With the world becoming increasingly interconnected and digitally driven, businesses that embrace technological advancements are better positioned to thrive. From streamlining operations to enhancing customer experiences, digital integration offers immense opportunities for growth, efficiency, and innovation.
Thomas Cook India, is well aware of the crucial role of digital and technology implementation in empowering businesses to stay competitive. Our company has adapted to the changing market dynamics, unlocking many new avenues for enhancing our customers’ experience in travel and hospitality.
We list a few of the innovations…..
The crisis of the pandemic provided us with a significant opportunity! We maximized on the downtime to accelerate our Digital First strategy. We leveraged technology to drive efficiencies and scale of change. The goal was to automate business processes: simplify them, and ensure quicker turnaround time thus improving the customer experience while simultaneously minimising costs.
We focused on empowering consumers through self-service apps, AI-enabled chatbots, dynamic package builders, build-your-own-holiday tools and corporate self-booking platforms with integrated payment solutions – in line with the expectations of a rapidly expanding digital first market.
Digitization has helped us ensure contactless, scalable, secure solutions to customers. Today, our unique hybrid Clicks & Bricks phygital model harnesses the speed and efficiencies of technology with human expertise and reassurance.
Our Foreign Exchange business being an essential service, was permitted to operate despite the pandemic and highly regulated/restricted environment. Creating a contactless operating environment was hence an imperative to our survival. We equipped our customer facing Forex teams with remote telephony/diallers and access to our internal transactional systems and CRM, thus empowering them to operate seamlessly from the safety of their home and support customers with end-to-end forex transactions.
With easing of restrictions, we leveraged this model to rapidly scale up business, despite a reduced workforce. We set up a Centralised Virtual Branch – with a common pool of resources that could process and service forex transactions, irrespective of the source/channel. The last mile delivery was then managed by the closest branch. This helped us launch an unmatched differentiator: Ghar pe Forex, with a commitment of delivery in 2 hours!
In a 2 pronged endeavour to support its Partners with meaningful employment during the pandemic, and expand its distribution, the Forex business conceptualized an innovative B2B digital tool – FX MATE. This digital pivot equipped partners with remote access to our internal forex platforms, enabling them offer their customers foreign exchange services from the safety/convenience of their home. The unique digital B2B model continues to deliver significant and sustained business impact – with an impressive 1600+ partners on-boarded since inception, delivering aprox. Rs. 1000 cr in turnover.
The Forex business has transformed every consumer touch point into a smooth and seamless experience, leveraging its unique Digital Sparsh strategy. Customers are now offered the choice of multiple digital options to transact with us: from our Online Forex Store, Video Sales and FxNOW (B2C m-app) to our Digital Forex Contact Centre/Centralized Virtual Branch; or a combination of channels basis their unique preference.
A business extensively governed by regulation, Foreign Exchange entails complex processes/checks and extensive documentation. The launch of our Video/ E-KYC proved to be a game changer – eliminating customer inconvenience of having to visit a branch, while ensuring adequate checks and strict compliances. The VKYC feature is fully integrated with our internal platforms enabling seamless data flow and hence a truly ‘contactless journey’ for our customers.
The strong customer adoption is a clear reflection of the success of the business’ Digital Drive: Digital platforms currently contribute a noteworthy 20% to the total Foreign Exchange retail business.
With a focus on end-to-end digital transactions, our Corporate Travel business leveraged technology via seamless integration across our CRM, multiple online booking tools, e-invoicing, payment platforms and ERP back office system, to ensure an elevated customer experience.
In Corporate Travel, for our digitally forward business travellers, we deployed global top-of-the-line self-service booking tools like Zillious, EVA, Happay, Concur, while giving the corporate the option to choose – basis their unique needs. The high adoption rate of over 50% by our corporates has freed up valuable manpower, reduced manual dependencies and costs, while simultaneously enabling rapid scalability. All our online booking tools are embedded with respective corporate travel policies, approval matrices and MIS/reports with integration to our centralized mid office system – Ibook towards smooth workflows.
One of the most significant tech initiatives, was the elimination of manual paper invoicing and the shift to e-submissions, in line with our sustainability practices.
Our Meetings Incentives Conferences & Events (MICE) business witnessed a digital transformation with increased efficiencies by automating time consuming, manual processes, including sales, contracting, operations and visa processes.
We conceptualized and launched dedicated MICE platforms: .
The introduction of MANTRA/ICONIC helped minimize manual processes and eliminate duplication of tasks by automating detailed customer information and documentation for groups of 50 to over 3000, file management, visa quality control checks and process management, airline seat blocks and pricing, tour costing, invoicing, etc.
