Tuesday 29 October 2013

GUEST BLOG: Failure rebranded as innovation?

You may have seen Amon Cohen’s recent interview with Dean Forbes in which Dean discussed Managed Travel 2.0 and went on to describe this concept as “failure dressed up as innovation”.

When the idea of Managed Travel 2.0 burst onto the scene it was a fresh approach to a long standing problem: how can we stop maverick travellers booking outside of process and prevent leakage from T&E programmes? Scott Gillespie led the charge promoting the travel innovations he'd like to see and in early 2013 KDS launched Flex T&E as a point of sale solution to this problem. At that time I said it would probably be an 80:20 solution with 20 per cent of corporates going down that route, however, the results have actually been more 95:5 and I believe this is because many people have taken their eyes off the real problem.
Initially we had thought that the emergence of ‘millennials’ onto the scene had driven the urgency to find a new type of solution, as these digital natives are far less forgiving of bad technology. However, the last year has shown us that this is not a generational thing - it's a ‘bad user experience’ thing!

People of all ages leave the corporate process when they can't find what they want. This may be because of poor content (the right content poorly displayed or the right content at the wrong price) or if they have to spend an unreasonable amount of time/effort using the tool (performance and usability).

Put another way - the whole leakage/maverick/millennial problem stems from a failure of tools and processes. When tools, policy and process are at odds with traveller experience, the result will inevitably be leakage and maverick behaviour. Tools and policy driven too aggressively by cost savings sometimes contradicted themselves (we've all flown a cheap flight but ended up spending more on ground transport or seen a cheaper flight than the one listed in our corporate tool) which further 'justifies' the maverick's stance.
Some providers jumped on this as an opportunity to 'not' address their core issue, which was a terrible user experience and lousy content. However, not even millions in marketing budgets can convince the industry that ‘open booking’ is anything more than a rebranding exercise (failure = innovation). Sceptics might even say it's an opportunistic way of bypassing both the TMC and GDS. At KDS we recognise the importance of the ecosystem and believe we all have a role to play both now and in the future.

Allowing people to effectively bypass process and tools using only an 'open booking' solution simply pushes the problem back to the user. They have to spend more time on many different sites for the search and book process. They then have to spend even longer manually entering this into expense systems - two steps backwards!

The simple answer to the problem is a great user experience with complete content. Sound familiar? It should do - because that's what we've attempted to solve with KDS NeoWe have found that Neo is delivering the right results by addressing the core issue and solving the root cause of the problem - fast and simple door-to-door bookings with the best choice of content. Users of all ages are responding to this in the way we hoped – by booking online with the right tool and embedded policy and process. Indeed both hotel attachment and user adoption are up in the customers who have deployed Neo so far.

There is still a place for 'open booking', specifically where there is no TMC in place or if the customer is not using truly innovative solutions like KDS Neo - but it remains on the peripheries rather than on centre stage.

This post was written by Oliver Quayle, KDS Senior VP Products and Partners. For further information on KDS please visit www.kds.com.

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