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PegaWorld iNspire 2023: Re-imagining a Customer Service Digital Platform: Aiming for a seamless travel and memorable trip for Booking customers

Booking.com is on the journey of enabling connected trip experiences for travelers across the globe by transforming customer interactions with service agents to be efficient, productive and effective. Know the TRUTH and DARE stories of how Booking and Infosys are building a high-performing and extensible digital platform using Pega Customer Service.


- Good afternoon. I'm the account executive for booking.com, and I had the pleasure to work with them from 2019 when booking.com started, initiated a customer services transformation program, for which they chose a vendor, which was Pega, and then their partner is implementation partner, Infosys. Enormous journey. It's true transformation, and they've made great progress now, and would like to let you know. And we have a presentation, and I'd like to introduce you to Francesca Deriz from booking.com, and Bhupesh Naik from Infosys. They have a presentation, and there will be Q&As afterwards. So, please, it's for you and Bhupesh.

- [Bhupesh] Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you everyone, and thank you for the quick introduction. I think, I don't know if we are between your lunch, but there is a lot of food for thought on this session as well. So we'll go ahead with that. I mean we want to kind of just touch base upon who and what Infosys is purely from a Pega Practice perspective. So sufficiently long detailed relationship with Pega that we have. Many upgrades run throughout the years of our relationship. A massive large Pega practice and a lot of customer service and CDH transformations that we have done in the industry today. The recent addition to the overall ecosystem has been artificial intelligence. So we are the only vendor and partner of Pega who has invested in OpenAI early in the times, and that is with the foundational capability now for anything that is the innovation in GPT. So we are really proud of that. Moving ahead, sorry. And moving ahead, I think we can start the session. I think Francesca, thank you so much for being here and giving us the opportunity to go through the Booking transformation journey. I think to begin with, you know you are at the very core a digital native organization, and obviously you're a very household name as well, but I think it'll be good to know what your CS organization's objectives and visions were before you started the change.

- [Francesca] Sure, great to be here. Thanks for having me, and nice to be introduced by a Dutch man who can actually pronounce my surname, so thank you for that. I think probably the best thing for me to start with actually is to play a little video, and it sets some context in terms of what our ambition is as an organization, but where Pega really plays a key role in getting us there. So should we start with that, and then I can do a little bit of narrative in terms of what that actually means and how we're taking it forward?

- Absolutely, absolutely. So we can start with the video.

- [Narrator] Booking.com is on a mission to make it easier for everyone to experience the world. We want to be the unquestioned global leader in travel, delivering value to customers across the entire trip, so we stay top of mind. Customer service plays an important role in booking.com's future ambitions. We want to make it easier for customers by giving them a connected service experience, an experience where, wherever they are, whatever they need, customer service is there ready to help, leaving the customer to enjoy the rest of their trip. To achieve this, we need to make it easier for our people to support our customers, by equipping them with the right tools and knowledge to support their needs the first time around. Introducing Pega, a new system for our frontline teams that will pave the way for us to deliver on our connected service ambitions. Through Pega, all information about the customer will be available in one place, so it's easier for our people to know them, who they are, what they need, and the fastest way to help. Through the improved process and integrated knowledge management capabilities, the right guidance and knowledge will be made available at the right time, so it's easier for our people to add value where it matters. As a unified platform with case management process and knowledge capabilities, Pega will give us additional insights into how we can make meaningful improvements to the customer and employee experience. And through real time reporting, Pega will make it easier for our people to see and manage their performance, whilst empowering them to own their own personal development. Pega is so much more than a system, it will transform how we serve our customers and set us on the right path to delivering our customer service promise, to support every customer with any query the first time around.

- So I hope. Thank you. Not for me, obviously, it's for the video. So in terms of our ambition as an organization, we are quite a complex business, in so much as we have a lot of different business units. We have seven different business units, and that consists of accommodation, rides, flights, cars, customer ser, sorry, customer service, partner services, FinTech and insurance. Now at the moment we are very fragmented as an organization. So if a customer is to book something on our website and then need support, at the moment they would be served on individual platforms and potentially have handoffs to different agents within the organization. We want to create a connected trip, right? We want to create an environment where, by the time a customer has to reach us, they have a seamless experience. So it doesn't matter what product they've booked, they can be treated and dealt with by one particular agent who can take them through that entire experience in an enjoyable way. Now by the time customers do contact customer services, they tend to have an issue, right? It's not necessarily a pleasant experience. So we want to make that experience as enjoyable as possible. That is our entire organization vision. But from a customer services perspective, we are integral in that, because we are the ones that actually have that person to person contact. So what we are focusing on with Pega is really unlocking the ability to be able to provide that connected trip by bringing the different platforms in together and to create that one customer view. So we, I've talked about the fact that we have a number of different business units. We have around 16,000 agents at peak who are also serving our customers. We have approximately, I think 80 different platforms that we use as an organization. Not all of them are specifically for agents to use, some of those are management platforms. But we have a massive, massive transformational program at our hands to integrate all of those into one seamless view for our agents to be able to manage and see, for our partners to be able to communicate with us, and also our customers to be able to communicate with us.

