In just a short time, “Big Data” went from a marketing buzzword to headline news (and not always for the better, if you’ve been paying attention to the media lately!) It can definitely seem invasive or disturbing for consumers to know that a someone’s collecting information on you, but travel and hospitality companies are doing so in hopes of creating a better travel experience.
Why travel companies collect customer data
The main benefit of collecting all this data on consumers is the ability to provide more personalized, relevant customer service. At large travel companies, information systems are often siloed – that is, each interaction you have with the company (booking, complaints, surveys, loyalty programs, etc.) is in a separate system, and those systems don’t talk to each other. The goal when using big data is to collect all the data fragments it has on an individual consumer and combine those to create a holistic profile. By analyzing your past and present consumer behavior, companies hope to predict what you’ll do in the future so they can provide better customer service or more appealing offers of goods and services.
How they use your data
Real-world examples of big data improving travel
Showing relevant travel ads is just an example of basic personalization; the more information a company has, the better their customer interactions can be. Airlines have the most information on their frequent flier program members, and United leveraged this knowledge to turn a potential disaster of angry fliers with delayed business agendas into an opportunity to provide great customer service. After an early morning flight was delayed for mechanical reasons, United texted its business travelers’ smartphones in real-time with an offer for free miles or monetary compensation to apologize for the delay. Another cool example is how Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) mined data from over 15 million trips in its database and combined that with other data sets to “measure the financial impact of lost productivity incurred through trip-related stress”. Called the “Travel Stress Index”, CWT uses it to advise customers when booking trips, such as which airline is most likely to be on-time and not lose their luggage.
At first glance, big data can have negative ‘Big Brother’ connotations, but when the information collected is handled responsibly and with a view to consumer privacy, companies can provide much richer, personalized service that goes beyond remembering whether you prefer the aisle or the window.