Expert insight interview: Marc Bainbridge, Hurtigruten

Expert insights

Expert insight interview: Marc Bainbridge, Hurtigruten

Marc Bainbridge is Head of Integrated Services at Hurtigruten – the luxury cruise company.

Danny: Can you start by just telling me a little bit about yourself and your role?

Mark: I’m the head of integrated services at Hurtigruten. I’m responsible for nearly all the back office functions including our customer care department and all of our telephony platforms.

I’ve been working for Hurtigruten now for five years. When I joined the conversation had just started with Syntec, so I’ve worked side by side with Syntec since the beginning of the relationship.

Danny: What kind of organization is Hurtigruten?

Mark: We’re a cruise company, but not a traditional one where it’s hot weather, warm locations, comfort, and all that sort of stuff. We do offer comfort on our ships of course, but our focus is on expeditions. We want to show you places you wouldn’t normally see. We want you to explore where we’re going. We have scientists, doctors, absolute top-drawer professionals in their fields onboard our boats to help you understand the environment you’re going to visit. At the same time, we have this very sustainable approach to the areas that we go to. We were the first company to introduce hybrid ships, enabling us to go from fuel to battery power when we get close to certain locations.

We’ll take you to places like Antarctica. We’ll take you up close and personal with penguins and whales. The sort of things that, yes, you can see on another cruise ship, but you won’t get an experience like you would with us because of the effort we put into it and the professionals that we have working for us. We’re very keen on having people from those particular areas, not generalists. People who know the environment they’re going to. They live and breathe it.

We have customers from all over the world and they expect a high level of service from our contact centers. The main contact center location is in Tallin, Estonia. We also have satellite offices in Tromsø, Melbourne and Seattle so we are global and operate 24 hours a day. In a normal year call volumes are seasonal but last year was obviously very different for the cruise industry. We, like all other companies, struggled but we have met it head on, still offering the same level of great service. We have created a very good business model. It’s helped us traverse the pandemic.

Danny: Do you find that most people that book will want to speak to somebody at some point?

Mark: Yes – the contact center is extremely important to us for that reason, given the nature of our products and the cost of our cruises – some can cost up to £200,000. If you’re going to spend that amount of money you want to speak to someone who is an expert in where you’re going and you may well want to make more than one call. We know that our online penetration is between 50% and 70%, which means that at least 30% of our customers will call us. Additionally, quite a few customers who book online will follow it up with a phone call, or we’ll call them. Almost all customers will speak to us at some point in their journey.

We want to offer people a great level of service.. They could book with another cruise company, we want to do everything that we can to ensure that they book with us.

Danny: Can you talk me through the background of the decision to implement CardEasy?

Mark: Quite simply, we wanted to protect our clients payment card data and we wanted to be PCI DSS compliant. The standard operating procedure at the time meant that the company wasn’t fully PCI DSS compliant as we were capturing customers credit card details verbally over the phone and that’s a risk for them and it’s a risk for us as well. It just simply made sense to bring in a specialist company like Syntec to help us meet our business requirements.

Danny: What was the CardEasy implementation process like?

Mark: It was very smooth. We had a couple of problems initially, but the problems weren’t anything to do with Syntec. Your guys gave us a first-class level of service, first-class responses, they’re all first-class professionals. We had a few challenges with one of our other partners – again nothing to do with Syntec – and once those were sorted out everything went extremely smoothly. There were no issues, at all. There was no configuration for me to do. It’s very simple.

Danny: What benefits have you seen since CardEasy was implemented?

Mark: The benefit for us is that our customers know that their card details are safe. We don’t store their card details in any way. It’s all about giving our customers that peace of mind. As a contact center agent, if you call and make a booking with me, I don’t have access to your card details. You don’t have to worry about your card details being fraudulently used by somebody because they are never exposed. The benefit for us is the customer’s peace of mind.

Danny: Presumably that means you’ve saved a lot of time and resource in terms of demonstrating compliance that you might have previously had to do with auditing and so on?

Mark: Yes, we can just literally say, “Here is the certificate, and here’s the company we use.” It saves us a huge amount of time compared to what was necessary before we implemented CardEasy.

Danny: Can we just talk a little bit about the pandemic. I’d be interested to understand a bit more about how that’s affected your contact center operations.

Mark: Obviously, call volumes dropped. Complaints rose as did refund requests. Fortunately, a lot of our customers have chosen to re-book and we have lots of customers who are booking for 2022. Their life plans haven’t changed. In terms of our contact center practices, obviously we introduced working from home very quickly for a lot of people. Fortunately, Syntec and some of our other partners are all cloud-based which made it very easy to do that.

We did have security concerns when our contact center agents started working remotely. This is where quality procedures and monitoring comes in. The fact that we had CardEasy already implemented made the process easier because it means that we are no longer asking our customers to provide their payment card details to our contact center agents.

Danny: To what extent are these changes likely to be permanent within the organization?

Mark: Honestly, I’ve been a champion of working from home for a long time. Nowadays, there’s nothing that can’t be done from home. I prefer the office, I like to be in an office, but there’s nothing I can’t do here that I can’t do at home. It’s the same for a lot of people in the industry. One thing about working in an office, especially for sales teams, is that competition, that camaraderie. I do think it will be more hybrid going forward, where you have rotations of people or it will be down to the individual’s preferences. You’ll have people who will just want to be at home, others who just want to be in the office and a third group who like a mix. Nowadays contact centers should have the flexibility to offer all three modes of working.

Danny: Would you recommend CardEasy to other organizations based on your experience?

Mark: Yes, I would. I’ve actually just had a conversation today about CardEasy. Every year you always get asked the question when it comes to the contractual side of the relationship, or the contract is coming up for renewal, “Do you want to continue?” My answer is always “Why wouldn’t we?” It’s quite simple. The CardEasy team answer our calls every time we need help, no matter what time of the day it is. I’ve had calls with the support team late at night, early in the morning, weekends. You offer the level of service that we need. You offer the protection our customers need and that’s what it’s all about.