In this 3-part series, we began by discussing why data matters to travel organisations, we went on to summarise the ways that the data that matters can be cleverly visualised and we conclude with a short appreciation of the dashboard – the window that throws light on the data considered critical for the running the business.
The online travel industry is a highly competitive environment, where quick insights and responses can make the difference in making profits through winning or losing customers or making the right margins. Missing the target on the number of inventory that should be pre-bought, being unable to optimise pricing strategies, and failing to segment customer, or forecast well – are all shortcomings due to lack of actionable data that can prove costly. But the data is available – it just needs to be harnessed in such a way that it can be easily viewed, understood and acted upon. Enter the dashboard.
In a sense, just as a dashboard in a car identifies and provides feedback regarding the functioning of the car – the speed, the temperature, oil levels — all good operational indicators, BI and operational dashboards do the same thing, only more. Real-time dashboards deliver a continual view into what is happening within the business unit and help to identify trends over time and provide context around the key performance indicators. In short, operational dashboards are meant to help an organisation understand if its performance is on or off target, and by how much, in real time.
The simplest example in a travel industry context is managing agents or distributers. Metrics such as number of search requests per agent, inventory availability, bookings per agent, value per booking, popularity of destinations, cancellations, etc. can be monitored separately, together, or as part of other views. The value this brings to the business is significant. Once companies gain regular insights into their performance, they see deeper into their data. For instance, inventory dashboards can identify what products or services are most sought after, and which agents are best at securing the bookings and the value of those bookings. In addition, flags or alerts can be set to help identify issues, such as for example, inventory shortfalls or system non-responsiveness so that timely remedial action can be taken.
After implementing a BI tool, organisations sometimes struggle to use the tool to its full effect and build a data-driven performance culture around it —in other words, find ways to improve performance based on what the data show. Training and early gains can change that perspective.
An organisation that implements a successful dashboard measuring operational and business performance can benefit in a number of ways including:
– Improving the quality of service and in turn conversion rates
– Insight into customer search and booking behaviour to drive conversions by:
— Identifying the ‘star’ and ‘laggard’ customers
— Ensuring relevant and available inventory
— Creating targeted offers
– Monitoring pricing policies
– Saving time and resources and boosting productivity
– Decision making based on real-time facts not intuition
– Collaborative sharing of Information sharing across departments, allowing the business to identify common goals and the means to track them.
The analytical dashboard focuses on gaining insights from a volume of data collected over time – and use this to understand what happened and why. For example travel companies may want to compare trends over time or identify why certain products or distribution channels are performing better in one sales region as opposed to another.
Operational dashboards focus on presenting the operational performance metrics of the customer’s end to end connection and serve to identify operational issues as they occur, where it is essential to act on opportunities and issues quickly. The immediacy of message sets it apart from the analytic dashboard. For example if the response time is too slow and outside acceptable timeframes, each hour of continued sluggishness will result in tangible lost revenue.
Most businesses want to be able to thrive with both analytical and operational dashboards used across different parts of the company for longer term performance insights and day-to-day business decisions respectively.
So in conclusion data for data’s sake is useless but when manipulated and used for positive impacts on the bottom line, then data is seen as having real value, and the investment to get that data in usable formats will be regarded by travel companies keen to be competitive as being worthwhile and rewarding.