The B2B Revenue Executive Experience
The B2B Revenue Executive Experience

Episode · 1 year ago

How to Offer Rewards People Actually Want w/ Iqbal Jumabhoy

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

COVID-19 may not be the end of the world… 

 

But after, the road warriors will still have reason to celebrate. 

 

That’s because travel and hospitality are changing for the better. 

 

To find out how, I caught up with Iqbal Jumabhoy, Founder/CEO at BlackBook Technologies, a company creating rewards programs that are actually rewarding. 

 

What we talked about:

  • What people really want from hospitality.
  • The problem with rewards programs. 
  • Hospitality under COVID-19 and beyond.

 

This post includes highlights of our podcast interview with Iqbal Jumabhoy, Founder/CEO at BlackBook Technologies.

 

For the entire interview, you can listen to The B2B Revenue Executive Experience.

 

If you don’t use Apple Podcasts, we suggest this link.

The Road Warrior at the pick. You know they don't the road for whatever, a hundred days or whatever a year. The last thing that person wants to the free nights which was paid pulled by the company anyway. What they want, what they really want, is a teddy there for the child who hasn't seen them for two weeks. You're listening to the BDB revenue executive experience, a podcast dedicated to helping executives train their sales and marketing teams to optimize growth. Whether you're looking for techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's accelerate your growth in three, two, one. Welcome everyone to the BB revenue executive experience. I'm your host, Chad Sanderson. Today we're talking about traveling hospitality, what it means to provide a great experience for customers and how is the current state of covid and the climate change this business? To help us, we are lucky to have with us big ball Jumobi, CEO and founder of black book big while. Thank you so much for taking time and welcome to the show, Chad. Thank you for inviting me and looking forward to talking about my favorite subject excellence. Well, before we jump in, we always like to start with a question just to help the audience understand you a little bit better, get to know you a little bit better. I'm curious to know something you're passionate about that our listeners may might be surprised to learn about you. Okay, I get arrest of it. I told you the truth, but it actually actually I absolutely passionate about my about and found ground based sport. I play Polo and that's my that's my absolute passion. So it's but then you know, it's a polo is one of those have gun, will travel sports. So if you have your stakes, you have apolo handicap. As famous man one said, it's about coat to the world. Nice, excellent. I believe you are the first passionate Polo player we've had on the show and I also, if I'm not mistaken, I believe I was told you represented Singapore in the Southeast Asian Games. Is that true? Yes, I did. I think they made a mistake and put the wrong age on it, so I got in the team perfect. All right. So for our listeners, just so we have some contacts, let's give a little bit more context around what is black book and what do you do there? What customers are you looking to serve? Okay, can I if I made back cup. I just give you a few touch points and it'll put it into perspective perfect. I don't know if you if you know this, but survey was done recently joint you with Google, and it turns out that the average traveler makes over seven hundred touch points over a hundred and fifty days to planet trip. Now, the average traveler may not be yourself or myself child, who knows way here. She is going end to end and at the end of it they do something...

...like fifty two different searches. They go through five different airline brands, eight accommodation brands and they go through. So, basically, what I'm trying to say to you is that this is a lengthy process. Every time they do this, they've got to handle with all these touch points, whether it's flights, transport, activities, rooms, insurance, attractions, whatever. There there's a whole lot of effort that they have to go into with regard to handing cancelations, trip changers, etc. There's no way to benefit from rewards points that are voted by each provider and they're giving out credit card details to a whole lot of different people. So with that is background number one. The second part of the background is the fact that I used to travel some over two hundred days a year. I realized that, using all the APPS, and we all do that, they had to be a better way to dream, plan, book experience and share or trips, and that is what that is where the idea of black book came out. I was a I was a CEO of a hotel company and I had a little booking button on a little button on my on my website saying ask the CEO, so that our our guests did not need to go through any layers at hotel level or anywhere else. Anything they wanted to know, they came straight to me. And people don't always, most of the time they don't send you stuff that that they like. Most of the time they did. They send you so they shit, they tell you things that you don't like, and that is hugely valuable because when I left the last company and sold out, I said I want to now do something that substantially changes the customer experience with regard to travel. I want a single stop where we can be the only travel app you will ever need. Now that's it's a huge aspiration and with all aspirations you start with the small steps, you build those steps and then hopefully you get closer and closer to that ideal. So that's broadly what black book intends to do. We intend to serve a traveler that, while is mobile, would tend to be the more tech savvy. As a person who uses technology a fair amount and as an older person who uses technology a fair amount, I don't like to bandit it to age groups. I prefer to bandit into attitudes, and so from my perspective, that's the core. The core is is that person who is looking, who uses technology, who uses APPS, who...

