The application of technology in travel - Part one.

How to find tech that supports humans and a tech provider that supports you.

By Paul Middleton19th July 2018

Good travel tech is not all about technology. First and foremost, it’s about people. 

There’s no denying it – the travel business is complex. Selling holidays to ever-more demanding customers is but a mere quantity of steps and processes. Associated is the gathering of available holiday components (such as hotels and flights), the setting up of (dynamic) packages, their selling to customers and the maintenance of a flourishing CRM.

Appreciating complexity.

Digital brings in new possibilities as well as new challenges. We now juggle with thousands of sources of holiday component data, with rules, margins, commissions, suppliers, deposits. We trust GDSs to deliver relevant data into our systems. You might hear terms like “machine learning” and “artificial intelligence” and wonder: Is my tech still up to date? Having worked in travel tech for seventeen years, I can say that it’s still challenging to stay on top of it.

But here’s the deal: What you want to do is choose a technological solution that works for you. Don’t worry about data too much – that’s what technology can handle best. In a world of highly competitive interconnected systems, smart tech offers variety while weaving a web of data that makes it all come together. A responsible technology partner will help travel businesses implement the system that fits their needs. Leaving travel agents or tour operators with the essence of their job: to connect with people and sell holidays.

Tech handles data, you handle people.

There’s a number of ways smart travel technology can benefit your business. Let’s look at three key areas of improvement.

Make better use of customer data.

Whether you’re a tour operator or travel agent, selling pre-packaged or dynamic tours, your person of interest ultimately is the customer. The right technical solution allows you to get the insights you need to address him or her appropriately.

That’s where a well-composed CRM steps in. Get all customer data into one system (allowing for the so-called single-customer view) and, if you haven’t already, collect further helpful information via tracking tools.

This will allow you to get an overview about what users do on your website and where they are on the customer journey, for example. The result: You gain a better understanding of the person searching for a holiday. With all information focused in one place, it’s much easier to overlook CRM processes and provide a better service.

See our blog post “Using a CRM to power omnichannel” to learn more about customer information and the single customer view.

Increase operational efficiency.

From the initial enquiry of a prospect to the final booking stage and post-booking care, there are a lot of manual processes that travel agents have to deal with. Imagine Jane, an experienced travel agent. She is motivated, knows her customers and what to offer them. But if she spends more time worrying whether her system is working rather than letting the technology support her experience and knowledge, she won’t do a good job.

A smart technology solution streamlines operational processes in a well-organised workflow. Automating usual steps in the booking journey and foreseeing what comes next, it’s helpful, convenient and can be relied upon. That way, organisations can grow, even when their number of employees remains the same. What we are ultimately looking for is to relieve agents of low-level tasks and empower them to concentrate on the essentials.

Improve engagement in Sales process.

Combining the perks of points 1 and 2, a helpful CRM and increased efficiency allows to reap the benefits of customer-focused technology. People get really excited about tech trends, artificial intelligence and all of that. But at the end of the day, we just want to increase our sales. And the way to do that is to be good at connecting with people.

It should be easy for customers to engage with you and easy for staff to deal with customers. While customers are on the phone with Jane, the travel agent, she can chat with them about what they’re looking for, give advice and listen to their needs. In a booking system whose interface is user-friendly, the search will be faster, more detailed (personalised) and more intuitive. The following steps are already prepared, altogether reducing the time needed and increasing revenue.

Reaping the benefits.

The right technology will benefit travel companies of all sizes. A clever CRM system remembers customer data and gives agents and operators a focused overview to work with. In the booking process, automation lets a lot of complexity and decision-making fall away, freeing agents to engage with clients and ultimately improving the customer experience.

Before engaging with a tech company too early in the process, you need to define goals for your business and do some research on what technology might be the best to reach those. After that, you’re in a place to look out for a travel tech partner to implement a system into your infrastructure. This choice is very important as it will influence the way you operate in a major way. A tech partner must not just be tech-savvy – they have to be a good cultural fit as well.

Keep an eye out for our blog post The application of technology in travel – Part two to find out more about choosing the right tech partner.