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How Carnival Cruise is taking customer experience to the next level

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Imagine directing innovation strategy and technology for what’s viewed as the world’s largest experience enterprise. That’s exactly the role of John Padgett, chief experience and innovation officer, global experience and innovation at Carnival Cruise.

Carnival, the world’s largest travel company when it comes to cruise lines, operates more than 100 ships under nine brands that travel to 740 destinations. Its interactive customer experience for each guest begins the moment a trip is booked and ends once the guest departs a ship.

In Padgett’s view ICX is exactly what a vacation should be all about.

“The letters say it all. The I is for interactive and interaction with the consumer. The C is for consumer and the consumer is everything, and the X is for band and pass [technology],” he shared during his keynote talk at the recent ICX Summit held in Dallas in mid-June.

Building a legacy as an innovator

The band and pass Padgett referred to are two CX strategies Padgett put into play during his Disney years, where he directed digital and CX strategy before joining Carnival in 2014. At Disney his team led “Game Changer” experience development for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts for 18 years.

During his tenure, Padgett spearheaded Disney’s FastPass+, Be Our Guest restaurant as well as Disney’s Magical Express and the development of Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique retail locations.

Padgett’s “X” at Carnival Corporation is the MedallionClass voyage technology — a quarter-size wearable called OceanMedallion that is powering a guest-centric experience and reflects a holistic approach and Carnival’s trademarked ‘guestcentricity’ focus.

Carnival gives guests the wearable and accompanying app prior to travel departure so they can set up port activities, on-ship interests and preferences in food and drink. Once on board, the wearable unlocks the stateroom, and guests can use it to order anything on demand, from suntan lotion to lunch.

In developing OceanMedallion, the focus was clear, Padgett explained, as it focused on an aspect of a consumer’s life which is most valuable: time.

“The higher personalization, the less friction and the experience is maximized. This is their [consumers’] vacation time so it’s critical to focus on that and increase the value for guests and customers,” he explained. “We’re selling happiness, people, places and culture.”

But developing such innovative CX requires a deep strategy that includes empowering team members, fostering the customer relationship, simplifying processes and personalizing the experience.

“These are our four guiding principles for creating amazing customer experience,” he said.

“You need to invest in the team behind the digital strategy with the goal of serving the guest and the consumer.”

A key aspect, said Padgett, is friction elimination.

“When innovating pay attention to simplification. Personalization makes an experience priceless. It’s an individual experience,” he said, and an experience that is not comparable to any other. “It’s truly understanding what moves that individual,” he added, and provided an experience and relationship focused on surprise and delight.

How OceanMedallion delivers a robust CX

Padgett provided a video during his keynote that illustrated how OceanMedallion plays a role in a cruise passenger’s trip from the moment a cruise is booked until the passenger leaves the ship. Medallion allows passengers to set up trip itinerary, gain access to stateroom in a streamlined boarding process and be invited to a range of experiences.

“It’s about getting back to the cruise experience, creating new level of service via technology but not tech-centric,” he said. “It’s changing the perception of the guest experience as it’s increasing engagement and increasing the impact of the experience.”

He said his team applies three specific components when it comes to CX and the three apply to every business: experiential media; the guest experience; and an experience platform. The three provide a “strategic innovation framework.”

That framework led to OceanMedallion, which was completed in under three years. It is a personalized experience that is exceeding guess expectations in way that can’t be anticipated or duplicated, said Padgett.

“We want to make sure we blow people’s minds. Tech is the enabler, but it is not the ‘one thing’ with customer experience,” he said.

OceanMedallion’s capabilities, explained Padgett, are exactly what guests expect in today’s on-demand world and used an analogy of the early feature cell phone compared to powerful smartphone devices.

OceanMedallion relies on 7,000 sensors throughout a ship, 4,000 digital interaction points, hundreds of miles of cables and a mirrored cloud-based on-board.

“We don’t want the cruise ship to be a feature phone but a smartphone with an Internet of Things platform,” he said. “It’s the next level of experience.”

For a deeper view of the ICX Summit check out this video from this year’s event.


Republished with permission from  Retail Customer Experience

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