Gaurav Kalyan, CTO & Co-Founder, Shoes on Loose, talks about how Travel Start-ups using WhatsApp automation for better customer experience.
Q. How WhatsApp is assisting you to serve customers better?
A. Shoes on loose aims at providing the right amalgamation of experience with “technology”. To make one’s travel hassle-free, we’ve “Integrated WhatsApp”. It’s a panel where the contact details of the customer come directly after the customer has made the query. This becomes convenient for the customer as well as for the salesperson as they can directly interact with each other. We have introduced the Client Dashboard. This system will give our clients a personalized experience by mining the history of the customer and then providing information with respect to their preferences in terms of location and other needs. We are also working on our client app after which we’ll be able to connect with the vendors and the operation teams at any time. Also, we have integrated our lead management, sales management, supply management system through our own proprietary software.
Q. What is the privacy, security and consent related policies of this new feature?
A. In my view, being in a travel industry, it is very important to ensure that security and privacy should remain a priority since, every service provider today, whether online or offline, collects and uses personal data. We constantly get data or information about our clients. So, to protect against any kind of breaches we have the policy to not share our data on public forum. Only the salesperson associated with the trip can see the contact details of the assigned trip of a particular customer who has shared his whereabouts for the same.
Q. What are some recent technological advancements in the travel industry?
A. In recent years, technological advancements have taken place in travel industry that are changing as well as challenging the industry. The travel industry is one where interaction with the consumer is very critical, and the technological advances are allowing the industry to get closer and know their customers better. These new developments such as Travel Apps; Virtual Assistance like Google Voice Search, Siri, Alexa; Mobile Technologies like Locators, Maps; DMCs etc exists now to give hassle free experience to the customers. And lots of websites are there to plan holiday a complete day-by-day itinerary based on one’s preferences.
Q. In what all areas, AI can replace conventional methodologies which are being followed in the travel business?
A. Today, nobody can doubt on the importance of technology in tourism and how it has influenced and continues to shape, as customers are seeking self-service methods. The way they travel, the destination they choose, AI has transformed the whole method and has replace conventional methodologies whether giving a chatbot facility in your website or proving a robotic assistance. Moreover, customers now have options for Itinerary planning, Chatbots are there for Flight or Hotel Bookings. Not only this, even in Japan there are hotels like The Henn Na Hotel chain which is known for welcoming visitors with robot dinosaurs. May be in coming future India will adopt this technology as well.
Q. Does industry need any specific policy change or support from govt.?
A. If we look at the tourism in India, sustainability is the main point of concern. India is a multiple-interest, all-season destination so, keeping sustainable tourism in mind to create a model of eco-friendly tourism is very important for both Government as well as tourism industry. Visiting different places is an amazing experience but, things in which these experiences are based on must be managed properly. Government has a very important role in educating people about economic, social and environmental responsibilities. This can be done by collaborating with travel planners, agents or companies, to design and execute campaigns or events to ensure that tourism policies are effective and moving in a right direction. For instance, in Ladakh, we are running #Save Ladakh Campaign where we’ll be curating clean-up drive, event etc. for that we want government to recognize tourism industry as public-private sector co-operation and also, it requires a complex set of mutually supporting infrastructure, policy and decision makings for the growth of the industry as well as for sustainable tourism.