This weekend I was watching a Hindi Movie Naya Daur of the great Mr. Dilip Kumar where a man brings disruption to a peaceful village by disturbing the livelihood of the local villagers, farmers and workers. This man does this by introducing machines to replace human labors. In the movie Hero wins by defeating the machines in a race but that was a typical Indian movie. In the movie the Hero was very innovative that he made his own path for the race based on his domain knowledge. Time have changed but scenarios are still same where traditional businesses are fighting with chatbots and technology.
Now just imagine the situation of traditional travel agencies today where they have the domain knowledge, they understand their customers better than any OTA's but these OTA's are using right technology and marketing and replacing the traditional agents. If travel agents have to won this game they have to create their own path like in the movie hero too have defined his own path ie personalized services for travelers.
Machine learning, bots, AI and now chatbot are those tools which any agent must adopt and learn to survive. Agents will be paid in future on how early they adopt the technology else they will be replaced in few years not even decades. We all know what happened with traditional taxi operators in the age of UBERization.
With right technology tools agents can analyse the complete journey of a customer starting from inspiration, research, bookings and more importantly post bookings where many of us left the customer to sail the boat alone. What if one can guide the customer post sale and act as a true travel adviser? Key to success over here is to create those touch points with the customer where he feels the personalization, simplicity and seamless connect with his very own travel adviser.
Agents must offer the things that are more relevant to the customers, they should capture the customer experience on what they liked and what they didn't like in the past trips. Agents has to remember the customer preferences and surprise them before they tell what they want. Day by day cost of acquiring a customer is getting expensive so agents must consider the data that they already have and use it smartly. By the time customer knows that his visa is expiring you should tell the customer. Before the customer asks for a vegetarian restaurant in Spain your offer should have the list of vegetable restaurants and recommendations based on his past history.
Automation is already playing a big role specially in travel domain and throwing major challenges for travel agents. Its time for agents to act and adopt the right technology, in response to a world where the value of Travel Agents work is under pressure.