Confessions Of An Unsustainable Traveler: The Cost Of A Great Experience

Erica Vialardi

Last summer, my family and I booked a holiday on one of the last cruise ships allowed to navigate through the Venetian lagoon. Yes, one of those huge “floating palaces” denounced by local protesters for harming the fragile, historical city. A few weeks later, cruise ships were banned indefinitely from the center of Venice after an accident occurred.

From the balcony of our 12th-floor cabin, though, all we experienced were unforgettable aerial views of the UNESCO World Heritage site. How could there be such a disconnect between the perception of a perfect customer experience and the reality of its impact?

Customer experience at your fingertips

In his latest book, The Game, author Alessandro Baricco points out how the very concept of customer experience has been turned upside down over the last couple of decades, driven by the evolution of new technologies.

No longer the intimidated receivers of obscure IT tools whose secrets were accessible only to scientists, consumers have now become empowered controllers of incredibly complex software with just the tap of a finger on colorful, friendly app icons on their smartphones. As Baricco puts it, “the complexity of the whole process [has been removed] in some hidden false bottom to only leave its clean fruit floating at the surface.”

The supply chain at the bottom of the iceberg

Just like the smartphone, cruise holidays today seem to offer only their “clean fruit” to the end consumer, keeping their highly complex operations undercover. You may have seen some reality shows about life behind the scenes on cruise ships, but the actual magic operates more in-depth at the supply chain level.

The ability to deliver a flawless customer service ultimately rests on the company’s ability, with the support of technology, to build an intelligent supply chain. This supply chain extends from designing and planning to building and operating a service where food supplies, multicultural staff, musical shows, ship engineering, port logistics, and hundreds of other articulate operations come together to deliver the perfect cruise experience to today’s savvy consumers.

Navigate the route to sustainability with technology

A technology-driven supply chain may act as the compass to reach a successful product experience, but looking at the broader picture, there seems to be more than pure service in what today’s consumers judge a “good” experience: According to a recent survey by Nielsen, “a whopping 81% of global respondents feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment.”

Again, this is where an intelligent supply chain comes into play, as it helps companies achieve total visibility and intelligence across their processes. This can be the starting point to measure the company’s environmental and humanitarian footprint, and accordingly, introduce sustainable business practices.

As New Year’s resolutions approach, I may pester the cruise company’s customer service with a couple of uncomfortable questions when I book my next holiday.

To learn more on how to drive sustainable supply chain processes, download the IDC report “Leveraging your intelligent digital supply chain.

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Erica Vialardi

About Erica Vialardi

Erica is a senior, international marketer in enterprise software and creates global marketing programs for SAP Digital Supply Chain.