business breakfast Continued from page 72

Headline sponsor

Secondary sponsor

Host “We are super-proud of our

product and of what we do, but if it wasn’t for having the best crew on board our aircraſt we wouldn’t be the brand we are. “Everything else I think of as

the stage that’s there to bring to life the service that our people provide.” Although emerging

technologies, backed by artificial intelligence (AI), are tipped to replace humans in many existing roles – including travel consultants – IBM sees its role as empowering human resources. Ian Leonard, UK travel and

transport lead at IBM, said: “When we talk about AI we don’t talk about artificial intelligence, we talk about augmented intelligence. “What we are talking about is

adding the technology to enhance what humans are doing; making it beter, faster, and geting the information to them at the point they need it. “From a company perspective,

we are not the world’s largest and longest-standing technology company just because of our technology, we also have our human element. “Our technology is wonderful

but, without what we call signature moments, and if we can’t get people to understand our technology and use it, it’s just technology.” He added: “Experts, that’s

what this is about – informing the experts. In travel that’s what we have. We have the experts, but the technology has got to be used to help them keep up. “So, they are actually going

to be using artificial intelligence to help them do their jobs beter

rather than do their jobs for them.” › Pictures, page 68

‘Be open to ideas from all staff at your company’

Travel firms should be open- minded about where they derive inspiration from for innovating in customer service and include everyone in their organisation as well as outside influences. Panellists said ideas can come

from unexpected places within firms and that customer expectations are increasingly being framed by organisations and individuals outside of travel. Tui chief marketing officer Katie

Daniel Kerzner, Virgin Atlantic

McAlister said: “We need to be an amazing technology company that provides the digital experience that customers expect, the benchmark for which, quite honestly, is set outside of travel. “Expectations are being set by

businesses such as Amazon, and ultimately, customers will vote with their feet and do what they want.” Daniel Kerzner, vice-president for

customer service at Virgin Atlantic, said the airline takes a collaborative

approach with staff and also keeps up to date with wider cultural, commercial and customer trends. “Expectations are really high

when you are travelling on Virgin,” he said. “We do not look at the rest of the airline industry and what they’re doing, we look at external trends coming into the business. “Disappointment is expectation

minus reality. If you’ve got really high expectations you’ve got to trump that with reality.” Kerzner said a customer

experience team at Virgin works across the business to ensure there is buy-in and “diversity of thought”. “Te people who are going to

ignite that spark of an idea is not necessarily the person you expect or the person who has the business card that says that’s their job,” he said. “If we go back to the same people

that have created the problem by the nature of the roles they are in, we are not going to jump the curve.” Ocean Holidays co-chief

executive Daniel Ox said: “We have a forum in which people are made to feel comfortable to come forward and raise a concept or idea. It’s part of our culture.”

Virgin discovers latest trends on ‘innovation safaris’

Virgin Atlantic bosses go on “innovation safaris” to check out the trends in cities around the world. Safaris have taken place in New York, London and Dubai

70 30 MAY 2019

and another is planned for Hong Kong, said Virgin Atlantic’s Daniel Kerzner. “We go to the centre of these

cities and look at what’s happening in hospitality, retail or residential. What is it people are waiting in line in Soho in London to buy and what’s causing them to do that? “We’re looking at what’s driving

people to share their experiences on social media and how do we create

that experience on an aircraſt.” Kerzner said the airline is also

paying much more atention to what online influencers say about it. “Who is talking about travel?

It’s influencers, bloggers and third parties who are talking about our business in a lot more detail than we oſten talk about our own business,” he said. “Tat’s something we have to take into more consideration and give a lot more credibility to it.”

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