Granth – a product repository, inclusive of destination specific proposals-costing, itineraries and archives of on-ground experiences. Granth has aided us to democratize knowledge with seamless access across MICE teams.
We also created dedicated customer self-service apps – TC Gateway and SOTC Connect for seamless customer communication – from uploading documents, visa coordination, handover of tickets, itinerary, insurance, visas; tour coordination and feedback.
We also introduced TMX – a dedicated on-tour app for our tour managers that has automated reporting and submission of expenses and manual supportings. The unique app offers allocation of tour managers to specific groups, real time expense capture & submission with online approvals as per the approval matrix.
Our Leisure Travel infused digitisation to drive efficiencies, economies of scale, towards enhanced productivity and customer delight.
We upgraded our omnichannel platform – ASTRA to support customers search and book our diverse range of holiday products seamlessly across multiple channels – whether via app, portals, call centres, our branch network, franchises or preferred travel agent partners.
ASTRA has been integrated with international and domestic airlines, hotels, attractions, transportation, cruises and Europe’s Eurail Passes.; There is also an hotel inventory from our own DMS companies like Asian Trails, Desert Adventures and Allied TPro to enable real time availability and bookings for customers, internal teams and partners. ASTRA powers our unique Dynamic Holiday Builder (Dynapack) allowing customers to select their preferred flights and holiday packages to effectively book their holidays on-the-go.
Our Customer Self Service Thomas Cook Holidays app empowers customers to manage their entire post booking journey digitally: track progress on their application, view booking status and make payments and download their itinerary and travel documents. The self-service app has reduced human dependency, and hence freed up internal manpower towards scaling up the business.
Our AI enabled chatbots – TeeCee and SOTC EZY have been enhanced to support and guide customers with end-to-end services without human intervention. Manual processes like managing payments, delivery of travel documents to customers, etc. have now been digitised. Additionally, the chatbot helps schedule a call/video interaction with a holiday expert for added reassurance.
The launch of Holiday Mate, a B2B portal for our travel agent partners equips them to manage end-to-end holiday bookings for their customers – remotely. This has eliminated time consuming and manual processes that required travel agents to contact our channel teams, pass on leads, coordinate bookings and follow up for payments and closure. Holiday Mate has empowered partners with complete control over their transactions and reduced turnaround time from 5 days or more for a complex itinerary to under a couple of hours.
CANVAS – our internal holiday booking engine, has streamlined booking processes for our internal teams, thus increasing speed and efficiency. Its centralized platform enables access to customer information and insights into customer behavior-preferences, thus enabling our teams drive sales and customer experience.
Complex time consuming manual tasks have now been automated, for instance: speed of generating quotes, management of deals & promotions, booking and amendment process which needed approx. 48 hrs has now been reduced to 20-30 mins. Manual processes like product creation, reports for on tour management, inventory adjustment, voucher generation, etc. requiring 3-3.5 hrs are now completed within half the time.
Common Internal platforms
We upgraded our B2B CRM application and extensively leveraged it during the pandemic. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a combination of practices and technologies used by Thomas Cook and SOTC Travel to manage and analyze customer interactions as well as data throughout a customer lifecycle. This application helps us track customer data across channels – this includes our websites, telephone, direct mail, and marketing campaigns. The tool was deployed to our B2B businesses (MICE, Corporate Travel and Foreign Exchange) to track the sales funnel. It helped track how corporates moved across the acquisition processes. The dialer functionality for tracking inbound and outbound calling that was earlier deployed on CRM for the Leisure Business at various call centres, was extended to the Corporate Travel business to support customers while operating remotely.
Our Vendor payment processing system, Newgen, was introduced as the singular digital solution across our businesses and functions therein. All hitherto manually processed payments are now digitized. Newgen operates with a customized workflow tailored to our process complexities, thanks to API integrations with our mid-office systems for Leisure and MICE businesses. All payments made by Leisure and MICE businesses get initiated from our mid-office systems, deploying digital approvals, thus improving efficiency & maintaining transparency leading to an enhanced user experience. Newgen also empowers our vendors by giving them access to a dedicated Vendor portal where they upload invoices directly onto the system and have the facility to track processing status, eliminating manual follow-up. This platform also enables cross-functional incident visibility in conjunction with a significant reduction in payment processing lead time.
Embracing these technology-driven solutions in our businesses has been a game-changer. Not only has it enhanced operational efficiency, but also opened doors to unparalleled growth and customer engagement. By staying agile, forward-thinking, and customer-centric, we hope to unleash our full potential, to remain at the forefront of innovation and carve a path towards sustained success.