Guest column: Tech fit for purpose

Christophe Peymirat, chief commercial officer, Egencia

NDC (new distribution capability), direct connect, open booking, door-to-door – all topics that get people talking in the business travel industry. Of course, everyone has a business to defend, or an interest group to appease. Sometimes the gloves come off and the debate rages with so much vehemence that you might think we were comparing political views instead of the best way to book travel.

But too often, these technology-based initiatives shift the discussion away from the most important aspect of our industry – service. No matter how much we innovate or how many cool apps we develop, we are still in a service-based industry. This means our primary goal is to provide the best service at the lowest cost. With so much technology, we tend to lose sight of why we are in this business – to serve travellers and their companies.

A recent Egencia survey of business travellers found that despite our appetite for the latest gadgets, people still crave good service, and count on real, live people to deliver it, especially when it comes to hotels. Worldwide, 84 per cent said face-to-face contact with a human was important, and 68 per cent would prefer to check-in with a clerk than with an electronic kiosk or mobile app. Also, 61 per cent wish their hotel would remember them from one visit to the next. So efficient, personal service is valuable to travellers and should never be sacrificed in a race toward more technology just for the sake of more technology.

Digital tools help us every day and are becoming increasingly personal. Done well, technology enables excellent service. So combining great technology with great service is now the focal point for travel management. The key to success is good integration and connectivity. What good is it to have a great app, if it’s not updated automatically when you make a booking? And what good is it to have a great online booking tool if your travel agent can’t use the same one as you do – or worse, if your travellers refuse to use it?

Open booking is a bad response to a real challenge. Sending travellers or travel arrangers out into the wild world of travel options forces them to choose not only how they will travel, but how they will book it. Instead, we should be making sure they can find what they need quickly and in a way that allows companies to manage costs. Connecting directly with a supplier for a more seamless service may sound like a good idea, but connecting with the myriad of providers out there in order to see all the choices is not often the best option for travellers – or for their companies.

Travellers want to choose flights, not technologies. If they have one platform that they can use to book wisely and with confidence, and where they can easily find what they need, then the only decision needed is what flight or hotel to choose. This platform will then become the natural place to turn for every trip, driving adoption up and costs down.

Another study we undertook found that in Europe, 75 per cent of companies have a centralised booking strategy. Here again, technology is an enabler of service. In a context where travel arrangers are responsible for the majority of bookings, an integrated platform where bookings are completed on the web then show up automatically in a traveller’s app is a fine example of this.

People adopt technology, as long as it serves them well. Technology for technology’s sake tends to disappear. But technology designed with service in mind to make life simpler – what more can you ask for in a service industry?

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