Understanding Groups

Every group is different and yet every group is the same.

Groups are different for a varity of human reasons. The people in the group have different hopes and fears as well as different expectations about the outcome. How that plays out within the group situation depends on many different factors.

Groups are the same when it comes to the process. Every group has to go through the same steps to get the job done. It doesn't matter whether it is an extended holiday or just an event for one night.

What we are going to do is to bring those two things together using a flexible system that can marry up the needs of the group to a "best practice" travel management process designed to manage group needs and help them achieve their outcome.

The system needs to be flexible in lots of different ways: it must be available to different types of users and not require them to have a specific device or skill set.

The customers interface must combine complex "behind the scenes" functionality in a fun and intuitive wrapper. For example, building a group and sending out invitations should be an exciting first step and not a chore. Giving people the ability to vote on what the group should do, should not feel like a survey but should feel engaging.

If customers are going to get the benefit of the system then it must be inclusive. That means, that it should be able to deal not only with our product range but also with all the other actions and steps that the customer and the group might need to include. In that sense, this is not an itinerary for the travel agent, it is potentially a complete itinerary of the trip.

Managing groups is also about managing risk. For the organiser it is the responsibility of creating an event for a large number of friends or colleagues. The more they can engage with the whole group, the less chance that the members of the group will complain. For the company this is also important because an "unengaged" group has a nasty habit of wanting to amend bookings continually. For the organiser there is also the risk of financial loss and so the easier it is for him or her to move the payment requirement onto the different members of the group rather than having to pay it personally, the more acceptable it will be.

The interface also has to teach the group what they need to do and why this is different from the normal troubled process. People book a lot of travel nowadays and it is easy to think that booking for a group of 20 is just a simple extension of booking for an individual. The system needs to help them understand that groups need much more pre-booking and consideration. For example, it is easy to book a restaurant for six people but when your group is 20 then the situation changes.

If a group needs to pre-book much more than the casual traveller then it is important that the system is capable of managing the many different products that the group will need. Most travel companies specialise in one or two products; usually accommodation and flights. As soon as other types of products are introduced, they are usually taken off-line because their system cannot manage the processing of them. At the heart of our system is the capability to manage over 150 product types. We do this by associating specific business rules with each product type that relate to how it is booked, how the cost is worked out and how the underlying mathematics works.