...travels with mobile and who feels that I want to focus on my experience, not focus on cleaning up the booking or the technology or anything like that. So that's the inspiration from black book and in Summary, therefore, black book is a travel booking APP that takes you through the entire customer journey. As I said, it is seamless, use experiences seamless between Web and mobile. So the other thought of it is that you find people who start, who usually start their trips at their desk and they're looking for stuff. So they using the computer, so their own web, but when they're on the trip they're on their mobiles and data today is practically free. So what you find, so you need something that whatever you do on your desktop is then translated seamlessly to what you're doing on your mobile. And so therefore, for us it's a seamless you ex between weather and mobile. It's a signal point of contact for all customer support issues and it maximizes convenience and allows the traveler to focus on what they are what they really want, which is to enjoy that trip. It's a it's a very large aspiration. So as a traveler myself, and we were talking about this before we hit record right, if I look at my phone, and I just picked it up just to check, I have you know I'm I found and I've got my travel apps or group together other and I have seventeen apps that are in there. And I know that each of the many of the companies like united or singleplayer lines, they've invested in making their component of that experience, or trying, I'll say trying, trying to make their component of that experience as frictionless as possible. There's a lot of data aggregation and connections and whole bunch of stuff you have to do to come up with a seamless experience. How have you found the journey of getting to the point where you're getting ready to, you know, launch here in October? How has that journey been from a development and experience standpoint? How do you keep that customer experience front and Center and all the aspects of of the business? I think there are a few different things. First of all, how you how you follow that Development Journey? In my case it was a screw up. I started thinking, okay, I know I know that, I know the customer. I think, so I can do this and I could do this, I can outsource the development, etc. Etc. And I realized that that didn't work. In the end I said we need to bring it in house. And from quite frankie, we have a very compatible team, particularly the Qure team, but there's constantly attention between them and the tension is between technology and what's possible and when it's possible with,...

...if you like, the person handling user experience and support, who has who wants things that may technology may or may not be able to provide in the way that they wanted. And the third is is marketing, marketing and not over promising and telling the truth. So the great thing is assembling a team of people who are very, very good at what they do, who can understand and accept that tension and learn to work together without without trying to kill each other, and the and the fact that they work, that we work primarily remotely. We zoomed before zoom and you know, that really is I think I'm a very fortunate in having that in the team. So what we've done is we've also had to pivot the platform, on a serious note, a few times where the name black book, if you don't mind a just this, explained it, because it's obviously a very note name. So it came out of my warped mind, but not so walked, because it started out as saying, okay, we're not doing it. We I never even thought about doing universal lab I said, let's mind experiences, hotels, things that other people don't find. So it's a secret little black book and we share that. But ultimately we realize that actually it wasn't a sustainable model and we pivoted and we found that what people want is choice. They won't trust. They want to know that pricing is optimal. Pricing is never the best because if you keep looking you find something, but there's a trade off between how much time you want to put towards it versus how much, how much gain you're getting to the last fifty cents or whatever a hotel night. So the point is then it pivoted and then we realize that, frankly, you have to change the customer experience substantially. Otherwise you don't have a hope, particularly when you are a small, new player in an industry which is all ego ballistic with some very major, well hundred players. So I don't know if I've answered your question there, but that's that was part of our journey. Yeah, and it's it's great to hear that on gone on fault and get that perspective when somebody comes to you and says, okay, so, I mean I can see how saving me time times the one asset that we can't get back. It should be the thing that is most valuable to most people. So I'm one of those people who's going to pay to have less, less cliques in the journey. Right, but I'm curious when you say bring it all together. What what's the raw what's going to separate black...

