Its been a tough month for Carnival Cruise lines after their ship Triumph lost power stranding over 4,000 vacationers at sea. Guests had to endure food rationing, overflowing sewage, and fears of looting while they waited for the ship to be towed back to land.  While all of this has created a PR nightmare for Carnival, there was one bright light among the countless tales of anger and frustration; that bright spot was the professionalism of the crew.

The staff of the Carnival Triumph worked around the clock to keep passengers calm and the situation somewhat bearable. They constantly checked in on guests, had to take on the dirtiest of jobs like collecting people’s waste, and often did it all with smiles on their faces.  Report after report from guests have lauded the crew for doing an amazing job given their challenging circumstances.

While Carnival will be spending a lot of their time cleaning up the public relations disaster, it would be a mistake if they lost sight of their most important asset, which is their crew. It would be easy to send them all back to work as if nothing had happened, especially since head office will have their hands full over the next couple of months. But, there is an opportunity here to strengthen their business in the long run and it involves the staff of the Triumph.

So, If I were CEO of Carnival…

  1. I would bring in the managers from each department of the ship for a debrief. My goal here is to gather the lessons learned in handling both guests, and staff during the crisis. These lessons would then be passed on to every manager in the company. I may even try to have a couple of training days where some of the crew from the Triumph were present to share their stories and pass on what was learned.
  2. The managers or staff who performed especially well, I would send them to other cruise ships to share their stories of what happened, what they learned, and what they would do differently. I would make sure everyone in Carnival had a chance to hear these manager’s stories.
  3. I would make sure the crew of the Triumph got some type of bonus for their hard work whether it was money or paid days off.
  4. I would make sure the crew heard from me directly about how much their efforts have been a bright spot for Carnival and how their efforts made the best of a bad situation for guests.
  5. Finally, I would want to know which staff was the best of the best during the crisis and then I would create a new award, kind of like a medal of honor, to be given to them for acts of extreme heroics. I would have a nice ceremony at a nice hotel and invite the recipients. I would then make sure that all of the Carnival staff had access to their stories as a source of inspiration.

You don’t have to be facing a monumental customer service nightmare to implement these same lessons in your workplace. The idea here is that your employees are one of your greatest sources of training. When something goes wrong it’s an opportunity to learn and grow. The key is to not get so busy that you fail to recognize and capture the lessons learned and pass them on. Doing so also motivates your employees as they get a chance to contribute to the organization with their story. When was the last time one of your employees handled a tough situation, or a nasty customer? Have you had them share their story? If not, find a way to make that happen this week.

So if I were CEO of Carnival, I would make sure someone was making these things happen. If I were CEO of any other cruise ship right now? I would be trying hard to steal some of Triumph’s employees because I want their knowledge, and experience for my own company.