Technology, Innovation Differentiate Service in the Digital Age

John Pelant, VP-IT, CWT Americas
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John Pelant, VP-IT, CWT Americas

We all know that technology is changing the world—fast! Our ability to put advanced technology in the hands of the consumer—and every traveler being a consumer— means they now expect access to information at their fingertips. The July 2013 Mobile and Wire Communications Report by IHS Inc. predicted that 1.5 billion smartphones will be shipped by 2017, while the October 2013 Passenger IT Trends Survey produced by Sita/ Air Transport World found that 84 percent of air passengers carry a smartphone during travel.

For companies like Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT), these stats indicate that change is necessary in order to continue delivering service in a way that is relevant to travelers. This means branching into new channels and delivering services through a flexible structure that allows for quick response to evolving trends in the marketplace.

Three Primary Consumer Trends Driving the Need for Change

First, the world is becoming increasingly digitalized. Consumers no longer need human interaction to make a purchasing decision; their needs can be fulfilled with the click of a button.

Second, is connectivity. Smartphones, tablets and other smart devices allow consumers to be constantly connected—to each other, to vendors, to services. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predicts that by 2022, the average household with two teenage children will own roughly 50 internet-connected devices, up from the approximately 10 today. This means that essentially every item in a household with an on/off switch will be connected to the internet, and therefore considered a smart device.

The third and final trend is personalization. It’s fairly common for retailers to offer personalized suggestions based on purchase and search history, and they do it in a way that is welcomed by consumers.

These trends are driving a need for companies to provide their customers with usable, engaging, mobile technology solutions that solve a critical need. Looking at travel, it’s all about providing quick, relevant information to a traveler on-the-go that will allow them to connect with meaningful data. This could be prior to a trip allowing unique booking capabilities, or during a trip looking at local restaurant offers, and for business travel, could even have relevance post-trip, allowing travelers to see how compliant their choices were with their company’s travel program.

Technology is a Differentiator for Service Companies

In today’s digital environment, it’s extremely important for service providers to continue to differentiate themselves. We oftentimes hear that service is dying as innovations in technology continue to grow, especially in the travel space as consumers have the ability to book online versus having to book through a travel agent, or calling the airline, hotel or ground transportation provider directly.

The opposite is in fact true. Service companies should embrace mobile technology as another touch point with the consumer, using it to extend their reach and provide added value. It does not replace the need for human touch and interaction, but simply provides an alternative way for consumers to interact with the company.

Control your Digital Destiny CWT believes that to provide highlevel customer support in the digital age, service and technology need to be much more interconnected than they have been in the past. That is why we are taking control of our digital destiny, taking ownership of the IT infrastructure, building a strong foundation and blueprint for the future that will allow for rapid development of products and services that support the unique needs of customers.

"Mobile technology does not replace the need for human touch and interaction, but simply provides an alternative way for consumers to interact with the company"

In travel today, service is provided by phone and mobile device—tomorrow that may be through video chat or virtual assistant. Whatever trend is around the corner, we know that technology will respond, and respond fast. Having a solid IT infrastructure in place enables a company to rapidly develop for today’s customer expectations while remaining flexible enough to innovate in a way that is responsive to their customer’s needs.

CWT is striving to create one point of contact for our travelers through a mobile experience that supports all stages of the travel continuum–pre-trip, during travel, and post-trip. Our new booking tool CWT Online, powered by KDS is revolutionizing the booking experience and we’re transforming our award winning CWT To Go itinerary management app, using it as a building block for a truly holistic business travel experience. We envision a future where business travelers have one point of access for their journey that aligns with their corporate travel policy, ultimately allowing our corporate customers to achieve their bottom line.

Today’s digital, highly personalized and connected environment has created an opportunity for service-based companies to differentiate themselves with technology that fully supports the unique needs of their customers. This means combining the best people, best technology, and best architecture with industry knowledge to develop usable, engaging, mobile technology solutions that solve your client’s needs, ultimately making the services more valuable for the customer.

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