...book from some of those other things that are out there? People were things people make confuse as very similar. Well, the first thing is this. I mean, if I may, if I may describe some modules in the product, black book is not just an Otia, the Ota being the equivalent of many of the major apps out there, some of which I use. What would take me away from those? It is really the fact that if we look at Black Book, travels are Oti a big differentiator. We have the largest number of hotels in the world of any platform. We have certainly between twenty five and forty percent more than the nearest I'm not going to mention names with major player, sure, and one of the best known players. We have more than double. How do we do that? Actually, when I put together this number of hotels, I thought I was really clever. I said, you know XY that only has eight hundred thousand hotels. How come Black Book and today, Frank that number, by the ways, over two and a half million hotels? And I realized I was actually pretty dumb. Anybody can do that, but the genius is my my colleague on the technology side who found out that when you buy from multiple so we do that by agree, by buying hotel nights from aggregators and wholesalers. To do that, you have multiple duplications of hotel, those duplications of rooms. So what we are forced to, what we had to do, was to put together a technology to sift out those duplications to ensure that any hotel appears only once, only any room, because each supplier will give you a room with a different description. So we have an algorithm that sift that out, sits that out and that that appears only one and then after that. Unlike the other OTAS, who are price takers in that the hotel set the prices and they then they then take out their margins, we are price makers and that we buy at wholesale and then build up our pricing to get to that pricing. Even though we haven't launched, we do ten million price searches a day, you know, based on our technology. And then if you have and then that technology has to be seamless and available. So we worked with with Amazon web services to make sure that it sits on multiple servers around the world so that it's always on, always available. Our goal there is then to add up a whole suite of travel products, whether it is at the moment it's hotels, we will add flights, we will add local transport, whether that whether that's local transfers or something which we think will be a first, which is global ride haling. So you do not have you do not have to put your credit card in with eight or ten ridering companies in the world. You put it in with us where you booked your hotel so you know we...

...exist, and then wherever you land in the world, will connect you to the appropriate driver from the right healing company that's relevant in that place. Travel Insurance. We already have thirty two million attractions on our site and I'll get to that in a minute, but eventually they'll be bookable attractions and experiences. So it filling that out. Number two is something called my black book. Now, my black book is not the collection of secret names whom I want to call but it's actually a collection by black book comprises my trips. It's the trips I've done, so I have have them stored, and the trips I'm a trip I'm going to do. That allows us to do to set up multilocational trips where everything resides. That's your hotel booking, any booking you made through US resides. It goes, you click about and it goes into your calendar. You Click another button. That shared with anybody you want to share your traveling with, or business associates. So and eventually it will allow collaborative trip building. The third is our rewards platform, where you know people. They two parts. One is rewards path platforms. That don't work for hotel groups. Apart from the five seven major hotel groups in the world, everybody else struggles. They pay for these things but people don't use them. They don't use them because you don't have enough content to to buy. And I think people don't know this, but if you look at out two and a million hotels, perhaps less less than fortyzero belong to the major chains. I usually ask this as a trick question. Or what percentage of the hotels come from the five major changes in the world, and people come up with thirty percent, fifty percent, whatever. I frankly it's unit's single digit. It's low single digit percentages. So all the rest of them, if they had loyalty programs. It doesn't work for the hotel group. It doesn't work for the customer because you can't. You collect these points which you can't use. And if you look at some of the other Otia competitors who also have rewards programs, well, they say you can't. You if you collect ten nights, you get one free night. Guess what, only three percent, three to five percent, of the world actually stays in a hotel more than ten nights. Ay, so pluse people like us, Chad, are the the minority. Yeah, that's how that's a hard staff for me as well, I mean, I guess, because I spend most used to spend most of my nights in hotels less than ten nights. Really, I mean yeah, and I had no idea. I mean and as much as I travel, I would I kind of feel stupid for not knowing it. I had no idea that there were the major chains owned single digit percentages of everything that was out there. It didn't even cross my mind. So you're really providing not only a centralized platform and a seamless customer experience, but you're introducing them...

