infare-airline-channel-monitor-rate-disparity

Tired of rate disparity?
We have the solution for you

When it comes to pricing and rate parity, airlines are facing two major challenges. On one hand, they need to compete against fellow travel brands within their competitive set, to remain in the driving seat or at least stay in the game. On the other hand, airlines also need to keep track of their own rates across all distribution channels, monitoring their direct channel (airline website) Vs. indirect channels (OTAs and Metasearch).

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infare insider paulius gulbinas

Infare Insider
Meet Paulius Gulbinas

Get a fresh perspective from an Infare Insider. Learn more about the people behind our success. This month, we interviewed Paulius Gulbinas, Leader of one of the Infare Data Collection teams, based in Vilnius.

About Data Collection

Data collection is at the heart of Infare’s DNA. Without data, there cannot be intelligence. Hence why one fourth of Infare’s total workforce is dedicated to data collection worldwide, with teams working daily to ensure data retrieval of the highest quality.
Paulius leads a team based in Vilnius and is a data collector himself.

Paulius, tell us about your career at Infare

I joined Infare, in Vilnius, as a data collector in 2013. At the time, I was particularly keen on discovering all of the processes of data extraction that Infare was using. I was also fascinated by how our products, such as Altus or Pharos, were designed to retrieve, analyse and report data.
 
As an avid learner, I always make sure that I remain top of the game. I read a lot, I learn new technics, discover new technologies, search for new untapped areas. What I like most is to share discoveries with my colleagues so we can discuss, debate and help each other.
I would say that it was my interest and willingness to help others that led to more challenging tasks and led me to the opportunity of leading the team.

What kind of data do you collect?

We collect four types of data:

  • airfare pricing information,
  • vacation data about whole packages,
  • channel monitor which is the rank of airlines in Online Travel Agent searches,
  • and ancillary data such as extra leg room, priority boarding, additional baggage items, etc. which are all extra pricing besides the basic airfare itself.

infare insider paulius gulbinas2

Can you describe a typical day at the office?

By 9am, the whole team is at the office, with a cup of coffee, ready to start the day. We all sit in the same office, a large open space on floor 10 of our Vilnius office, so it is very easy to talk with each other, solve challenges together, get another opinion in the room. It is the ideal working model and is also a really great atmosphere. We break for lunch together in our cafeteria too so spend a lot of time together. That is why it is so important for me to have a unified team.

What we do essentially every day is to collect data and provide such data to other internal departments before it is delivered to our airline, airport and travel agency customers. The reason why we do data collection daily is to ensure the highest level of accuracy.

An essential part of our job is also to ensure that the level of quality assurance of such data is met to prevent mistakes and defects. It means we filter the data through a long list of criteria, like teams of scientists would test a medication again and again before its release to market. All collected data, from all sources, is validated and checked automatically.

Finally, we need to constantly be vigilant about sources. Changes in data sources are constant, so we really need to identify them as quickly as possible and manage them by implementing new or existing codes within contractual service level agreements.

There is never a dull day. This is what makes our job so exciting and rewarding.

Which part of data collection do you find most challenging?

I think it is the overall scope of what it takes to collect data and to work as a data collector. A data collector must not only write efficient code but also be a problem solver. It is also very important to know how other systems and departments work at Infare and, most importantly, how customers use and perceive our data. Attention to details and logical thinking are also critical skillsets for a data collector.

How do you make sure that the information which collected maintains its integrity all through?

We ensure that the changes in the code are controlled by peer review before being delivered to production. An expert from our team checks that the data is error-free, and the best possible solution was implemented. It may seem simple, explained this way, but that is an extremely important job and requires extreme precision and a high level of expertise.

Handling such a large volume of data is a challenge. Can you tell us your secret? How do you make this work for Infare and its customers?

Working with big data is indeed quite complex and would not be possible without the right tools.

To give you a concrete example, we check collection status on 60 000 000 searches a day and perform checks of up to 2 400 000 000 data rows a day. Despite of being extraordinary people, we are not magicians. It would be humanly impossible to conduct such task. We do need automated tools to help us do just that. And in that particular case, we have developed an issue tracker that allows us to identify data sources with issues instantly or by comparing statistics day to day.

