B2B technology must start comparing favourably with the user experience offered on B2C websites if they are to be utilised to their full potential, according to Traveltek’s new product manager.
Chris Brown, who has set up and sold two successful travel OTAs; Sunshine.co.uk and holidaywatchdog.com, believes he can make an immediate impact on the developer’s products.
He has been recruited in the newly-created role of group product manager to spearhead Traveltek’s user experience transformation strategy.
Brown said he joined the business after bemoaning on LinkedIn that former business owners are not considered as potential candidates for salaried roles and was contacted by Traveltek boss Kenny Picken who he agreed to meet and a job offer was the result.
Brown is well acquainted with Traveltek’s iSell selling and back office tech having been part of the Hays Travel Independence Group consortium, which uses it, with Sunshine.co.uk.
“Speak to any agents today and they want something that’s easy to use and understand,” he said. “You have to compete with B-C because they are used to using sites like lastminute.com and Expedia because they offer a good experience.
“In B2B, and not just in travel, there has been a trend towards building technology that is not necessarily very intuitive as far as the user experience goes. It’s a case of ‘someone is using it so it doesn’t have to look pretty’.
“For many years firms have not been building systems for people but more for making money. But users are becoming younger and more demanding and user experience in general is such a key factor for everyone’s businesses online.
“Certainly from an OTA point of view I have seen so many sites improving consistently and looking for ways to improve the user experience to drive more sales.
“They have started to look at their customers and ask are we offering the right experience, just because it’s functional does not mean it’s great. The same has to be true for B2B technology providers.”
Brown said his experience using Traveltek systems means he knows it has developed rapidly to offer many “amazing” features but not all of them are being exploited to their full potential because users are either not aware of them or find them hard to use.
“The things it does are brilliant but in terms of the user experience it can be pretty poor. It is certainly at the point where they have to start looking at it. Traveltek does get a lot of feedback from travel agents about the system. Everyone has ideas of how they want it improved.”
Brown said he has already identified some “quick wins” and now that there is someone in the business tasked specifically with improving the platform’s user experience users should start seeing the benefits within the next quarter.
He said he sees further moves away from old-fashioned travel agent green screen interfaces and GDS booking systems, but said they won’t disappear entirely because there will still be a requirement for them. “It’s 2017 and we are still using Viewdata, it’s never going to die,” Brown said.
For Brown the chance to take a full-time role with Traveltek represents a change in tack having been an entrepreneur since setting up holidaywatchdog.com in 2003.
“Setting up your own business is hard work. I have had good success and been doing it for a long time. I have experience not many other people have with the different things I have done but I was tired of setting up my own businesses and working for myself.
“I always said I would love to go to a brand where they need someone with my skillset and I can go into and make a difference.”