Over the course of the last 15 years, the travel industry has undergone a digital transformation. In the pre-internet era, the market for consumer travel needs was dominated by local travel agencies that provided a high-touch service but at low scalability and with minimal transparency. With the broad adoption of online travel booking platforms, consumers are faced with a very different challenge – zero-touch, do-it-yourself, websites that offer high transparency but little or no assistance. Today’s mass-market online travel model has made the booking process cumbersome. With a vision to bring a human touch back into the world of online travel, Yatin Patel, Co-Founder of Reservations.com, delivering travel services with personalized experiential travel planning and redefining the booking and travel experience for today’s travellers. According to Yatin, since the online travel industry is highly commoditized, customer loyalty can only be obtained through a unique value proposition.
Below are the highlights of the interview conducted between Yatin and Insights Success:
Give a brief overview of your background and your role in Reservations.com.
I have spent all my carrier in online line travel space. Started with founding member of software company which designed one of the very 1st hotel booking engines in 1997. After few successful exits, co-founded reservations.com in 2014 with some industry veterans. I’m a builder and not an operator, so my focus remains in building out new initiatives, growth strategies and look ahead on what’s coming. Preparing my company and leadership to adopt, change and solve ever changing consumer demands in this fast-evolving world we live in is where I spend most of my time now.
How do you diversify your travel solutions to appeal your target audience?
Reservations.com feels there is a need for new fresh brand to fill the void in the industry. Today, all the players in the online travel space offer the same product with no unique value proposition. Consumers have varying needs at varying times spanning from price-consciousness to highly personalized booking experiences. In the name of optimizing revenues and conversions, online travel brands have forgotten the basic essence of why people travel. At Reservations.com we believe that travel, in general, is an experiential product category and that consumer experience begins at the very outset of the booking process and not just when hotel stay begins.
Today, Reservations.com is built on very simple philosophy – providing a no-nonsense, convenient, hotel booking experience on the web, via mobile devices, and by phone. We believe that a critical step in bringing back the lost personal touch in the travel industry is utilizing a personalized contact center. Other large players in the space such as Booking.com do not have a focus on call centers. Reservations.com has developed army of customer success agents, who are ready to take calls 24/7 for whatever consumers desire – from guidance on locations to discussing hotel amenities and local attractions. Customer success center enjoys a high conversion rate; by inbound calls they receive on a daily basis. The Company has made significant investments to train and empower our customer success agents and charges a small fee to consumers for providing this service. We believe that our high-touch customer success is one form of differentiation.
What was your life changing event / incident that changed your life?
I was fortunate enough to have few exits under my belt which gives financial freedom to think freely and experiment with ideas to create value. That is the most life changing thing I have experienced. Freedom is hard to come by and as an entrepreneur, it gives me courage to tackle larger problems.
What strategies do you undertake to make your employees resourceful?
Give employee space to grow and clear the path for them to implement vision and mission of the company. Make the company purpose driven and encourage them to follow the guiding principle. Clear visibility of results and measuring small wins keeps the moral of organization alive.
What are some of the vital attributes, in your opinion, that every CEO should possess?
Longer the road – Celebrate small successes every day. – I think that is the most vital attribute any CEO should have. It is difficult to remain optimistic and confident on long time frame projects. Building a company takes
How do you sustain your entrepreneurial spirit in this changing technological era?
Computing power in today’s world is changing everything, expediential growth is a keyword here. Machine learning and AI were the Buzz word 5 years ago and today its reality. We try to look at what travellers wants in next 10 years and preparing our company to be ready to take advantage of these extraordinary computing power to apply on various problem statement within our organisation. Some of them are consumer facing some of them are just analytics which gives you real time computing and programmatic algorithm to optimise our process.
How do you deal with dynamics of market?
Dynamics of the market in my opinion is not very relevant, as far as your solution or services are customer centric and you are always staying ahead of consumer needs. You become a market leader and you define market dynamics. I try to make sure my business is always solving ever changing consumer needs.
What advice would you like to give to the emerging leaders?
I do not like to give advice but can share experiences, I would say there is no short cut in life, be passionate and patient and do not be afraid to make mistakes, only way to learn. One cannot get everything right in the journey of life.