- [Bhupesh] Thank you, thank you very much. I think you mentioned about fragmented application processes and lack of efficiencies at some time, but also you mentioned about the larger vision, which is connected trip as well. So that is obviously a big gap to fill in, and that is the transformation journey that we will go into the detail further, I believe. But I think before that I think it'll be good to know how you get through this journey of selecting Pega as a technology of choice for such a big transformation and a change, and obviously along with that an implementation partner.

- Sure. Well I think in terms of, I've talked a little bit about the fact that by the time customers come through to us there's normally a challenge. We are very aware that we are not going to take away that customer interaction altogether, right? We want to have as much opportunity for our customers to self-serve as possible and to provide as much automation as possible. But when it comes to human intervention, we want that to be as seamless as it can possibly be. When it came to selecting the right partner to work with us and selecting Infosys, it really for us was a couple of core reasons. So one, the depth and the wealth of experience that they have as an organization and that they can bring to us and challenge us in terms of learnings of how the best way was to go around implementing this. The other is culturally. We believe that culturally they were right fit. They understood what we were trying to achieve as an organization and therefore could support us with it. And the last point, which I think is really critical, and for those maybe that were in the partner town hall may have heard it is actually being able to provide that trusted relationship and that long-term resources. So this is a long-term roadmap for us. This is not something that's going to be a six month episode, it's something that's going to be a multi-year. We've got a lot of business units we want to get on board. So we want to know that we have consistency with who we are working with. We know who they are, we can count on them, develop a relationship, trust, and therefore hopefully exceed our expectations of where we want to go. When it came to Pega, I think in terms of the customer services capabilities, it was second to none for us. It was an obvious decision. There is low code obviously as a platform, and it gives us the ability to reuse and also utilize outta the box technology. And that's something we're really keen to, well really, really ambitious to do, because we also want to be able to scale, right? So once we build the other verticals onto the system, the complexity changes. Each one uses slightly different capabilities, but we want to be able to rinse, repeat, reuse, scale that architecture, and that was a real thought for us. Also, we are a tech company at heart, so in our DNA we love to experiment, and we do a lot of that. So having someone that also had that innovation in their DNA and liked to experiment, and learn, and develop was also really important to us. So that was a key piece in terms of who we picked. There are another couple of pieces, which is also the business process management side of it and the decision capabilities within as well, which were key differentiators for us and helped us in that decision.

- [Bhupesh] Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for that. And you mentioned about experimentation, and I think that's a very, very key important point, because I know that you bring so many number of new travel experiences to your own customers, and it becomes extremely important to keep on experimenting, to be truthful, to deliver those new experiences to the customer. And I think we believe that Pega's built for change capability overall does really help through that journey, because you keep on changing and then look at the feedback and then make sure that you get the right point in terms of the efficiencies and the outcomes that you need.

- Yeah, and actually I think that that phrase, "Built for change" is almost, it reflects Booking in itself.

- Yeah, absolutely. So that's fantastic. I think it'll be good to know, because it's a large change now. This was not an easy thing to even ideate and get it into foundational capability, but it's a very large change, so it'll be good to know how Pega as a technology helps you through this journey, from the usage of the technology through this journey of the big change that you embarked.

- Yeah, I mean it's a big change for us, and it's not just a big change in so much as a technical implementation and transition, it's a big change for us culturally, because as a tech organization, the majority of what we have has been built in house. We have not bought off the shelf, we have not brought from an external provider. So this was a massive change in terms of mindset internally as well as from a technical standpoint. So we had quite a journey to go through with this. And as I've mentioned, due to the complexity of the business and wanting to be able to scale and reuse what we built, it was really important for us to create a center of excellence. And not only have we had, obviously with Infosys we have a very strong partnership, but also with Pega, not just the management there, but we also have consultants in-house on the ground. And they have helped us create assets, helped us learn from what some of their other customers have done in terms of how can we create a really true core governance that looks after what we do, protect what we do, so that we can scale and reuse it? And also looking at what are the future capabilities that we can really dive into, and how do we work as an organization to deliver quickly? So that I think has been a little bit of a learning for us. We have had to find synergies, going from a company that builds things in house to buying things in, taking the business through that transition, but also then making sure we protect it and we don't standardize and customize, I should say, too much, because our engineers do love to get their hands in.

