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Enhancing and boosting the retail customer experience is front and center for companies today, especially in competitive industries such as apparel, grocery, beauty, restaurant and hospitality.

It’s also a prime focus for the $35.5 billion cruise industry, and Carnival Corp., the world’s largest travel company when it comes to cruise lines, is out in front of the pack.

“Customer experience, or in our case the guest experience, is everything,” John Padgett, chief experience and innovation officer, global experience and innovation, for Carnival, told Retail Customer Experience in an email interview.

“Specifically, by removing the complexity of a vacation and enhancing the personalization, we’re allowing our guests to consume more experiences that are tailored uniquely to them,” he said.

Padgett is no newbie when it comes to CX innovation. Before joining Carnival in July 2014, he led “Game Changer” experience development for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts for 18 years.

He will share his decades of CX experience during his opening keynote at the Interactive Customer Experience Summit taking place at the Omni Frisco Hotel June 12-14 in Dallas.  Padgett is just one of many top tier speakers and presenters on the ICX Summit event agenda.

Padgett’s keynote presentation for the three-day event will provide invaluable insight touching upon Disney’s $1 billion MagicBand and MyMagic+ strategy that shifted guest experience delivery to a new paradigm tightly anchored to personalization, customization and connectivity.

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

In the past three years at Carnival, he’s been just as busy. Carnival Corp. cruise brands include the Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Seabourn, Costa Cruises, AIDA Cruises, Cunard and P&O Australia.

In October 2017, Carnival launched its MedallionClass voyage strategy featuring a quarter-size wearable device, called Ocean Medallion, that strives to deliver a superior level of personal attention.

“With the OceanMedallion, we’re democratizing elite guest service to all guests onboard a MedallionClass voyage service that historically has been accessible only to those who can afford a high level of personal attention that’s associated with a brand like Four Seasons,” explained Padgett.

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

Such service will hopefully differentiate Carnival from competitors and drive repeat bookings. It’s also likely to attract big attention from the millennial traveler given that generation’s love of gadgets and apps and their expectations when it comes to service.

The experience of travel, explained Padgett, is uniquely different than a customer’s experience in a retail setting, and so the guest experience approach must be unique.

Vacation, he said, is all about memories, and memories transcend products and service which revolve around prices and features. And that, along with the continued emergence of what he calls the “Experience Economy,” means people are valuing experience more now than ever, particularly because of the limited time and the pervasiveness of information.

The vacation element of time is the most valuable to guests, Padgett said, and the ultimate experience is something that requires nothing of the guest.

“Maybe to some people, eliminating that action is small, but to us, we are committed to creating the ultimate in guest experience,” he said.

Padgett, when asked, distills customer experience down to the one word of “guestcentricity,” which he defines as changing the experience orientation from “what” the guest experiences to “how” they experience it.

“Businesses are traditionally operations-centric, a strategy in which interactions with customers are driven by a collection of business units — a practice that is rife with breaks in the guest service experience and requires them to master how they fit into each section,” he said.

In simple terms, Carnival is transitioning to a guest-centric strategy in which its operation revolves around the guest.

“By being guest-centric versus operations-centric, our entire goal is to improve the guest’s immediate experience,” said Padgett, who also shared tips for others on a quest to boost the customer experience.

For example, top-tier buy in is a necessity, as is a clear strategy. At Carnival, the CEO is as invested as is every member of the company on its consistent strategy to focus on the guest.

“For us, the goal is the manifestation of that strategy, not the innovation. Innovation is simply a tool to deliver on strategy,” explained Padgett, who also noted that just doing something digital is not better.

“Different is seldom better, but better is almost always different,” he explained.

But better, he said, can be hard to make happen, and making change within a corporate culture and driving that change can be even harder.

“So, it’s important to be realistic of that when pushing the boundaries. Day one may not be perfect, and you have to keep people focused on five to 20 years versus the first five days,” he advised.

But hard work and invested time can prove rewarding for guests and the company, he added.

“I think what you’re seeing is a transition into an era of enterprise innovation which can be amazing. When you combine the scale and financial resources of a successful enterprise with the passion and commitment to change the world that previously was just found in start-ups, you create an incredibly powerful new combination,” he said.

“Because we’re focusing on the holistic guest experience — everyone is included from the CEO to the stateroom host delivering the experience. And every second of every day, someone around the world is working to make the MedallionClass experience a reality.”

Interested in hearing more from Carnival’s Padgett? Attend the upcoming ICX Summit by registering here.



Judy Mottl

Judy Mottl is an experienced editor, reporter and blogger who has worked for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews. She’s written everything from breaking news to in-depth trends. She loves a great pitch so email here, follow on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.

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