John Padgett joined Carnival Corp. six months ago as its chief customer experience officer, the first person to hold that title at Carnival. He came to the job from Walt Disney Parks & Resorts in Orlando, where he was a vice president and one of the chief designers of the MagicBand all-in-one wrist device that serves as a room key, charge card and Fast Pass check-in device. Padgett spoke with cruise editor Tom Stieghorst at Carnival headquarters in Miami.
Q: How does one go about driving the experience of someone who can come from any different country, ethnicity or personality type?
A: When you think about experiences, it's a term that's largely overused or misused. Experiences are used to describe products, or to describe services or really even commodities. And experiences are a different level. Experiences are achieved when you get that deep emotional connection with a guest. Emotion is universal. It transcends borders, cultures and ethnicities. It's how you connect with that guest deeply. That's when you create a true experience.
Q: Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald says his goal is for cruise lines to exceed expectations. Is that what this is?
A: What will differentiate us is [exceeding expectations] in ways that can never be expected or anticipated by our guests. It's when you truly surprise and delight and do things in ways that aren't expected that you truly exceed guest expectations.
Q: Henry Ford said, "If I had asked them what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse." Is this the idea, delivering an experience guests would have not thought of themselves?
A: It's really about breaking out of the way you're doing things today, and doing them in a way that is fundamentally better. Most people concentrate on improving who you are. I focus on, where do we want to be? And then figure out how to get us there. I'm not as much concerned about exactly what we are today. I'm more interested in where we want to be and what we want to be. If the technology exists today, we'll use it. If not, we'll invent it.
Q: What is the unifying factor?
A: The guest. If you establish what is awesome for the guest, what experience emotionally connects them with your brand, then you reconstruct the business models, the operational processes and the technology it takes to achieve that goal.
Q: Are there examples to illustrate what you're talking about?
A: Obviously the MagicBand would be the most central, unifying element that holistically reinvented the Disney World experience. It was all created with the mindset of what was good for the guest. What you see with the MagicBand [is] access to the room, access to the park, access to Fast Pass, access to payments. But it's not just that you do those things, but it's that you do them in a way that's more personalized, more customized, more seamless and more hassle-free than has ever been created before. That's the best example in the industry by far.
Q: How did you find yourself at Carnival?
A: Jerry Montgomery [now Carnival's chief human relations officer] and I were the business partners in charge of delivering Disney's Magical Express in 2005. That was an industry first. No one had done it before. No one has ever duplicated it since. He and I were partners. We've maintained a relationship ever since. So, the direct answer is a long and enduring relationship with Jerry Montgomery.