When it comes to developing technology in travel, or any sector really, quite often the ‘go to’ thought is that the more we digitize the more this erodes the need for people and the human connection. However, for us this couldn’t be any further from the truth.

One of the key learnings from the pandemic is that the power of human connection is stronger and more needed that ever before. Having someone there who has your back and can provide reassurance, knowledge, and support when you need it the most means that we build customer loyalty for life. Through innovating and evolving the way we do things by using tech platforms, we can streamline transactional processes and help build connections and knowledge across communities, ultimately enhancing that face-to-face personal service a travel expert can provide and helping them to care even more.

A personal, digital platform

At Travel Counsellors, our tech vision is to continue to build a truly personal, digital platform business, combining the best of people and technology to support a business model whose core purpose is to care and create the most personal experiences for its people and customers.

Everything we do centres around this and is a clear reference point when we go into every development meeting or project. This year alone we are investing over £10 million into our TC Phenix platform. Launched 15 years ago, we are constantly developing Phenix, which provides a full range of capabilities from customer management, documentation creation and management, product reviews and content, Phenix connects to 15 wholesaler partners to provide access to over 500,000 hotels in destinations around the globe and approximately 250 directly contracted hotels and over 500 bespoke suppliers and partners, enabling franchisees to tailor-make itineraries for their customers, whilst having more control of each and every booking they make.

We continue to develop our myTC app to enhance, support and again personalise the booking journey, essentially giving customers their ‘TC in their pocket’ and a constant connection. The mobile app was re-platformed pre-Covid on iOS, Android and the web, and now has more than 185,000 users, giving customers access to all their booking details, quotes and itineraries, with plans to expand its capability further in 2023.

We have also invested in more digital adaptions to help us ‘work smarter and harness the power of our growing global community so that our TCs can scale their businesses with intimacy and our support team can focus on the human touch where it matters most. This includes developing a central knowledge hub that enables franchisees to self-serve information when they need it, ultimately boosting how they operate more effectively and efficiently. We launched TC World, our global online community platform connecting franchisees and colleagues in one place to promote and encourage peer-to-peer support, knowledge sharing and a sense of fun and belonging.

Such tech can be used effectively in not only connecting but enhancing and evolving communities, and we have seen some phenomenal results. An example of this is the rapid advancement of the business models available to our franchisees enabling them to work in teams in a plethora of different ways, and as such the business responding to this by introducing and developing new tech, including commission sharing and buddy cover systems.

Protecting our people and customers

Moving forward, we see a lot of opportunities to make technology in the travel much more intuitive, secure and user-friendly for everyone in the supply chain. Of course, making sure customer's information is protected goes without saying, and this year we will be continuing to offer robust protection as well as giving customers new payment options to make things easier to book a holiday at the time when money may be a little tighter. Customers will soon be able to pay via Apple wallet and Google Pay either in full or via convenient instalments providing flexibility and all via a secure platform.  

We take our responsibility to protect our community and our Travel Counsellors’ independent businesses very seriously. The investments we have made in cyber security automatically defends thousands of potential threats a week and the systems we have in place allow for advanced security threats to be quarantined, isolating any occurrences, ultimately minimising and avoiding negative impact. The nature of our flexible business model enables and empowers our business owners to work anytime, from anywhere and on any device, so ensuring we take every measure to protect every form of device is fundamental.

This area of investment should be a key priority for any business, in any sector, to future proof their platforms and ensure everyone within this is protected.

Blending human and digital

Ultimately, as a business we are developing our platform technology to enable our people and the wider business to work smarter and in a way that supports our people centric values to enhance the customer experience, scale with intimacy, collaborate and boost personalisation and build human connection where it matters most.

I believe the businesses that are able to use technology and digitisation to put people at the centre of what they do more than ever will prosper. Those who use it to replace the human touch will struggle in an already competitive market where differentiators are key, and customers are placing more value on personal service and relationships.