Ferry operator’s investments in refurbishments and modernising onboard facilities raises customer satisfaction
Operating for more than 180 years, award-winning P&O Ferries knows a thing or two about ferry travel and enhancing the customer experience.
“Our mission is for customers to choose P&O above all other transport operators because of our distinctive and differentiating onboard environment, market-leading food and drink offers, exciting, great value retail offers and consistently excellent customer service,” explains P&O Ferries head of customer experience Michaela Mullen.
To shape the customer experience, P&O Ferries has undertaken a five-point plan driven from customer insight to get to best Net Promoter Scores – a measure of customer satisfaction – in the industry, similar to the likes of Amazon, First Direct and Google, says Ms Mullen.
P&O Ferries undertook several concrete steps to deliver on the core strategies from its five-point plan, changing its communications to real time, partnering with industry experts to improve its food and beverage offerings, upgrading onboard entertainment and enhancing onboard cleanliness.
Among its interior changes were refurbishing passenger areas, seating and freight driver facilities.
The changes have not gone unnoticed by passengers. “Despite some challenging operational and trading conditions, we have, in the last four years, almost doubled our Net Promoter Score,” she points out.
In 2019, P&O Ferries modernised freight driver accommodation on both the Dover-Callais and Larne-Cairnryan routes, introducing couchette-style beds to enable drivers to rest; refurbished the food court on Pride of Burgundy; aligned the brand look and feel of its short-route vessels; and remodelled the premier cabins on the Hull to EU routes, “delivering a fresh and calming environment to guarantee a good night’s sleep,” says Ms Mullen.
In 2020, on Hull to EU routes, P&O Ferries began a refurbishment programme upgrading all the standard cabins to a hotel standard, while introducing pet-friendly cabins. In another enhancement to pet lovers, dog lounges were to be added on the Dover-Callais route, while a new club lounge, pet facilities and improved children’s play areas were being planned for the Larne-Cairnryan vessels.
Future interior upgrades will be carried out on vessels operating on short routes, including aligning the Spirit-class vessels with its next-generation ‘ship of the future’ strategy, upgrading children’s play areas, introducing quiet lounges and completely redesigning the passenger flow of the Larne-Cairnryan vessels.
On its overnight routes, P&O Ferries’ plans call for upgrading the children’s play areas, refurbishing cabins, the buffet restaurant, introducing a spa concept and updating the outside bars on the Hull to EU vessels.
Pushing the boundaries with new ‘super ferries’
P&O Ferries’ investments in the passenger experience also extend to its newbuildings. When it comes to its newbuild ‘super ferries’, P&O Ferries is “pushing the boundaries of what is expected from ferry travel,” says Ms Mullen. The two 230-m long double-ender ferries under construction in China will be outfitted with power and energy management systems, remote monitoring, batteries and Azipods. The new hybrid-electric ferries will be easier to operate, have lower emissions and cut fuel consumption. This dedication to technological prowess also extends to enhancing the customer experience. The newbuilds will join P&O Ferries’ fleet in 2023.
“We need to ensure we can deliver an operationally efficient and effective service to the ‘always on’ needs of our tourist and freight passengers and crew,” says Ms Mullen. For interior design and customer experience, she says P&O Ferries has drawn inspiration from its current fleet, cruise liners, high street operators, shopping centres, hotels and service stations.
“It’s less about outlets and more about how customers will use the space we provide,” she says. This means passenger flows must take customers seamlessly and effortlessly around all areas of the ship. Passengers will be able to eat, drink, recover, recharge and shop in open plan, flexible spaces that are interconnected by the design and flow of the ship, “ensuring that our customers never lose the view,” Ms Mullen explains. She says the food experience reflects the growing trend for a food market approach versus an old-style buffet.
“Atmosphere is king, this will be created by the effective and creative use of lighting and music, while being clever with our approach to managing the risk of an open-plan environment,” says Ms Mullen. This extends to using a variety of seating styles looking at comfort and space usage, ensuring passengers can relax, recover and recharge.
Adds Ms Mullins “Technology will be crucial to our passengers of the future and we must provide for the yet-to-be-developed technology needs our passengers will have by the time the ship is in service.”