Many travel management companies use technology to simply enhance existing tools for online booking, expenses or reporting, rather than to drive innovation for the business traveller’s experience. It was this disconnect that fuelled the imagination of travel managers at FCM Travel Solutions to pioneer a specific traveller-focused mobile application, the Smart Assistant for Mobile, or Sam for short.
When the idea was conceived back in late 2015, the brief for Sam was clear: create a mobile application for both Apple’s App Store and Google Play that will put business travellers’ needs first and put all the information, documentation and advice they need in one place in a fun, friendly, informal and easy-to-use way. Feedback would suggest it has succeeded in that goal, and it is now debuting new functionality within Sam to support travel arrangers.
After initially piloting the technology that dovetails with FCM’s Connect technology suite with a focus group of clients last year, it has made a few tweaks based on their feedback and gone live with the offering.
“Feedback from our clients told us that travel arrangers would find it useful to have a version of Sam that supported their role and the need to stay up to date with their travellers throughout their trip. Hence we have developed this new version of Sam for Travel Arrangers,” explains Marcus Eklund, global managing director, FCM Travel Solutions on the further evolution of Sam.
The company says this enhancement has been developed “in response to client demand for greater visibility of their travellers in-trip”. The new version for travel managers, PAs/EAs and bookers grants them access to view their current travellers’ itineraries, as well as receive notifications about events that affect each traveller, such as flight delays or cancellations. As a result travel arrangers “can take appropriate action or communicate directly with the traveller to ensure their wellbeing,” it says.
As mentioned, Sam for Travel Arrangers dovetails with FCM’s Connect technology suite as travellers’ itineraries for the relevant booker are pulled from FCM HUB, the gateway to the TMC’s booking, approval, security and reporting solutions. In the travel arranger’s view of the app, itineraries are sorted by nearest travel date. A traveller can also mark a trip as personal in Sam if he/she does not want it to appear in the arranger’s view.
For Sam to work, FCM identified that it had to have personality and purpose, replicating the one-to-one personal service offered by its own experienced travel consultants. It now blends a powerful mix of Artificial Intelligence with human expertise to deliver personalised, relevant information to business travellers’ mobile devices through a chat-based interface. The app has been available to FCM clients’ travellers since it went live in the App Store and Google Play in November 2017 and around 20,000 of FCM clients’ business travellers are currently using it.
In what is a highly-interactive, travel-savvy and anticipatory platform, the app delivers personalised contextual information to users via a conversational interface on the their smartphone. Sam makes recommendations and performs actions relevant to the individual traveller’s trip, assisting business travellers with everything from itinerary management, air and hotel bookings, online check-in, flight updates and local weather forecasts to security notifications, taxis and transfers and city guides and destination information.
Our approach from the outset has been to engage with our customers and create a product that would genuinely be relevant to their needs. The whole philosophy of the FCM Lab team that drove Sam’s product development was that travel is frequently challenging and stressful for business travellers and these customers need more proactive support,” adds Mr Eklund.
READ MORE…FCM Travel Solutions describes Sam as a travel app for the new business generation. It has recently produced a whitepaper that highlights how such a personalised experience helps improve traveller well-being… FCM Insight: The Story of Sam.