Chinese consumers have grown accustomed to the annual summer promotion buzz when major Chinese B2C sites like 360buy, Amazon, Dangdang and Taobao Mall tout to buyers with discounts, rebates. And now the buzz for the first time spread to the OTA sector with eLong, MangoCity and Ctrip successively announcing big money for the OTA price warfare.
Chinese meta search Qunar might be the few ones that remain cautious and behave differently in comparison with its peers, the company said it’d spend US$ 30 million to develop a Travel Service Intelligent Platform to provide more upgraded and consistent user experience to its customers.
The new platform, according to the company, consists of a bundle of services like call center service, guaranteed booking service dubbed “Danbaotong”, third-party payment integration, fast track orders processing, real-time reaction to complaints and complete monitoring of user complaint process, which enable 3rd party agencies to reduce their costs and concentrate on providing cost-effective products.
When you read call center, don’t picture yourself a giant office seated by rows and rows of operators, Qunar said its call center will have only 60 people, and the number won’t grow magnificently. Well, all thanks to its intelligent platform. The call center is meant for handling after-booking issues, customers need to provide their order number to get access, then Qunar will prioritize all these calls based on flight departing/hotel check-in time, namely based on figuring out which call is more urgent – that’s why they need the order number. For example, customer A and B dial in at the same time, A’s flight departs in 10 minutes while for B it’s more than 2 hours. Apparently Qunar will pick up customer A’s call first.
Considering Qunar’s popularity, one concern might be, with the fast-paced growth of business, could just 60 people handle it all even with the intelligent platform’s help? Qunar said that more operators would be added if need be, but not likely it’ll turn into a thousand people team cause that doesn’t fit into Qunar’s technology guru gene. And the Beijing-based company believes that a call center of 60 people plus a highly efficient IT system can finish what usually needs over 6,000 people to do in other companies. With such service platform, Qunar’s partners can increase their capabilities by 10 times.
As of now, Qunar boasts more than 1400 staff while more than half of which or 700 of them are R&D related. When it comes to partners, Qunar has signed up with almost all flight OTAs in China, and more than tens of thousands of hotel OTAs, including TravelbyEye, Lvxinjia, and Star of Sanya, to name a few.
Kayak, the U.S. meta search filed to go public just now, and when asked about Qunar’s IPO planning, it responded that they’re waiting for the right timing as market condition turns around, though there’s no exact time table for that.
Speaking of the current price war, Qunar thinks it’s a sign that prices of travel services are now finally on a track back to rational. Chinese travel services have long been criticized as anything but transparent. The price war would certainly help reduce the opacity, which eventually will benefit all customers and the whole industry.