Last week travel industry magazine, Travel Weekly, ran a feature on our very own Cunard aficionado, Ken Clarke (left). Here's what they had to say about our award winning cruise expert.
Readers' Lives: Ken Clarke of Iglu Cruise
There isn’t much Ken Clarke doesn’t know about a Cunard cruise. And if he doesn’t know it, he’ll find out.
But even he was surprised to be named Cunard Commodore of the Year at the UK Cruise Awards run by Carnival UK on board P&O Cruises’ Azura at the end of last year.
"I was staggered," admitted Ken, cruise specialist at Iglu Cruise. "I’ve been on Cunard many times and I firmly believe in the product, but I didn’t expect to win."
His dedication to selling a product he loves has clearly paid off – not bad for someone who switched professions after a career as a certified accountant.
It’s no surprise Ken has never regretted his decision to become a travel agent. He ditched his plans to go travelling – he intended to go away after taking redundancy from his job as an accountant in 2001 – to take a job at Alan Bartram Travel in Dunstable.
"I used to book my holidays through my local high-street agent and I knew them quite well. They just asked me if I wanted a job," recalled Ken.
Starting a job in a new industry would not be everyone’s choice. "I found it a bit daunting, particularly learning the systems," said Ken, who became a shop manager within a year. "But I was quite happy talking to people who came into the shop."
Seven years on, Ken took a job at call centre cruise agency Iglu Cruise, where he is now known as a Cunard specialist. "Cruises have never been better value but Cunard still offers something unique and has never cut corners," according to Ken.
One of the hardest parts of the job is overcoming misconceptions about Cunard. "A lot of people think it’s stuffy but that’s not the case. It’s a special experience with formal nights."
And he welcomed recent changes to move away from a discount-led culture.
He said: "If someone wants a discount, we can’t offer that, but this is where customer service kicks in."
"Before it was ridiculous, even offering rock-bottom prices ?and all the extras, clients still wanted more. Clients don’t realise the value of ?a cruise holiday."
Ken's tips for selling cruise on the phone:
- Smile when you answer a call. No body language is evident to the client but they can tell a lot from the tone of your voice.
- Treat all calls as the same. It might be your 20th call of the day, but it might be your customer’s first and it could be to book a cruise for a special occasion such as a birthday or celebration.
- Listen to every word the client says and get as much information from them as possible to find out their ideal cruise, from their interests to favourite destinations.
- Sound enthusiastic and talk about your personal experiences.
- Be impartial and give as many facts as possible. Don’t assume what will appeal to the customer.
- Be realistic. For example, if a client gives you an unrealistic budget,be honest and tell them without being rude.
Source: Travel Weekly