resorts and The Hotel Collection.

This year, 2020, saw the launch of an All-Inclusive Resort System and the enhancement of the CP Marketing Hub, allowing advisors to easily create a customized marketing plan, create supplier co-op proposals and even track the ROI on marketing efforts. One of the most interesting new tools, though, is the Where2Next Survey, which asks the clients the question—Where To Next? It collects their bucket list destinations for the next one to three years giving Cruise Planners insight to effectively target market the right destinations to specific customers. This survey lives on all Cruise Planners travel advisors’ websites and can be used in numerous ways to collect this information.

“I loved that we launched that tool because we didn’t know where they wanted to go to next,” said Garcia.

So, rather than allowing 2020 be the year that was, Cruise Planners made it the year of innovation. “While a lot of other agencies in the industry cut their teams, closed their centers and are waiting for this pandemic to pass,” said Fee, “here at Cruise Planners we haven’t stopped. We took the time to continue to innovate because when travel does return, we’re going to be ready to go.”

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