Automate to Regenerate: Examples of Cost Optimization in Travel Companies

On the 28th of August, Travel, Transportation and Hospitality Practice at DataArt hosted the second episode in the series of webinars about the benefits of process automation in the travel domain. The session was moderated by Philip Wolf, Founder and Serial Board Director at PhocusWright. This time, industry leaders and experts presented compelling real-life cases of how companies embraced and capitalized on automation of repetitive manual tasks.
4 min read
29/09/20
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Automate to Regenerate: Examples of Cost Optimization in Travel Companies

Find the recording and recap of the first webinar episode in our previous post “Automate, Transform, Optimize: Insights for Travel Companies from Industry Experts”.

During the second episode, our expert guests were offered a deeper dive into what it feels to entrust the repetitive, time-consuming, manual tasks to robots and bots (disclaimer: it feels like magic).

Jenne Pierce, Tech Product Advisor and Former SVP of Product at Apple Leisure Group, spoke about queue-reading robots trained to process and parse routine email messages. Staying on top of system email queues is challenging for many travel companies, especially, if staffing is limited. At the same time, not reacting on time or accidentally missing an important message may cause serious service consequences for the company and its clients. Email (or, in some cases, faxes) queue-reading robot is a relatively easy solution to this problem. Jenne Pierce illustrated how this kind of process automation helped in airline schedule changes management and stop-sell processing. In both cases covered, travel companies that implemented automated solution noticed a considerable reduction in personnel’s manual efforts, which also freed them up for more creative, “humane" tasks:

“It’s easy to imagine a world where you’ve automated the whole system, and it’s magical. But you can only get your way there in steps. You do not have to do a “big bang”.”

Jakub Dziwisz, CTO at AirHelp, shared real-life lessons that his team learned while creating and training LARA, a robo-lawyer which helps air passengers get compensated for disrupted flights. For the first version, the AirHelp team consisted of only two software engineers who focused on understanding how humans work and then “explained” the process to the machine, without an fancy AI and advanced programming techniques. As a result, 66% and 90% of claims were assessed automatically by Lara v.1.0 and 2.0 respectively.

“Instead of going with fancy AI, we implemented a relatively simple rule-based system that covered 90% of cases with 95% confidence level... Most of the success here is related to the fact that we invested up-font into clarifying and clearing the process, removing human bias, or the “noise” from the learning set”.

Watch the recording of the webinar:

Edward Silver, Strategic Advisor and Former CTO at Flight Centre Travel Group, emphasized that any action a human makes in the web can be replicated by a robotic process automation (RPA) tool, and travel companies must experiment with RPA - in case they are truly aimed at digital transformation. Such experiments do not require in-depth technical expertise, yet they can delivery tangible value to the business:

“RPA is at the heart of digital transformation... With automation, you are empowering folks to take the manual elements out of their day, so they can move on and work on higher-value types of activity”.

The best part of experimenting and piloting an automation process is that, once a company has the workflow documented in a spreadsheet or a database, it can use the same data to train robots for a variety of systems, including multi-vendor ones. To reduce the time for implementation and more quickly recognize gains in efficiency, travel companies can partner with technology providers proficient in RPA and intelligent automation (IA), ask DataArt, we can help facilitate this process.

Greg Abbott, Head of DataArt’s Travel, Transportation and Hospitality Practice, unveiled the story behind one of our ongoing automation projects in the maritime sector. For this client, intelligent automation was the key means to reduce costs and unlock the latent value behind their initial investment. To help the client achieve its ambitious vision of becoming “the Starbucks of the maritime industry,” DataArt team modernized and optimized existing processes, including complex financial reconciliations, and leveraged machine learning techniques to automate cost projections. Though the project is still ongoing, the client already saw productivity improvements of 50%, a reduction in processing errors, and increased customer satisfaction level:

“Beyond the real, tangible outcomes, the client has obtained cleansed data. From that, they are positioned to use some of the AI and ML tools, and they want to get to this goal, which could make a first in the maritime industry – being able to forecast fixed-cost port call”.

This is a live example of a company, in which a product-led approach drives the organizational transformation.

Travel industry experts unanimously agreed that, with the numerous automation tools available on the market, companies do not necessarily need a large engineering team in-house to pilot workflow automation. The barrier to entry is lower than ever, organizations can consider starting with a LEGO approach, and then gradually enrich what already has been done for business benefits and considerable cost optimization.

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