...to opportunities and adventures and potential places to stay that they may never have found no matter how long they spend searching online. Is that kind of a fair assassment? I think that's very fair, because it is difficult. We find may just finished the one point on our rewards program so what what we realize, and I realize this from running a hotel group with sixty hotwels, which is considered a very small group, or a midsize group, actually not a small group, that people didn't, you know, never really liked a program. So I said, okay, how we're going to give them enough content? Okay, we've got enough on the site that they could use the points. How do we make it worth? How do we make it work for them? Allow them to use the points immediately. They don't have to wait for ten nights to use those points. The moment they made one payment, they receive the points. They can spend those points on anything on our site. And that's that's great, because you've got lots of hotels. But guess what, I don't spend that many nights. So we said, put your points in a place, kick a button and we'll put it in cash in your credit card. So you don't keep your points if you don't want to and you have it in cash in your credit card, because you find that the road warrior, particularly, you know, bit on the road for whatever hundred days or whatever a year. The last thing that person wants the free night, which was paid for by the company anyway. What they want, what they really want, is a teddy there for the for the for the child who hasn't seen them for two weeks, some flowers for the anniversary they missed. That's what they want. or or at the end of a hard day, they want to buy themselves a drink more valuable than telling them, oh, stay another nine nights and I'm going to give you. I'm going to give you points the way you can buy another night again. Yeah, that alone, that alone is in genius, because you are one hundred percent right. I the last thing. I I have more points on more different places that just sit there and stare at me and I'm thinking to myself, you know, I just spent a hundred and thirty five nights on the road. Why? No, I want to be at home, but I really do like the idea of the drink like that. I could, if I could catch my points for the drinks, I'm down with that. Okay, you're you're my men. Well, that's where we came out. And the last the last point is then, if you're dealing with people like me, it's one thing, but you could dealing with much of the world today, the traveling world. They want those experiences and then they want to share. So the last point is a platform called up, by the way, about you also called you've got black book travels, you've got my black book, you've got B bonus, which is the bonus points, and you've got something called Black Book X. Black book x again, is not what you think like book X is, is black book experiences. Take those experiences, share...

...them with your friends and everybody says to be but I can do that on other social media platforms. The answer is hes along with pictures of dogs cats, but they cakes political views, whatever it is, you can hand that, but if you want it purely for travel, peer to peer, you need something else. The second part is therefore they say, well, there is a you know, a review platform again, and we we work with trip advisor, but that's not peer to peer. It's anonymous. You've no idea who is giving you a review. The reviews may be good, but you don't you don't know if you have the same taste as that person. But on Black Book Xi aspirations you can share people who are like you and, whether you know them or not, you've been following them for a while and you see what they what they do, you like that connect with them, and the other side is then share generally so that you can. Then you get you get a whole bunch of information and it shortcuts your process to planning. So that's, in summary, will what we are and it's a beautiful vision and I look forward to engaging with it myself. There was just a story here in Denver, Colorado about a young lady who wanted to go travel even during covid and all of her friends wouldn't do it and she struggled to find just a random like my did. Person finally did and they ended up sharing itineraries and crossing paths in Turkey. But it was I read the article. They talked about how much time they spent just trying to connect and and share those details. I can't imagine how easy and how many great new experiences and relationships this alone would have, especially if you have people that are very passionate about travel, as many are. So I think that the beauty of the single source I'm excited to see excited to see it and use it myself. I'm curious, though. Now you know, I'm sure when you started this we weren't nobody was expecting a pandemic, but I'm curious how covids impacted plans, launch plans, business model, anything. How are you? How are you weathering the the current situation we're dealing with the COVID? COVID is devastating for so many reasons, at so many levels. About from the human tragedy it directly caused by the pandemic, there's a human tragedy caused by the fact that Almas cannot proceed and several curbs on our lives. I think there's a lesson in this and that it's basically saying to us don't take anything for good to so what does that mean? It does mean, however, that human beings by this is a this is this is, you know, my own perspective. Of course, human beings, by their nature, do enjoy travel, do need to travel, do need to get away. Secondly,...