How do you identify and apply new technologies in your job?

There are a lot of clever and bright minds working in the Data Collection Team who like to search and apply new and promising technologies to overcome issues in our daily work.
Machine Learning is one of them. It is fascinating. We already use ML at Infare, to collect data, but know we are just at the start of it.
 
For more questions, feel free to reach out to Paulius directly at pgu@infare.com

 

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Soon after graduating from College with a Business degree, I quickly entered the travel industry doing an internship for the largest Danish Travel Agency before joining Sterling Airlines as a Revenue Manager. I then joined Infare in 2006, as employee number 7 where I started as a Key Account Manager and took over the leadership of the Customer Support Service team later in 2011.

What do you like about your job?

The daily communication with customers from all horizons, being exposed to different cultures throughout the experience. Developing our team culture to conduct “customer excellence” with a personal twist is also something I particularly enjoy.

Do you believe customer service matters to a business?

Absolutely yes! I strongly believe in the bond between companies and their customers. I sometimes even compare it to friendship which makes a few people smile. I have seen many companies who neglect the importance of customer service and with time they all fail. Buying something from someone is easy once. Buying several times and establishing a sustainable long-term partnership demands way more. I have been blessed with the management team at Infare as they share the same view. And I strongly believe that our customer service is a big part of the reason why we are so successful.

What’s the best customer service you’ve ever received? Why? And did you apply this to your job?

I recently had to find a spare part for an old loft hatch in my apartment which was no longer being produced. I contacted several companies and they all told me that I had to change the loft hatch to a new one and that it would cost a significant amount of money. Fortunately, I contacted one last company and got in contact with an experienced gentleman who spent 3 hours of his time researching and finally found the spare part and for a mere cost. That is what I call going the extra mile for both me as the customer and the company he works for. He won a new customer and many more to come. It’s about the experience and the care.

What are the top reasons customers reach out to customer service support?

Subscription changes. Data questions. Usability questions. More importantly customers do contact us as they want to know how we see the future of competitor data and how to use it.

Can you tell me about a time when you were proud of the level of service you gave a customer?

I have been proud many times but, most recently, one of my team members went the extra mile. He set up regular calls with a customer whose organisation was ongoing many changes. Knowledge transfer was getting lost. Clarity around their subscriptions and use of data was getting blurred. We helped them get back on track quickly. As a result, we have a very grateful customer whose business is flourishing.

Have you ever dealt with an unreasonable customer? How did you handle it, and how would you handle it today?

Yes, it happens sometimes but we stick to concrete information. Collecting data is a complex world and there can be many reasons why a customer thinks that he/she does not get what his/her company subscribed for. We always aim at communicating the reasons based on concrete facts, in a non-technical verbiage, as we know that all the customer wants ultimately is to be able to do his/her job and relies on the data we provide.

What advices would you give to others who want to uplift their career in customer service support?

I believe customer service is in your DNA or not. However, there are essential competences and behaviours that can be learned.

  • Attitude – you need to be positive and willing to support, as obvious as it seems.
  • Body language – customers may not always see you as interactions are mainly on the phone, but your body language says it all. Smile on the phone. Seat straight. Be open.
  • Energy – you need to be out there, full of energy and listen actively. No-one wants a snore on a call.
  • Passion – there are good and bad days in all jobs, but if you have the passion, you can accomplish it all and find that drive which makes the difference.
  • Be punctual and prepared – there is nothing worse than receiving the answer to your question but too late or vaguely. Be on time and know your stuff.
  • Be curious – one cannot do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. Learn from other colleagues, from customers, from everyday life and bring it back to life in what you do.
  • Going the extra mile – solving issues, finding answers to questions is good. Aiming for excellence is way more fun.

 

You have one last word. What is it and why?

I believe that sharing common values is essential to the health of an organisation. Without values people work towards different goals, with different intentions and achieve different outcomes. Within the Infare Customer Support Service team we share three main common values:

  • Quality First – Do it right the first time
  • Communication – It’s all about communication between people, the rest is technology
  • Do Care to Share – Customers are ok to wait, as long as they know how long to wait for.

For more questions, feel free to reach out to Tobias directly at tn@infare.com

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