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Ocean Medallion - Which Customer Problem Does it Solve?

Ocean Medallion
Ocean Medallion
A few years ago Disney embarked on a massive customer experience journey that included the introduction of a ‘Magic Band’. Disney at that time followed (and likely still does) an idea that can be paraphrased as looking at everything through the eyes of the customer and pay attention to all details. During his 2016 CRM Evolution opening keynote Dennis Snow explained this concept and implementation in depth (see also my earlier CRM Evolution post).
Dennis talked about the Disney way of creating great customer experiences, which basically follows three simple rules
1.     Design your processes with the customer in mind, not with internal/operational priorities; look through the lens of the customer
2.     Pay attention to details
3.     Create little “Wow Moments”. These add up to a lasting great experience and are easier to achieve than single “big” experiences.
To me the most important message that Dennis conveyed is that the simple things and consistency are what matters. Consistently provide little experiences throughout the customer life cycle. He underpinned this with some examples from the ‘ordeal’ of getting out of the park and back into the hotel. Everybody is exhausted, kids may be edgy, riding the bus is usually not fun. What about the bus driver singing some songs or doing a little trivia? The rooms showing some little surprise, like specially folded towels?
Another of his core messages was that a company gets loyalty and advocacy only by creating those “wow” moments mentioned above. For this to be effective, however, it must not fail at base priorities. Customer expectations can get mapped to a pyramid. Every customer expects accuracy and availability. These are just the baseline, however. If a company fails at these then there will not be a good customer experience. There is also no chance to create wow moments in these layers – only negative ones. Opportunities for wow moments lie at the top of the pyramid, where a company can become a partner or ultimately become a trusted advisor.

Why do I repeat all this?

A short time ago, on CES 2017, Carnival Cruises announced that they, supported by Accenture, have created something similar to the Magic Band: The Ocean Medallion, which will be given to customers who book a cruise in Carnival’s ‘Ocean Medallion Class’. The device will connect to and be tracked by approximately 4,000 sensors, including interactive screens etc., on board and is intended to greatly enhance the customer experience before, during, and after the cruise. Customers can provide their profiles via a web portal pre-cruise and on board use the device to open their cabins, pay for drinks/food or merchandise – or track their family members on board …
It shall also help streamlining the boarding process when in harbor.
On the backend the technology is driven by machine learning and an advanced analytics system that learns about preferences and over time, in order to better direct messages to the customers, based upon their preferences. Communication between the medallion and the sensor network happens in real time and it looks like, judging by the Carnival promotion video that Chris Petersen linked to his article, many processes will take advantage of this.
I can only surmise that Carnival wants to create the little wow moments that are at the heart of Disney, with a little help of technology, although there is no mention of service staff involved as the technology is a support to the ship’s crew. And as Michael Lowenstein in his column as well as other people often repeat, the employee is an integral part of delivering customer experience.

A Job well Done! But Who’s Problem does it Solve?

Watching said promotional video and looking at the FAQ I personally find only gimmicks that are creating a difference. Screens now show photos relating to me when I pass a screen, I can get photos pushed to my mobile phone – oops, do I really have my cell phone with me all the time on the ship? – I can order a drink to be delivered in some time to my seat in the show, etc. Ah, yes, I can track the whereabouts of my kids on the ship. Do I really want that? Admittedly it is sometimes easier to meet as a group, although here things can become positively creepy.
The rest is old wine in a new glass. Does it really matter whether I present an NFC enabled plastic card handed to me or use an admittedly more fancy gadget to open my door, or pay for a drink? Wasn’t the detection of a person being in a cabin to control the AC possible before?
The Ocean Medallion along with its accompanying technology first and foremost solves a problem that Carnival may – or may not – have. It makes it simpler for the crews to do their jobs, which is commendable in itself. Additionally it serves as a tool to drive additional revenue by probably making it even easier to buy non-essential things.

This also gets evidenced by a statement that comes at the end of the video:
At the core of it we are taking the burden of service delivery off the crew.
The Ocean Medallion system is an awesome piece of technology. If wisely used it can make some aspects of a cruise easier than they are without, and create wow moments. This, especially if Carnival succeeds in delivering on the more basic customer expectations, and follows simple rules, similar to the ones outlined above.
It also can become very creepy. Walking this fine trail carefully is important

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