Nora Boros reflects on the challenges and opportunities of the GDPR for the Travel sector and focuses on the changes that will take place in Customer Relations in general when this new regulation comes into force.

1. In general terms, what are the main challenges posed by the GDPR for a company specialising in Customer Relations outsourcing such as Webhelp?

For all business sectors, the GDPR represents a strategic challenge: compliance with respect to the protection of personal data. It is real business and reputational challenge for any company.

In the case of Webhelp, which focuses on Customer Relations, compliance is coordinated by our DPO Group. We have prioritised the work around 3 key areas, which are all focused on improving the quality of our services in view of the challenges posed by data. Firstly, we will be supporting our principals with the implementation of the GDPR and its relationship with us, the subcontractor. It is not simply a case of amending contract clauses, but rather of rewriting these commitments through concrete actions in our areas of responsibility as reflected in the regulation, especially in terms of advice on data protection. In parallel, we want to bring about a cultural shift in the organisation towards ongoing awareness of the challenges of privacy. For our advisors, customer data has always been at the heart of their day-to-day work. Every day, in their interactions with customers, they handle data responsibly. What will change is customers’ awareness of exercising their rights and how we respond to this. We are doing this in partnership with our customers in order to incorporate their privacy rules into our operations. And it is this third main point that is our core purpose: being able to ensure our customers’ data is processed securely and transparently and adopting a responsible attitude to their requests for information. We are convinced that the process of customers becoming aware of their data is now well underway and we need to fully buy into this as it is a key factor in Customer Relations and hence vital to customer satisfaction.

To sum up our strategy, Webhelp is developing the concept of Corporate Data Responsibility (CDR) for internal use and also for our customers. We have therefore created a Data Protection Solutions offering that includes a broad portfolio of Data Compliance services targeting customer relations. We have a team of global Data Privacy experts. This team can manage customer requests relating to their data, and track and action these queries. It’s an approach that we have adopted internally as well as for our principals focusing on their Data Privacy risk management policy.


2. How is the GDPR a challenge for the Travel sector?

The Travel sector is an industry in which the concept of service is constantly evolving to meet the customer’s needs. New technologies – through API data exchange, data analysis or even Virtual Reality – are powerful tools for delivering solutions that are increasingly detailed and tailored to their needs. For example, we can maintain 24/7 customer relations with the use of a chatbot, providing a first line response or even offering more bespoke solutions for a hotel group, tour operator or airline through Data Analytics. All these technologies help us to fine-tune our customer response. The more detailed and structured the data we have at our disposal, the greater our knowledge of the various parties we need to satisfy. To achieve this and ensure that the chatbot or robotics modules are providing a relevant response, we must firstly generate a large data set, and then, once it is operational, this technology will create other data in an automated fashion.

Indeed, the Travel sector has entered the age of hyper-personalisation and customers expect us to be able to offer them a practically bespoke solution based on their profile. For example, in a hotel chain, the customer expects a guest experience that caters to their habits. Another change relates to what is known as the Augmented Traveller. For example, in Sweden, the public transport network is currently trialling a microchip embedded under the skin of 1,500 people, which works like a travel pass. And in Berlin, a pair of connected Adidas trainers give wearers free access to the public transport network via a built-in travel pass.

Nevertheless, we now have to manage these situations and the notion of the “Privacy Paradox”, according to which customers are willing to give their data only if they receive a service in return, while they sometimes leave behind a digital footprint, meaning data, without any knowledge of its intended purpose.


3.What is the outlook for the coming months and years?

For us, the GDPR is an excellent opportunity to structure and regulate the data market – in which we have a key role to play since we handle over 2 million customer interactions daily across all channels.

When it comes to the Travel sector, customer solutions and services will become increasingly individual and the data that is processed and analysed will be a vital asset for effective Customer Relations. To achieve this. Webhelp will be recognised as a key player in customer data management and a company which guarantees data security and transparency. We will be there among data operators across the entire value chain of the data economy.

With customers now becoming aware of the monetary and ethical value of their data, these “data producers” are showing us the way towards the emerging business model. I can envisage that in 3 to 5 years from now, we will have to design a new customer journey where it will be possible to give or restrict access to a set of data according to its type and its temporality. Indeed, customers will want to control when and to whom they give access to their data and the right to “disconnect” will be a feature of future requests. We are already seeing the emergence of products along these lines: for example, Microsoft now offers an open source voice assistant with an option to not share data with third parties, which enables individuals to trace their data more effectively.

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*European General Data Protection Regulation