Imagine a world where you have a smart travel PA that follows you around wherever you go. You can chat in the car, via Skype, or through your smartphone in Slack at home and at work. It can help you book, cancel, change search and manage every aspect of business travel. But unlike your actual PA, it is never grumpy, never on holiday and never too busy to help. In short, it changes your life!
Time has never been more precious for travelling executives. Work is done on-the-run, travel is often booked last-minute, and often sits as the lowest priority on the to-do list. If you’re a small business, there’s also a good chance you manage all travel in-house, which means you have to contend with time-consuming booking processes, less than ideal flight times and seat choices, juggling multiple itineraries, doing travel expenses and managing flight changes, delays or increased travel costs yourself.
Having processed millions of bookings over the last 10 years, we’ve gained valuable insights into what business and their travellers want and how they need to interact along the way. So looking ahead to 2017 and beyond, we now see a very different and exciting future ahead for travel bookers – one that understands you in ways you never thought it would.
When I started in computers in the 80’s (and that’s showing my age), I wrote my thesis on cybernetics – ‘Computers that could think’. At that stage, robotic chess along with massive mainframe computers were needed to provide any useful level of intelligence. These days though, data is so rich that finding patterns in huge troves of data is relatively simple. For me, the future that I envisioned back then is happening right now, in my lifetime, which is just astounding.
Say you’re driving home after a busy day in the office and you need to sort out flights for a trip next week. Why can’t there be a system that will scan your calendar and previous booking behavior to figure out what you’re likely to want to do, and then just book it using you mobile or desktop? With little or no interaction apart from a simple voice command. Well, we actually don’t think this is far off.
We’re still bringing this total concept to life, but we’ve made the first step in making this a reality and we’re on the journey to deliver on this dream. It’s important to develop a tool that won’t scare people off in terms of complexity, but instead allow different ways for travellers to book travel inside the applications they already use every day, like Messenger, Office 365, Slack and Skype to mention just a few.
This may not be a one-size-fits all tool for the travel booking industry, but it will enable a truly connected world where hotel, car, taxi and restaurant are all connected for a better customer experience. It’s a truly exciting prospect for the industry and indeed for businesses an employees, because at the end of the day, business travel should be about business, not about travel.
About the author
Darrin Grafton is the CEO of corporate travel management software company Serko. He spoke to Dynamic Business, last year, about the productivity cost of inefficient travel management for SMEs.