- No, definitely, definitely. I think one point you mentioned about having to have Pega, as in Pega technology vendor involvement in the execution, and I can't agree with you more, because right from the solution consultants of Pega, the customer success, to partner management, the account executives, and their leadership I believe has been the core of this whole journey, along with the overall implementations and what your team is doing. So really shout out to the Pega, as an overall capability helping through this journey. It's fantastic.

- Definitely, and I would say we did come up against some challenges. I've actually only been at Booking for a year. We had come up against some challenges, and actually we did transition to getting more Pega support, in-house consultants, and we have seen the opportunity to accelerate a lot by putting things like this in place. So I agree, yeah,

- Absolutely. I think moving to the next question, I think the thing that we would like to know is that, look, you mentioned also about complexity. The complexity was quite big as well now, but through this journey, every organization who takes up such kind of a challenge would have a certain set of truth that they need to face in terms of what is really the problems within the organization. And then you would like to take some bold steps, which I call it as dare stories, that you would actually end up into taking up so that you can tackle those problems. Anything that you would like to share that Booking has their own truth and dare stories for it?

- Yeah, I'm gonna tie it back to what I was talking about earlier, which is our DNA is, we are a tech organization, we like to experiment, we like to build things in-house. We have our core tech guiding principles as an organization. And going through that cultural change with bringing Pega in, we had to try align our guiding principles with what we already had so that we could get buy-in. And that was a a little bit of a, well, it wasn't a struggle, it was a challenge for us, but it gave us the opportunity to see some synergies and actually be able to sell and position what we were doing, the direction we were going in. Now I think it's a gradual process, right? We're still learning, we're still coming up against challenges, and I'm not naive enough to think that we are not going to come up against a lot more. Once we look at integrating other areas of business, for example, FinTech, we're gonna be talking about capabilities we haven't actually enabled yet. Right now we are live in accommodation for 5,000 agents. At the moment, only one channel. We are going to multi-channel, and that is one of our simpler business areas. So I know that there's going to be a lot more complexity coming, and having these guiding principles and having that synergy with what we already have existing in our business helps us through that process. And I mean some of them are very simple in terms of quality, right? We wanna make sure that we're building to last and we are not finding out about things too late and extending that timeline unnecessarily. Something that's forefront of a lot of people's minds as well at the moment is security, risk, ransomware. So for us it's really important to do a lot of stress testing, a lot of performance monitoring as well. And so we've put, again, these areas in place with the center of excellence so that we can continue to monitor, govern, learn, reuse, measure, and move forward.

- Thank you, thank you for that. You mentioned about quality, and obviously the security, right? I think it's good, because a lot of organizations sometimes think security is an afterthought. I think that Booking has taken a step that security have to be by design kind of a framework. So I think that helped the organization to have less issues later on, or possibly no issues to be very honest. I think one question then as we come to a conclusion is, if you look back now, so what were the success and how do you measure the success, and what are the benefits that you see that you have achieved?

- Yeah, so within the customer service organization, we've got some key areas which we use to measure our success. And they all are around our customer, right? We have customer centricity at our heart. It's built in, in terms of our culture, something that we are focused on. So one of the main areas that we measure our successes around customer satisfaction, but also partner satisfaction. Because we have a 50/50 relationship there. Whilst our customer is really important to us, actually a partner is also our customer too. So need to make sure we're finding that balance and we're not being too biased. The other area is repeat contact. So we were seeing a lot of repeat contacts within our business. And we want to get to a space where actually we're resolving the issues first time round. I mean it's said at the end of the video. That is really important. because a customer doesn't wanna be handed off or need to call us. So it's understanding proactively, what does the customer actually need? Making sure that they're able to have the solution to their issues when they contact us and they're not being passed off to another person. That's a really high driver, and actually we are seeing improvements and changes in both of those areas already, and we've only been live on the platform for a matter of months. And then finally agent productivity. So we want to make sure our agents are being as productive as possible. So if we can automate and predict some of the more regular queries that we get in from our customers, and then release them to be able to focus on segmentation, situational instances. For example, if somebody has a flight that's being canceled within the next 24 hours, they're being proactively contacted. They're able to resolve more complex challenges. So these are the three queries that we measure our business on, and that is across everything we do, and obviously Pega is already impacting them.

