With the latest rave about the i-pad, the streak and other such tablet/touchpad based computers, one wonders if it would make anything really ‘easy’ for people in the travel sector – one where there is much of data crunching simply in the process of making one tour dream into a reality. Basically, tablet pcs utilize simplified versions of their regular PC/laptop software, and are mostly very capable for simple tasks. Given that the repetitiveness of travel related tasks fit under one heading, it is likely very possible to have a touch interface that gives the user access to the world, all on one little 5″ or 7″ screen.
As a matter of fact touch-based interfaces are – even NOW – being used all over. You see them in bank ATMs, in coupon stamping terminals in most Indian Railways’ stations, even in mobiles. There are programs from as simplistic as calculators and memo pads, to the extensive as games, music/movie players, and so on. Travel and tourism isn’t something very complex to work out and book. There are of course certain assumptions to be made, and once these are in place a very practical system can indeed be implemented.
We assume the following are already in place, fully functional and usable:
- Database. A backend of current clients; names numbers, etc. Also a pre-set collection of routes, packages, pricing, and finally, agents and facilitators.
- Mobile phones and tablet devices. Each individual involved with a trial of the program would be intended to have one mobile phone and tablet device that talk to one-another.
And now that the assumptions are in place, here is what the tablet can do for you.
You receive a call. The tablet device recognizes the number before you pick up the call, and tells you whether this is a client or not, and possible location they’re calling from. The caller this time is a past agent/customer, and the tablet shows you these details, plus possibly a decent photograph of the person calling right on screen. It also tells you the person’s name, general location, a very concise history of customers brought in, latest trips taken, most preferred locations for a tour, etc.
The caller wishes to make a fresh booking, which will no doubt need a fair bit of handholding across 3rd party services; flight, taxi, accommodation and meal bookings, possibly more. You simply enter the person’s selection. A 3 day tour of their most preferred location, for the person calling plus two. You can select the names of these two travelers from a list of past travelers if so available; or fill them in later. You’re informed that the details of the travelers will be emailed to you in a short while. As you pick through options, selecting their past favorite taxi service, meal choices and confirming the same on the spot, you come across a Spa special offer that can be offer that can be offered at no extra cost to the client – and of course the caller is most delighted to hear of this. Meantime the database updates the office staff that may need to follow up on various points; and they can do so while you close the deal.
Barely seconds later, the software notifies you of the bookings being done – for one known and two unknown travelers – i.e. arranged the selected taxis for pickup and drop off, flights, accommodation and meals. Then, the software points out names, emails and numbers of the related 3rd party agencies, who you may optionally email with a ready-made message with all the discussed details that correspond to their area of expertise, or maybe you choose to call and work out the details over the phone. You hit the buttons on the tablet, and it does the work, all you need to do is look at the tablet screen and talk! Updates if any can be updated in the software in real time, and reflect instantly on the website.
Meantime the client’s email comes through – the software recognizes the sender and picks up the email; then asks you to select information relevant to the booking to be able to complete the previously unknown names. Booking done, complete and confirmed – all in a matter of minutes! A response to that effect is sent to the client with a regular company letterhead and all related booking details and confirmations; plus additional information if any can be entered rather quickly using the tablet’s writing recognition and fast word-completion facilities.
Throughout, there is no need for you to remember which phase of the booking is done/incomplete, or what ‘code’ stands for what service/facility, or who to call with regard to a particular service. The tablet (and it’s matching database) knows all. The added advantage is the reduced complexity of the system – making things easy to understand and recognize using clear and precise labeling makes things easier to take bookings – and reduced time per transaction.
The client can then manage their bookings entirely online; alterations and cancellations can be managed on an as-needed basis with a similarly simplified approach. Similar modifications may be done for a request via email; with the option of callbacks, etc.
The vCIO perspective:
Such conceptualization is part of what a vCIO would do – a more detailed concept would include diagrams and flow charts illustrating exactly how the system should work, where it would pick up what bit of data, and what it would do once it has the data worked out.
Naturally even in concept this is a large project, nevertheless it’s very practical for a team of 5 efficient programmers to program _and_ implement in under 6 months. Using very economical tech – so the entire cost of the project would come in well under USD 10,000 – and would be sustained in-house with the same in-house staff.