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A day in the life of a Cruise Director: Marika Viitala-Nykänen

What the crew want: solutions to improve productivity

As the fastest-growing category in the travel and leisure segment, the cruise industry is expected to serve 30 million passengers in 2019. That’s up by 6% compared to 2018. Great news for cruise operators. Provided they deliver the ‘wow’ experiences while improving their crew’s productivity – a goal companies want to meet but aren’t sure how.

Marika Viitala-Nykänen suggests a starting point: her own role. As Cruise Manager for Viking Line, she ensures guests have a great experience. That includes managing events, interacting with guests, and directing her team. But over the years, routine office tasks have increased, often accounting for 50% of her effort. “On some days, I spend 6-7 hours just planning, responding to emails, tracking budgets, etc. That leaves fewer hours for guests or the well-being of my team.”

Technology can help. Only if it’s a true enabler:

Marika observes, “Companies have introduced many systems to help the crew tackle their tasks. But these are additions that sit beside the old tools, not replacements.” The result is a maze of software, tools, and programs.

“Most of these systems don’t talk to each other. So, we end up duplicating information and efforts. For instance, one system contains details of artists coming onboard, which needs to be updated on another system to print their crew cards, and on a third system to share data about members onboarding from different ports!” Facilitating data flow across disparate systems could ease these redundancies. But role-based access and data security are essential for the success of such initiatives.

If implemented well, technology could offer other benefits:

Crew members use pagers to communicate with each other onboard – that’s one-way talk. Wi-fi isn’t stable to support mobile phones or apps. Secure and private communication channels, built for low-internet areas, could allow the crew to exchange messages in real time and therefore, improve communication and collaboration. Solutions that combine offline capability with an ability to create channels and groups across ship and shore teams, could enable a step-change in the crew’s day-to-day activities.

Automation can ease routine in cruise companies:

Particularly when filing reports, responding to queries, and preparing updates. “Creating and printing program schedules is a weekly effort,” says Marika. Intelligent automation could replace the manual effort involved in accessing, collating, and publishing the data.

What would it take to enable such tech-led transformation? A deeper understanding of the crew’s work, so that solutions align well with their requirement. And the ability to start with clearly defined use-cases that deliver measurable results. Factors hard-wired into AtomX’s approach, where digital transformation translates into outcomes delivered at Speed and with Certainty.

Digital technologies can impact not just the crew’s efficiency but also their sense of well-being. Connectivity for crew operations is known to increase their workplace happiness from 6.25/10 in 2017 to 6.69/10 in 2018. Time then to listen to the crew.

As Marika says, “If we could do office work faster, we’d have more time with guests and with our teams too.” Wise words, because happy crew makes for happy guests.

Marika Viitala-Nykänen has 17 years of experience in the cruise industry. She started her career as a music hostess and is now a Cruise Manager with Viking Line. AtomX thanks Marika for her insightful views about the role of technology in her work.

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