A well known European travel company, offering bespoke adventure and luxury itineraries, approached Fountech Solutions to help understand whether AI would be a cost effective investment, in order to streamline their bookings process and to extend their marketing reach. The company’s CEO knew that integrating AI might hold benefits, but had almost no understanding of how to go about it.
This high-profile SME had a three-fold issue to tackle, which is an absolutely typical scenario.
Firstly, they were sitting on a gold mine of historical data, from sophisticated customers and prospects, with a wide variety of desires, nearly all at high-end price points, but they had no idea how to dig down for it.
Secondly, when anyone requested itineraries, consultants would have to plan destinations manually, often with little background information on the enquirer. Flight routes, train tickets and stopovers would constantly need to be reviewed, seat and hotel prices always fluctuated. By the time all these variables were accounted for, customers had often already received offers from competitors.
Our client needed to speed things up, to find tempting schedules and venues in about an hour rather than most of the day. The reason for this is due to the unusual, bespoke nature of the suggested itineraries. The general public can use comprehensive websites such as ‘Expedia’ etc to book ‘mainstream’ accommodation, but searching for safari lodges, flights in light aircraft, passenger tickets on merchant vessels (as opposed to cruise-ships) is a specialised process. Potential customers often e-mail several bespoke ‘adventure’ travel agents all at once, attaching a ‘wish list’, and it is a scramble for agents to come up with something exciting and tempting before the competition.
As a result, once itineraries were accepted by clients, flights and hotels needed to be reserved within minutes of receiving a deposit. Leaving aside fulfillment issues, when marketing, the client wished to hyper personalize offerings, so they could close a greater number of bespoke packages. Their random ‘scattergun’ approach of mail shots and continually posting exotic destination photos on Facebook and Instagram was not cost effective.
Their third problem was that no-one in the organisation had an accurate idea of what AI could really achieve for the business. Of those who did have an opinion, each was equally inaccurate and polarised from others’ perceptions. Our client needed an independent expert to educate, facilitate and demonstrate on exactly what could be achieved with Artificial Intelligence.
That person was our iCAIO.
First of all, our client was reassured over the affordability of the iCAIO service.
It is cost-effective, because there is no long-term commitment to use our consultant, just a pre-agreed but extendable period.
At the outset, we make clear that each iCAIO is appointed to serve the client’s interests impartially, so we ensure that there is never any conflict of interest between previous clients or those in related commercial sectors.
The iCAIO was nominated by Fountech Solutions to become the public face of the new technology, both internally and externally. He had a background in the travel and hospitality industries, his last project having helped a mobile device restaurant marketing app publisher with the commercial and scientific aspects of AI.
On this occasion, the consultant saw the entire project through himself, but crucially, the iCAIO doesn’t necessarily have to be the same person continually, dependent on the possible diverse specialisms of each phase. In any event, his first task was to create a report outlining the overall vision of the project.
Our consultant first conducted a situational assessment, outlining a gap analysis, which provided a starting point to define the AI strategy going forward.
The report outlined suggested standards for implementation, considering management structures and ethical issues. It got things moving by identifying existing employees at the right level, then suggesting what to outsource.
We showed our client how to build capacity by advice on recruiting the right talent and identifying appropriate vendors or consultants to solve key problems.
Our solutions work, because we are an international organisation, involved across multiple, diverse industries.
Our iCAIO is not really just one person, they are the conduit for our entirely highly experienced core team of PhD level data scientists, academics and mathematicians.
The client’s new found direction and clarity quickly translated into results. The system developer, under our guidance, created clustering algorithms that identified client categories, including important features as travel destination hot-spots (e.g. cultural history, unusual wildlife in Madagascar, hardcore trekking, various price points etc). This allowed the client to quickly place customers in a category to start from a base package for that given category and bolt-on other personalised aspects for the trip. For example, it’s difficult to find vegetarian restaurants in the bush when you’re on a Safari holiday, but Fountech’s smart systems have the ability to find such a facility, if it exists, from Big Data, within seconds of a request.
The client’s travel consultants had a myriad of possibilities at their fingertips, with flights and hotel bookings on one universally accessible dashboard after Fountech’s recommended developer used API’s to ‘bolt’ the client’s CRM onto the conduits of major travel websites. The time taken to complete the complex booking of multiple journeys and hotel rooms was reduced significantly. For a fraction of the anticipated cost, our client now enjoys a higher percentage of customer conversions and fewer cancellations. And all because we answered that ‘What if we only knew…’ question for a respected, established luxury travel brand.
The vCAIO will conduct a situational assessment to identify the needs of, and opportunities for, the organisation. They will provide a report outlining a gap analysis and the baseline from where to start defining the AI strategy going forward
Create a vision of where the organisation should be going
Set standards for strategy implementation through establishing the correct management structures and considering ethical issues
Make things happen by operating at the right level, knowing what to outsource and what to achieve in-house for optimum delivery
Build capacity in the organisation by recruiting the right talent and identifying appropriate vendors or consultants to solve key problems
Become the public face of the new technology, both internally and externally
Understanding your needs and identifying opportunity to exploit
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