by Kim S. Nash

Three Ways Royal Caribbean Has Embraced Mobile, Made Customers Happy

Mar 25, 2011
CIOConsumer ElectronicsMobile

Managing multiple mobile devices can yield headaches from security issues and make development confusing. But the payoff for customer-service reps is worth the effort.

Consumer devices continue to stream into the office, whether CIOs have sanctioned them or not. Managing a mix of devices can pose challenges in application development, security and maintenance. For Bill Martin, CIO of Royal Caribbean Cruises, providing access to various mobile tools has benefits for customer service that are worth the added effort.

The cruise line has deployed iPhones, iPads and handheld systems from Motorola and XRiver Technologies at facilities on land and ships at sea. For example, a kid-tracking system was recently rolled out that allows parents to use a stripped-down iPhone to monitor the whereabouts of children under 12. The kids wear a Wi-Fi-equipped bracelet that uses the ship’s wireless access points to triangulate their coordinates. “My daughter wore one onboard last year,” Martin says. From a couple of decks away, “we could tell where she was standing in the arcade.”

Employees use XRiver Technologies tablets to assist customers in enrolling in activities—such as simulated surfing, riding zip lines, and rock climbing—by selecting the activity a guest wants, swiping her stateroom key card and having her sign any necessary liability waivers right on the screen. Guests use their key cards again to check in at the activities they chose and the tablet’s system checks that the right waiver has been signed. The tablets are not only faster and easier for guests, they also replace the paper waivers required for each activity.

Taking Charge

Martin also offers iPads for various customer applications—including a wine list that suggests food pairings and shows photos and videos of the vineyards—but doesn’t throw open the doors for any mobile device.

To streamline application development, Royal Caribbean has until recently stayed away from Android devices because, he says, there are so many iterations of that operating system on many different devices. “We do try to simplify where we can,” he says, adding that he’s begun testing some Android applications.

Ken Dulaney, an analyst at Gartner, advises CIOs to avoid developing applications from scratch for each mobile operating system. Instead, Dulaney says, build the basic functionality that can translate across devices, customizing only the interface for each one. He also suggests CIOs clarify which devices will be designated for use by customers and which by employees, because security, application complexity and other development requirements will differ depending on who’s using it.

BlackBerrys, iPhones and Android devices don’t handle security the same way. CIOs should set up a single group within IT to support all mobile devices, Dulaney says, to help ensure that policies are enforced consistently.

One step Martin encourages CIOs to take is to test different devices in the same setting, which he did when evaluating hardware for waiters taking orders poolside. Although a smaller Motorola device was lighter for staff to carry, customers struggled to sign bills on the small screens. Staff carry XRiver tablets using a shoulder strap. Managing devices well, he says, sometimes means doing what’s best for customers.

Follow Senior Editor Kim S. Nash on Twitter: @knash99.