In the third of our Founders Series, Daniel Ox, Managing Director of Ocean Holidays, discusses how the latest technology has always been integral to our innovation and how emerging AI can be a tool for improving human interaction instead of a threat.
In the early days of Ocean Holidays, the internet was still in its infancy and Teletext was the pinnacle of technology in selling travel. The humble telephone was our route to sales which combined with a liberal sprinkling of East London charm (or South London – depending on which of us you ask….) was our formula for success.
Fast forward 20 years and the world of travel has undoubtedly changed. Nevertheless, some of our founding principles remain. Despite having moved on from Teletext, the telephone is still one of our most important tools for personalised service. And our most valuable assets? Our team, whose voices at the end of a call, a Whatsapp, e-mail, or text, provide knowledge, reassurance and clarity to customers making their holiday purchase.
What’s more, we’ve harnessed technology to further enhance the way we communicate with customers – not replace it. Smart algorithms tell us if a customer prefers an email-to-email exchange or a chat on the phone. Ultimately, whichever method we use to communicate, we pride ourselves on putting humans in touch with humans.
Connecting people with people
Technology sits at the heart of all great travel companies, from enquiries to booking systems to customer service outreach and this has seen many businesses go down the automation route with online booking. At Ocean Holidays, we’ve done the opposite. We recognised that booking holidays can be a huge expense for most people, so naturally they want to trust the companies and people they’re booking holidays with.
We want customers to feel assured that there is someone available to support them at every step of their booking journey. That’s why each of our customers has a dedicated booking agent that engages with them from their initial enquiry to when they board the plane to when they arrive back in the UK.
However, we have utilised technology to enable our staff to be more effective when communicating with our customers. We have used proprietary algorithms to build an ‘Agent Task Master’ programme that optimises the timing and prioritisation of our customer contacts and ensures that every enquiry and conversation is followed up in a timely and efficient manner. This empowers our agents to spend more time having quality conversations with our customers and less time on administration and duplicated tasks.
Using technology to ease the customer journey
As our business has grown over the last 20 years, we’ve adopted a rigorous A/B testing methodology across many areas of our business. This has involved breaking down the customer journey into key stages from start to finish and understanding its pressure points and areas of improvement.
Doing so has not only increased sales, but also helped to boost customer loyalty. An example of this practice is the quote process. By testing the response time of sales agents to customer enquiries, we found that responses sent in minutes, as opposed to just one hour later, can result in a 2x conversion likelihood.
It sounds simple and that’s because it is. Technology that eases the customer journey doesn’t need to be ground-breaking, it just needs to respond to individual needs.
As technology evolves with the introduction of driverless cars on the road, mobile orders in restaurants and Chat GPT built customer service – we are committed to our founding principle of being a people first organisation. At Ocean Holidays, technology will always work for us, not instead of us. After all, AI can mirror humans, but there is no substitute for knowing that we see the world the same as you and feel the passion to treat your holiday like our own.