Disjointed Technology27 February 2018
Photo: Thomas Verbruggen - Unsplash
This week my family and I booked a holiday. After much discussion, research and reading Tripadvisor, we are off to Mexico. As it is 2018 you might think that I booked the trip online. You’d be wrong. We ended up booking with a travel agent. This was due to some additions that we wanted to make and a room we wanted that wasn’t offered by a UK online company.
In the UK there are becoming fewer and fewer actual travel agents to go and book a holiday with. I am not going to name and shame the company that I booked with. They offered mediocre customer service. But, the thing that stood out as I endured a near 90-minute booking experience was the poor use of technology.
When we arrived we sat down with the agent. The first thing they did was to bring up the holiday in one browser that we had found on their online site. In another browser, they then logged into an internal version of the company website. They then pulled out a paper notepad and started to scribble various references down. They started to write down the online and in-store prices. Then, on paper, they started to work out any discounts they would be able to offer. Their internal site was pricing the holiday at over £1000 more.
It then descended to a point where they had to log in to over 6 online systems. These covered the online and in-store versions of the company website, insurance website, payment system, airport parking and excursion websites. The thing that really stood out was that as the agent logged into more systems the use of the paper notepad grew. Each piece of data required by the payment system was written on the pad before manual entry. When various product shortcodes were required they were obtained from a printed sheet.
Security was worrying. On a couple of occasions, they shouted out to a colleague for a password. The response was then written on the notepad. It would seem that for at least one system there was a shared login. The scariest thing of all was the notepad paper being scrunched up at the end of the process and being thrown in a trash bin.
There was so much that made me take note. Why does this company have an internal and external website for their holidays? Why not have one that lists both prices. Why make the agents calculate the discounts when you have the data sitting on a server? Why is the payment system separate from the holiday data? Why is there no integration? Why not integrate with your partner’s for insurance and extras? So many why’s.
The agent took 90 minutes to book the holiday for a few hundred pounds more than the online price. In the time we sat there the staff lost 4 potential customers because all the agents were busy. What could the impact be on that business if they integrated their systems? How much quicker could they book a trip for a customer if there was no writing prices and references down? What if they could halve the time it takes to book a trip and match the online price? I am guessing fewer mistakes, happier staff, much happier customers and more revenue. By allowing their technology to remain so disjointed they are harming their business.