Improving existing operations to reduce risk, increase margins and yield competitive advantage is more important in the current market than ever – and we believe that analytics can provide the answer. This week Capgemini’s Business Analytics team are releasing a daily blog on some of the key use cases of Operational Analytics – today’s topic is Process Analytics.

The future of booking your holiday

As quantities of data and the techniques to exploit it continue to grow exponentially, the ability to drive business process improvements from analytical insights has become increasingly more important in maintaining a competitive position. In research by Oracle, 70% of respondents highlighted that driving efficiencies in business processes dominates the motivation for operational analytics, while at the same time improving customer service and maintaining customer service.

Furthermore Gartner says that by 2016, 70% of the most profitable companies will manage their business processes using real-time predictive analytics or extreme collaboration.

Take the example of booking a holiday to illustrate the opportunity. This blog is about how analytics can be exploited to make business process efficiencies, while improving the customer journey.

From travel agents to self-service

Before the web, planning a holiday involved a trip up the high street to a travel agent where the agent would access their systems and provide you a holiday to your specification. Although a one-stop shop, this was a pretty opaque process where there was a lot of trust that the agent was getting you the best deal.

Fast forward and while travel agents are still the preferred option for some, the web has provided many people with the opportunity for booking a holiday in a completely self-service way. At first this was a laborious process of accessing each airline website, each car-hire website, each insurance company website etc. to find prices, offers and options, leaving the customer with a bewildering set of options. We had plenty of choice, but the problem of getting the best deal still remained, and although choice increased hugely, the time to do all the research and booking has also increased.

This price versus quality challenge has been taken up by a number of aggregation services like skyscanner for flights, Trivago for hotels, for insurance and for care hire. Each one collects the customer information and then performs multiple searches across many providers returning results for each and displaying the best price, saving customer time and effort. The other main approach to one-stop holiday booking has been taken up by travel providers, in particular airlines (e.g. Easyjet), who offer all-inclusive holidays as well as pick and mix offers on hotels, care hire and insurance all under one roof. TripAdvisor has leveraged its customer base for its review service by adding a hotel and flight booking service.

Opportunities for data in travel booking

But what of the next step of providing a service that recognises customer needs and a sustainable and profitable model for the travel industry? What do the new opportunities of data, analytics and the emergence of computing power that enables real-time analysis, have to offer the holiday booking process?

The travel industry understands that in order to be competitive it needs to offer a customer-centric process; it needs to keep track of who its customers are, what they are interested in, and continually learn from customer behaviour. Gone are the days where this could only be tracked through booking information or surveys; customer loyalty schemes and online profiles now provide much of this information well before the brochures have been printed. So what can organisations do with this information to improve its value proposition in holiday booking?

Imagine you are looking to book flights. As a loyalty club member, you sign in to your account on the airline’s website. You have checked prices elsewhere and did not find cheaper quotes, and also on this site but without booking. The airline remembers your previous user history for these flights and before you even start to search, alerts you that the flights you have looked at on your previous visits are about to increase in price and you can select to book them now.

Or how about a step further where you set up a profile with preferences (e.g. family of 4), including flights (window, business class etc), accommodation (beach hotel with wifi and pool) and car hire?  All you then need to do is select the destination and date range, and then the site applies your preferences, and presents you current options across all components of your holiday, plus can offer you insurance and airport transfer too.

The tools and technology for many of these features exist now in other industries. Current leading-edge retail sites (e.g. Amazon, ebay) and social media platforms (especially Facebook) are already using your profile accessed by a login to monitor activity, record history, vary what content is presented, and give you a personal experience, so why not travel?

Continuous learning for what customers want

Not everyone chooses to interact online. Customer call centres are a popular channel, but have traditionally controlled the entrance of callers through Interactive Voice Recognition systems (IVR). But this can be a rather fixed, inflexible and slow process to reach the agent you need to answer your query. So-called ‘Dynamic IVR’ now existing that learns from customer visits, the options selected, and ongoing service issues e.g. complaints, to set IVR options specifically designed for you. For example, if a caller is identified as an existing customer with say, pending complaints, he may be presented with completely a new menu, instead of the main IVR menu which is presented to a new caller. More advanced ways of making a dynamic menu could be to change the priority of options presented in the menu. For example, in a main menu, if key 1 is for lodging a complaint, key 2 is for status, key 3 is to request an insurance quote, if a caller is found be to using option 3 (key 3) in his last call, he could be provided was that as option at 1, so that he does not need to hear the other options.

For our online experience we are increasingly expecting our interaction to be personal, and will becoming increasingly frustrated with businesses who insist on collecting all required customer data at every interaction. Those companies that can leverage current technology to develop meaningful customer profiles, present them with the information and choices they want with minimal input, and offer them competitive pricing will become the go-to travel agents of the future.

If you would like to know more about Process Analytics, our Operational Analytics offer or where Capgemini has delivered this capability before – please feel free to contact one of the authors.