Putting the customer first is a philosophy that has stood the test of time across industries. Today, technology has taken that philosophy several steps further, virtually bringing ‘the shop’ to the customer rather than the other way around.
Exciting changes in customer behaviour driven by new technologies have impacted the travel industry, as it has in virtually every other sphere. Travellers are able to access customised services at their fingertips and end-to-end solutions are just a click away. Multiple digital channels of communication with customers are integrated with traditional channels, throughout the chain of service delivery; with companies realising the necessity of having omnichannel connects with customers to stay competitive.
The common thread in all this is the desire, and indeed the necessity, of companies to provide services that have no parallel – services that can adapt easily to constant changes in consumer behaviour.
Without interruption, brick and mortar services have been transitioning to the online space over the last decade. The hospitality sector, for instance, has moved in the direction of online bookings in place of traditional reservations. Third parties websites, such as booking aggregators, are involved to not only provide an eagle’s eye view of available options but also offer personalised and value-driven services.
Providing services that orbit the needs of the consumer is the trick that has worked for ground breaking start-ups in particular in the sharing industry e.g. for accommodation or cars, etc. Their value-driven services have consumers engaging them for end-to-end travel requirements, all hinging on the underlying philosophy of using technology to bring the service to the consumer.
Curb-to-gate biometric airport terminals that allow passengers to speed through security and check-in procedures are already in existence, with the first such airport in the US introduced in Atlanta. Biometrics are integrated at key passenger touch points, and airports are also experimenting with using robots in live airport environments to enhance passenger experience. Artificial intelligence along with machine learning and predictive analysis are efforts aligned to personalise services through automation, among the other purposes they serve.
Mr Vinay Malhotra, Regional Group Chief Operating Officer, VFS Global states that at VFS Global, they have made significant investments in technology to enhance the consumer journey at every step of the visa process – with the result that the visa application process is now seamless and convenient, irrespective of whether the individual chooses to apply online, or apply at a Visa Application Centre or avail doorstep services.
Right from AI-powered chat bots guiding through a personalized online experience, to trained representatives assigned for providing personalised assistance to applicants through the entire process at the Premium Lounges in our centres, we’ve introduced a variety of services that have further eased the applicant’s journey.
The popular and unique ‘Visa At Your Doorstep’ service assures secure delivery of the documents to the applicants, thereby saving them from the tedious self-pick-up task. All of this, therefore, helps us provide a holistic experience that is not only quick but also hassle-free.
Adding an equal focus on our client governments, another example of innovation is the Location Independent Document Processing (LIDPro), developed in collaboration with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.
In fact, customers have come to expect the same high levels of service and convenience from both the public and private sectors, and don’t distinguish between the experience they receive from government services and private companies. Now, technology has made it possible to personalise even all manner of public-facing government services.
The focus is to save time, to get a service speedily and successfully. Interestingly, according to a Deloitte Consumer Review report, the majority of those surveyed showed a willingness to wait longer and pay extra for such services.
It is then to be expected that in time, personalisation will become a norm – no more a luxury, but a given expectation. Another perspective to technological advancement is preparing for the consumers of tomorrow, since digital natives, cradled by the comfort of technology, simply put, wouldn’t have it any other way.
At the dawn of the digital age, as we inch towards complete automation, the core philosophy underlying all these changes – of keeping the customer’s needs above all – remains unchanged for the time to come....