Most of us travel at some point, whether for business or leisure. Often it’s an itinerary we are very used to, however sometimes it’s somewhere new which entails us stepping out of our comfort zone. However whether familiar or unfamiliar, sometimes things go wrong.
To help with the travel process, we would all benefit from a mobile concierge; a concept which is not just about an app, but a system that knows a lot more about the itinerary and the associated facets of it than the traveller, and which can help with the journey.
There are several aspects to a mobile concierge. The first is the “happy path”. This is the path you should be on, the route you will be following, the flight you will take, and so on. The second is the exception to the plan. What happens if, in an unfamiliar country, in the middle of the night, the connecting train doesn’t connect? Help!
The exception to the plan is where a mobile concierge will be of most value to travellers. Something has gone wrong, and you need assistance. But perhaps the first thing you want to do is reach out and connect with friends to share the experience – good or bad. Sharing is important. It means that the people you trust will understand the predicament you are in, and can give support. Secondly, you need a solution to the problem that has caused the exception. But you could also have the option to share your predicament with a group of local people, who while they may not know you, could offer support and potentially a solution. This means that local expertise and knowledge can be utilised to safely address uncomfortable or inconvenient situations, as well as remote support from your friends.
Next is to engage with the relevant service provider. If the taxi that is meant to have picked you up from the airport and taken you to the hotel did not arrive, then you want to speak to the taxi company and find out why. The mobile concierge app should know that you are expecting a cab, so should offer a context aware “Call taxi company” button, perhaps followed by other buttons for less relevant (at that point in time) service providers, like the hotel, or an alternative taxi company to call. This is a key aspect of a mobile concierge service, in that it gives you options rather than you having to find numbers to call. At some point, you may also want a way to file a complaint, make a suggestion, or even compliment someone for services rendered.
And throughout this process, there should be an open channel to social networks, so you can share thoughts through an integrated voice, messaging or social platform.
Back to the happy path! If you are going on a trip, then you will have an itinerary to help you understand where you are and what will happen next. It would be helpful to see travel times, lay-overs and what happens at each one. This way you are better informed, less concerned or stressed, and more likely to follow the itinerary. It would be convenient to have this itinerary presented such that you can expand or shrink the view in focus, easily drill down into details and see images of what the surroundings will look like. Where there is potential for confusion, the app could also offer guidance through step-by-step directions or tips.
What happens if you would like to change your itinerary part-way through the trip? This is the third part of the mobile concierge. The app could give you options, and impacts – financial, time-wise or other – for staying where you are for the night, as opposed to continuing with the previously set itinerary. Where are the nearest hotels that fit your profile preferences that have availability? Where can you eat and what can you do and see?
And finally, a key requirement is to provide the ability for self-service. Most people know what they want or need, they just require the ability to facilitate this in an easy and convenient way.
In summary, a mobile concierge should provide utility, convenience and ease of use – resulting in stress-free travel.
From a technical standpoint, all of this is relatively easy to do on the mobile device itself – but it is in the back end that complexities arise. What is required to address this complexity are common integration points that expose data and status, so that the application’s logic can determine where it is on the journey, and correlate that with location information from GPS and Bluetooth devices.
While the concept of a mobile concierge may seem complicated, many travel and leisure providers are already planning or building their own version. As the population becomes more millennial, and users expect things to just work, organisations that provide mobile concierge services will attract more consumers away than those that do not.