Data is not as complicated as the big data fanatics would like us to think. Quite often, a lot can be achieved by giving more focus to the data you already have.
NB: This is an analysis by Riaan van Schoor, co-founder, Agentivity.
There are plenty of emerging trends on the effective use of data, with frequent coverage on the topic of data usage especially in the travel industry, be that by airlines or just the industry in general.
At the 2014 GBTA conference, both Michael O’Leary from Ryanair and Tim Clarke of Emirates talked at length about the incredible opportunity that resides within the effective use of data.
Tim Clarke went so far as to suggest Emirates realised it was "throwing away” around 50% of the rich customer data it had in its system.
Now, significant investment is being made by Emirates to ensure it captures customer data more efficiently, keeps it and uses it more proactively for cross-selling and up-selling, as well as future sales.
The airlines are therefore clearly making this a high priority for them, and they acknowledge the agency community significantly contributes data. Some airlines view agents as partners and this could evolve to agents being true retailers, potentially turning the agency business model on its head.
Surprisingly, even Ryanair view agents as partners in this. O’Leary went as far to suggest the airline can work with those agents “who get it”, and together “will make an absolute fortune in the next 10 to 15 years”.
Imagine a future where agents are working hand-in-hand with suppliers to shape offers that match qualified leads!
However, some travel agency owners have tried to address the effective use and application of data, but found the choice of data application solutions scarce and expensive. Most seem to be either geared towards big multinationals or do not offer immediate results and a positive change in the business.
Agentivity is a travel data specialist helping travel agents use the data generated in the agency to drive business decisions.
It believes that making the most of data is the "elephant in the room" when talking to the average travel agent about data. All agents know they should be doing something about data and with data, but where to start is a major challenge.
And this is compounded by having to find a cost-effective ways of doing so.
One important point is that it is more than just using customer data to generate additional revenues.
Data is a tool that can be used to shape all aspects of the business - saving time in the workflow, developing a deeper understanding of the business, improving service to customers.
An often successful approach is one where small steps are taken and the initial focus is on the low hanging fruit.
Scott Pawley from Global Travel Management in Woking comments:
“Just getting something in place which can tell you if your departures tomorrow are in order, and if there are any outstanding services left to offer on those, is a big winner, despite the fact it seems so obvious.
“From there you can focus on any recurring patterns in the booking where things are missing, and work with those consultants on ensuring their sales processes are updated and address the mistakes they keep making.
"Pretty soon you have a happy sales force that is not constantly harassed by ticketing staff on missing elements in their bookings.”
Another obvious issue to keep in mind is that the quality of the data generated will be reflected in the amount of effort required to use that data effectively.
Allowing staff to add data to your bookings without any restrictions is going to cause you a bigger problem than the one you might be trying to solve.
Anthony Jeynes, Group Operations Manager at The Appointment Group notes:
"We are, and always have been, absolutely vigorous about the structure of our GDS PNRs. All entries go in specific places, in a specific format, and it’s paying off - it allows us to use all our data in all types of reporting and extraction we do, without much fuss.
“We even seamlessly report across different GDSs from our operations across the US, Europe and Australia , again since we conform to a single data standard.”
So where are the revenue opportunities for travel agents with the data they already have?
Some obvious opportunities exist around the cross-sell and up-sell of additional services.
Travelport, as an example, is very vocal about this part of the business, marketing it as “beyond air”, hoping to demonstrate to its investors, agents and suppliers alike that it is not purely reliant on traditional air-based GDS revenue streams.
Travellers do not appreciate being bombarded with sales pitches every time they speak to an agent, but like any advertising opportunity today, it’s all about timing and relevance.
Pitching extra baggage to a keen golfer a few days before his or her trip could easily turn into a sale, whilst the same offer to a one-day return business traveller is going to be fruitless.
There are also some other interesting areas of data-driven revenue generation. Agentivity works with agents who agree on a cost per ticketed PNR change with their key corporate clients.
The agents use Agentivity to automatically generate source data for their back-office to raise invoices every time a qualified change is made.
The data revolution is here to stay and newer, clever revenue models are emerging. But it is important not to lose sight of the potential that lies within an existing data set.
Big data doesn't have to mean a big investment - travel agents should look closely at what they already have and find the treasure that may be hidden just beneath the surface.
NB: This is an analysis by Riaan van Schoor, co-founder, Agentivity. It appears here as part of Tnooz's sponsored content initiative.
NB2: Agentivity is hosting a free TLearn webinar entitled "How to use data to transform your travel agency, taking place on Thursday 9th April. Details and registration, click here.
NB3:Gold nuggets image by Shutterstock