Tnooz recently reported on a green screen mobile booking application developed by Mobile Travel Technologies for the GDS Abacus. It is the first time that a green screen and mobile booking have been combined. This is interesting insofar as green screens are just the opposite of what could be considered an innovation.
They use the same cryptic, DOS-like commands agents have been using 20 years ago and yet – or maybe therefore – they are extremely popular among travel agents. It seems, for many travel agents green screens are more efficient and faster to handle than modern GUIs (Graphical User Interface).
We have mentioned a similar example earlier this year: Travel agents seem to prefer using keyboards over using a mouse. So, what can we learn from that?
If this is not just a reluctance to embrace new technology, but if these green screens really are better suited for checking airfares and serving customers, we have to ask ourselves, if we overdid it with our demand for innovation and if sometimes old is just as good as new. In the end an innovation has to be substantially different and has to increase the value for the customer. Thus, can travel agents really work faster with green screens on their mobiles? It depends:
A clear dividing line between the generations can be seen: while experienced agents accomplish tasks efficiently with a cryptic screen, younger colleagues who grew up with digital media, cell phones and social networks perform significantly better with graphical media.
Useful advice for customers
Ironically, the iPhone does not have a keyboard. And without a keyboard and its shortcuts even the most experienced travel agent won’t be faster than someone using a GUI. Also, green screens are limited as they only allow for a certain number of letters to be displayed, thus reducing information. In contrast, with VTO 2G, PASS created an agent booking tool that uses a state-of-the-art graphical interface which allows for the display and handling of much more complex information. The reason for this is obvious: Even relatively small graphics and pictures can contain information that equals pages of written text and commands. Consequently, customers can easily be offered useful advice about their destination and additional products and services by the airlines such as special meals, exclusive movies, concert-tickets at their destination etc. So even if the booking of a simple flight is faster with a green screen – which is not true for all agents, as we’ve learned – agents using GUIs can provide a much better and more extensive service for their customers.
Therefore, with modern GUIs we can create a win-win-situation where customers receive valuable service and airlines increase their revenues. With the over-standardized green screens you cannot achieve the necessary flexibility to do that. And just in case agents do not only want to use graphical interfaces, the VTO is able to understand written (GDS native) commands, too.
As a result – although the majority of travel agents are older than 45 years old – it is still a good idea to innovate and integrate new technologies into our daily business, even though we have to encounter resistance. In addition, over time the older travel agents using green screens will retire and then we need to have the technology that enables the new generation of travel agents to provide the best service possible for their customers.
“Innovations tend to be viewed critically or even get blocked. Openness and cooperation are rare. It is apparent that some market participants in the travel industry pursue a strategy of defending obsolete systems, business models and processes. Clinging to what is claimed to be ‘proven’ can have a somewhat inhibitory effect on innovation. Shouldn’t leading market players drive technologies forward instead of being driven by them?” says Strauss in his new book ”Value Creation in Travel Distribution”.
While other industries completely reinvented themselves in the past years, we made relatively little progress. It’s time to change that, because if we do not change and secure these additional revenues others will enter the market to supply customers’ demands and make that money.
All in all green screens on mobile application are a nice reminder of the “good old times”, but not more.
Image by cristovao