Fast Forward

For VICTOR’s Clive Jackson, technological advancement needn’t come at the expense of customer service.

Ask yourself: by how much will technology change our lives over the next 10, 20, 30 years? The current pace of innovation is breathtaking. Most of us are already living in a semi-smart home in which we can control our entertainment, heating and lighting, and pay for our utilities, with an app. Paper-thin “wallpaper” TVs are likely to go on sale later this year, and the testing of driverless cars is well underway.

Soon, we may all be travelling by levitating pods in vacuum tubes at speeds of around 700mph (see p68). Hyperloop One, as this radical idea for ground transportation is otherwise known, was originally proposed by Elon Musk and has Victor non-exec director Nick Earle onboard to oversee global field operations. Full-scale testing of the idea is due to start this summer in Nevada.

The question, then, of how tech innovation will impact us all in both the short- and long-term is more relevant than ever. It is especially important for the business community to consider. Historically, many companies have focused on growth through innovation to maximise profits at the expense of all else. And where, today, an exhilarating global start-up culture has arisen, the focus on financial targets over customer satisfaction has led to some questionable business decisions.

A significant amount of the output from start-ups is disrupting, to the extent that it is usually ahead of regulation. Working at light speed, at the cutting-edge of business and innovation, is undoubtedly exciting. However, where start-ups race to claim “first mover” advantage (and the financial benefits this entails), necessary checks and balances that often also come in the form of regulation can trail massively behind. While it is understandable for new start-ups to align innovation with a need to beat the competition and “win” the market, such an approach might well squeeze out others in the value chain – a necessary and inevitable consequence. The question is: have those businesses really thought about the needs of their partners, suppliers and, of course, customers?

Ultimately, no matter how fantastic the tech and forward thinking, a business cannot afford to forget its customers. And they shouldn’t fear empowering them either. Ensuring the customer’s expectations are fully met is not to stand in the way of progress. It is often the key to success. If businesses can let their customers control some of the “levers”, then those customers are more likely to add value. The businesses in question stand to reap significant long-term benefits through greater share of wallet and repeat custom.

By creating a peerless level of service and experience underpinned by booking transparency, we at Victor are building a far stronger relationship with our customers over time. Our free to use and free to choose value proposition allows them to shop around – but the fact they keep coming back is telling. Ultimately, when you book with Victor you are controlling the experience. And by creating a meaningful two-way dialogue with our customers we find they are more likely to trust and support our service, and so that service grows.

A truly dynamic business not only gives equal attention to innovation and customer but identifies how the former can help the latter. Getting out in front of competitors with the latest, smartest self-learning algorithm is one thing but how much further can it extend to assist customers, partners and the overall brand experience? Knowing what’s important to you, to help you make informed and timely decisions, and knowing when to alert you, without appearing to interrupt, is a combination of smart machine learning, behavioural analysis, and good old-fashioned personal service.

Delivering transparency and fairness to the end user is easier said than done of course. Victor’s own use of technology has helped deliver the first-class travel experience that many private fliers have long demanded. And yet there are others still willing to accept opaque charter, where the details of the aircraft are not always clear, nor perhaps the promotion and jet card or membership scheme behind it. Sushi may be half-price at the end of a long summer’s day – but there’s a reason for it.

Our mission to reinvent jet charter never stops. As we look ahead to the rest of 2017, the Victor team and I are relentlessly focused on further expansion in Europe and North America. So long as we keep asking ourselves how technology can further enhance our product offering, our growth and our customer experience, we’re on the right path.

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