A system that ‘does the thinking for you’: introducing Barrhead Travel’s new technology
(Published in TTG – 11.12.13)
Across the Barrhead Travel portfolio, staff are armed with Nevis – and founder Bill Munro says the system is so good he doesn’t want anyone else to have it
Personalisation is currently the name of the game in travel. And Bill Munro, Barrhead’s founder and chairman (pictured right), claims to have cracked it with Nevis – the company’s in-house customer relationship management and information system.
Developed over the past eight years, it suggests holidays for customers, and has live information on what’s selling, what sold this time last year, as well as call centre sales performance and financial analyses.
“It’s a management tool as much as anything, as well as a selling tool. Everyone who’s seen it is blown away by it,” says Munro.
While the device plugs into iSell, the Traveltek selling tool used by Barrhead, and accountancy software Sage 200, Munro says its ability to help agents on the frontline is what makes the system unique. It can also be integrated into Dolphin Dynamics tools, among others.
Agents need eight to 10 pieces of basic information at the point of booking, Munro claims, and the system can then electronically decide the best holiday at that time.
It can also glean information from social networking platforms such as Facebook, but Munro insists he is wary of using these platforms to target offers, as often customers will think they are being spammed.
As well as predicting the right holiday, Nevis can pull in hotel content, to bring the holiday to life for the customer sitting in the agency.
The system also specialises in promoting extras, although Munro says these are rarely sold at the time of booking, as most customers just want to book the holiday “so they can show off on Facebook”.
“At the start, they’re not interested in all the extras, such as show tickets, transfers, upgrades, and so on. It’s all about timing, and later, in say three to four weeks, Nevis can target customers with extras. Selling extras is normally labour intensive, but not now; now it becomes profitable,” Munro says. “It cuts down the consultant’s time, so they can be superstars. It does the thinking for them.”
Using the platform, agents can also check their bonuses and commissions, or management can quickly tell the amount of profit a branch has made in the past week. In fact, agents are not the only ones using it. As Munro points out, Barrhead is “half agency, half operator” with its chartered British Airways aircraft, and long-haul specialist Travel Creator. “This system has to be diverse; its tentacles are everywhere in the business.”
Prior to Nevis’s launch, when Tui closed down its call centre in Cardonald in Glasgow in 2006, Barrhead took its chance to interview and recruit any staff who were likely to be affected. Munro came across one woman who used to be an agent, but was then involved with technology. At the time, he adds, Barrhead was seeking to develop a single platform that could keep every single one of its staff updated – and this former agent began working on what would become Nevis.
“It’s been built by agents, for agents,” he notes. “What’s that expression, ‘Technicians are from Mars, agents are from Venus?’”
Fast forward to 2014, and such is its success, Munro has set up a new subsidiary, Global Travel Technology Services, as a body to enable Barrhead to license Nevis to other companies, even outside of travel.
He has no plans to market it to immediate rivals in the UK: “It’s such a powerful tool, we don’t want to give it to any competitors.” However, he jokes that could change “if someone came along with the right price”.
Organisations in Australia, Brazil and the US have expressed an interest, and potential customers would need to have 30 to 40 offices, or be 150-staff strong, to benefit from the system.
Many factors have played a part in the company’s success, Munro adds, but without Nevis, he does not believe the company would be in the strong position it is in today. However, this focus on technology does not mean Barrhead “is forsaking its shops” and an app is on the cards to put even greater control into his workforce’s hands.