When you search for a hotel room on Expedia, it’s either there or it isn’t. It’s not quite that simple in the B2B (Travel Agent > Hotelier) space b/c they allow you to “request” rooms when they are not normally available. I was asked to devise a solution to enable the requesting of hotel rooms for our travel agent hotel booking engine.
WHAT I DID
- Understand – from a customer, workflow and systems standpoint, what it really means to support “on request” hotel bookings.
- Document the current workflow today (in all its manual glory).
- Analyse the overall activity and propose solutions, via use cases & prototypes.
- Yes, our customers actually will stick around to use this capability, instead of jumping over to a competitor!
- We think we can reuse a lot of the current booking flow, to minimize engineering cost.
- Minimize reply time & make it as easy as a normal hotel booking
- Do not require Customer Service Agents to get involved, except in special cases, i.e., when the hotel doesn’t want to give us inventory.
- Offer value adds when possible to increase profitability.
- Offer alternative hotel choices of similar quality, price and location to increase chances for conversion.
- The best solution was likely to be: preventing hotels from entering an “On Request” status by having a robust inventory replenishment capability.
- This suggestion was received with surprise b/c it hadn’t been thought of before, and they agreed this was, in fact, a great solution.
- This is a good example of how product design is much more than visualising features to be built from a roadmap. Good design means solving business problems using design thinking & methods.
- Unfortunately, as we were unable to implement the best solution 😐 , I designed one in which we:
- Reused the existing hotel booking flow, and with clear labeling identified which rooms were “normally” available and which were on request.
- Upon booking an “on request” hotel, our system would bypass our customer service staff, and be route the request directly to the hotel who could reply and approve or reject the request.
- Their response would automagically update our hotel inventory management systems, and the customer would be notified and charged.
- Our customer service staff would only get involved if something went wrong.
- Full documentation: