Turning Green on the Ocean Blue

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For cruise line Holland America, caring for the environment is not just a goal, it’s a requirement. Sustainability is incorporated into everything the line does—from carefully watching its energy consumption levels, to cleansing its wastewater beyond industry requirements. The green business practices are apparent through the cruise ship’s onboard recycling efforts and even through its call center and customer service practices. 

Holland America uses Verint Systems’ Impact 360 workforce optimization product in its virtual contact center. Twenty percent of agents are telecommuters, significantly reducing the need for a physical office and avoiding unnecessary carbon emissions from agent travel. According to Michael McKinney, Holland America’s manager of Call Center Quality Assurance, the green aspects of the call center also involve saving paper. Holland America has gone paperless, removing the need for mailing of printed materials to prospects and customers. 

Not only does the automation and Web interaction lessen Holland America’s ecofootprint, but it has streamlined processes. “The automation with Impact 360 enables us to increase response time, so we’re communicating faster with guests,” McKinney says. The ability to process requests more quickly, he adds, has enabled Holland America to increase sales (though he declines to specify by how much). 

Due to a combination of the electronic scorecards and new training programs, Holland America has seen a dramatic increase in the booking-conversion ratio (the rate at which calls are converted to bookings). Agents are able to take more calls since they are more adherent to the schedule, thanks to visibility in scheduling and agent performance. In fact, schedule adherence is up 5 percent over last year. Not only is guest paperwork now handled electronically, but so is payroll—another boon, McKinney says, to productivity. 

Sustainability promises also extend Holland America’s branding. The cruise line’s safety and environmental policy states: “Safeguarding our guests, crews, ships, and the environment in which we live and operate is not only the right thing to do, it is essential to the successful conduct of our business.” McKinney says that Holland America seeks to go beyond the expectations for a green business, and cites as evidence the fact that its shipboard wastewater purification systems meet and often exceed all standards. That effort is part of what keeps customers coming back, he says. 

On cruises to Alaska and Antarctica, the ship offers guests the opportunity to attend a variety of environmental and ecological presentations. Spreading the gospel in that way is important, but Holland America practices what it preaches, with an environmental management system that requires an environmental officer onboard each ship to provide training and to oversee shipboard compliance with environmental laws, regulations, industry standards, and company policies. The cruise line has already been recognized by Travel Weekly as one of the greenest on the water—and McKinney says that, when it comes to sustainability efforts, the corporate command is clear: Full steam ahead.

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