- [Bhupesh] Thank you, thank you very much. I think we talked about quite a lot of things which Pega actually helped you through this journey, and obviously Booking also has, along with the implementation partner, Infosys, have done a lot of effort and changes in the delivery methodology as well as getting the whole thing delivered, and that's why the benefits are coming, but that's the current status. We would like to know how and what is going the future look like with Pega and Booking?

- Yeah, yeah. Well obviously being here, it's really exciting to see what's coming on the roadmap, and it's exciting to be talking to Infosys about how we are gonna partner and continue that development. We, as I mentioned, at the moment have accommodations on Pega. We are gonna be needing to bring on our other business units. So for us that's going to be the focus next, how can we bring those other areas on board? And then we are obviously are super excited about things like AI. We are already started looking at, what are the opportunities there, how can we develop things in our space? And some of the areas that we are looking at is certainly around like knowledge management, call summarization, gen AI chat, where if a customer has an issue, then potentially they would be able to resolve or change a booking via a chat opportunity. We want to also ensure that we are really understanding the sentiment behind what the customer wants. So when the customer's providing feedback to us, we wanna understand what do they actually mean? They might be saying this, but what does it actually mean? Taking that upfront and being able to have conversations with the front end of our organization is a position that customer services hasn't been in typically. And it's really exciting that now we are going to be able to get some insights, use it to drive some of our strategic business decisions, in terms of the direction we believe we should be going based off of what a customer is telling us, and how they're engaging with us, and what we're learning. We are also looking to ensure that we can provide differentiated support model so that we can ensure that we've got customers going through to the right agents, and we are rolling out our channels as well. So at the moment I mentioned we are live for phone only. We are going to be going live with chat and email at the end of this year for accommodations, and they're rolling it out for all of the other business areas as well.

- Super, thank you. Thank you so much for that. I think it's been a quite a comprehensive discussion across, I think we are almost at the end of the session, but I think it'll be good to kind of summarize this whole thing into a few statements around what other organizations should look for if they want to embark on a journey, I would not say like this, because you're unique, but you know something which is as large as this and along with Pega.

- Yeah, I couldn't emphasize enough spending the time to make sure that you are putting a COE in place, and that you have the controls from a quality perspective and a governance perspective to reuse what you are creating and implementing. Also for us, yes we're a unique organization, but I don't think this is unique to our organization. I think it's across many. Making sure that you have an integrated way of working. And I think it was presented on the keynote earlier today, it's really important that all the different teams are working and designing together as opposed to having a lot of multiple handles. And that's our product and tech teams need to be in together early on. Our process teams need to be in early on, and operations teams, so that it's a seamless experience in terms of designing it. It reduces that length of time for development, and also means that you then have more buy-in and acceleration. The other area is, we have spent a lot of time on process redesign, and that is because we want to invest to the future. So what we're implementing, we're actually redesigning our processes as we go, which I know is a bit of a balance. Is that the right thing to do? Sometimes it can take longer, sometimes it can't. But we are seeing some benefits from doing that, and I think longevity wise it just works. Taking the time to stop, make sure you're setting up the center of excellence, making sure you know what the processes are, how you can simplify them, as opposed to just implementing the complexity that we all have and develop over years of big operational organization we're in.

- Thank you. Thank you so much, Francesca, for this one. I think we are almost done, actually done with the session today. Thank you so much for giving this opportunity for everybody to have these insights. We can open the floor for question and answers if anybody has a few questions, we can take it, or else we can close the session. But love to have some questions. Anyone? Okay, if no questions then I think we can close it now. Oh, you have it, sorry, sorry.

- [Questioner] What was the duration for your implementation with Pega?

- I didn't hear.

- What was the duration for the first Pega implementation?

- Oh, well, interesting question. So it wasn't quick. And as I mentioned, we put some changes into place last year. Now we have been working as a business on implementing Pega for two years, but when we put the changes in place last year, we were able to deliver 70% of what we were expecting to have delivered in those two years within a short period of time, within, I think it was eight months. So it just goes to show where it really helps to change the way of working, and the setup, and challenge yourselves. Yeah.

- [Questioner] What was the team size for this?

- That we will take offline. No, I'm just joking, but I think from a team size perspective, it is an incremental ramp up that we had. So we started with the first MVP and then we added the squads around that. Any other question? Okay, so we can close the call, close the session. Sorry I'm looking and the Zoom meeting's going on.

- [Both] Thank you.


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