Travelport briefed reporters Wednesday on an enhancement to its Apollo and Galileo points of sale that offers users more options to point and click rather than enter commands in places where the former makes more sense. Called Smartpoint, the application originally went live 18 months ago with multinational travel management company users, and is now available as a managed download in the United Kingdom, United States and a handful of other markets.
Smartpoint brings to the cryptic Focalpoint interface the ability to, for example, click on the 'LHR' text for a popup window with more information about London Heathrow. Agents can use a calendar-based booking window that combines air and lodging searches, the system offers outbound and return displays on the same screen, and Smartpoint also supports command languages from other GDSs. Limited workflow customization also is available.
Asked why the company is releasing this enhancement when wide deployment of its completely new Universal Desktop application is expected next year, Travelport president and CEO Gordon Wilson said, "We never intended to take Smartpoint out as a global market product, but the feedback from the multinationals about how great the productivity improvements were took us by surprise."
The application reduces keystrokes and call handling times by 15 percent when shopping and booking itineraries, and by "up to 72 percent when searching for the 'best' fare," according to Travelport. Productivity improvements are driven by optimizing a mix of commands and point-and-click options, said Wilson. "It's getting the balance right between them," he said. "We've seen this with Universal Desktop testing. Combining both is faster on a unit basis."
Like Universal Desktop, Smartpoint uses the company's Universal API. But Smartpoint's technology is otherwise distinct both from Universal Desktop and Travelport's add-on app in the Canadian market, Agencia. Travelport first installed Smartpoint in the United States during the past three months for a multinational agency, Wilson said.
The company is planning a "Smartpoint-esque" solution for Worldspan users, he added.
Asked about the delayed Universal Desktop rollout schedule, Wilson said, "It's fair comment that we're
behind where we initially thought we would be, but this is not a layer dropped on top of the existing product. It's a fundamental rework of the agency selling system, which is much more ambitious of a project, but is also a step change. It's truly a global product.
"What we have been learning is an awful lot about usability," he said. "Some things we had assumed with the first iteration didn't prove as effective as we had hoped; for example, when users got hold of it, it didn't prove as intuitive as we thought the product needed to be. So we had to rework some of that. We also had to rework some of the security we put in the system. And as we work with the initial customer, Flight Centre, there were various things that we had planned to have in future releases [that] Flight Centre felt they needed in the initial release, so the scope got bigger, but in the end the product will be better."