...for business purposes, we do need to travel because, inasmuch as we can do what we are doing today remotely, you need to see the whites of the eyes of people you work with. So you do need to you do need to travel, and in fact McKinsey just put out a very good study with regard to which industries will open up first as we begin to tame the pandemic and over what period. And certainly that is that is going to to happen. From our perspective and our little part of it. It's having the confidence that, as an industry and as a human desire, travel will cut back. The second is, from a business perspective, in a very perverse way, if there couldn't be a better time to launch a travel APP, because people will look at you. They're not going to booking APPS now. They're looking for new things and there on the web all the time. So you're not think you're not, you're not going to we're not going to a booking APP. And yes, we have a booking component, but that is not all of black book. So you know, believe it or not, in the last in the last just as we said we're going to launch, we've got something like a thousand people who preregistered. We've got threezero or so followers on different social media platforms already. So we start there. The second part is that, in my view, travel is going to take on with all of that, it's going to take on a slightly different dimension. People are going to care a lot more about hygiene and safety. People Are Airlines. Hotels are going to change. Have to change processes as regards pleading, social distancing and going so far as to redesign lobbies, the redesign places so that they're much safer. Staff will have to go through different protocols and I guess I do all of this having come from another background where I was running hotel companies. So all of that will have to change, but travel will come back. I'm not going to predict timing. The vaccine, if, if and when it comes on will be a big, big draw. But we are seeing countries and places that that. If you look at China, for example, having where the crisis, if you like, had its biggest early impact. Today travel is back. Hotel occupancies have gone up into the s ray percentage points versus probably below thirty percentage the rest of the world because as they managed to make it to manage the pandemic and manage the virus, people have restarted. So I think that that will happen from the perspective of black book, we need to continue to publicize orviously what we are doing. But the other side of it is we are working with certain agencies that...

...are certifying hotels and certifying attractions and we're seeing how to incorporate that in the site, either as a filter or as an attribute when you look at a hotel and say, look, this is certified by Bureau Veritas or whoever they are. So we're looking at that so that people know that they are you know, they can search and they can they can seek out those places that are safer to be in. The other side of it, of course, is the fact that we're not just selling flights. We believe that in larger countries, Singapore, of course, it's this is a tough one to say, but it is larger countries. A lot more travel will be on the road, so it'll be a little less public transport. It may be collaborative public transport, that is smaller mini buses that kind of travel within a country, places you can drive to. You've already seen that in Thailand that as they've opened up people from Bangkok. I did a Webinar with somebody from, you know, from Bangkok and but actually he was sitting on a beach and go some way. So you know, it's it's already beginning to happen in such countries where there are attractions. The other part of it is, I see, therefore, the increase in domestic tourism, and those countries that have a an industrial plan for tourism, I think, will benefit from this, provided people like us. People like US provide the means to get to these places and, second, provide the information on the places and provide the coal attributes of safety so that people are confident enough to travel. So that's how we approaching it, and we already working with agencies to make sure that we can. We can, we could tell people which of the which of the travel products we have also defied, and I think having that one source of truth, not only from an experiential standpoint but also from a safety standpoint. I agree with you one D percent. I think travels going, at least for me, the minute I get to the point where I feel like I'm going through providers, whether that could be going to hotels, are going to experiences or attractions where they are being safe, I'm going because I haven't been on a plane or out of the country in seven months. That's the longest in my career. I'm about to lose my mind. So there's gonna be a lot of people that want to get away and that trust in a source that says hey, we're looking out for you as part of this experience. I think son be very huge and very well received by any of the travelers out there. So I'm excited to see that come to fruition for black book. Let's Change Direction here a little bit, and I want to be sensitive and respectful of everybody's time. We ask all of our guests two standard questions at the end of each inney. The first is simply, as a well respected and sought after CEO, that means your prospect for a lot of people out there who are trying to sell him. People are trying to give you your attention all the time. I'm always curious to know when somebody doesn't have...

...a trusted referral into you, somebody has a reference that they're they're walking in the door for you. How do they capture your attention and and earn the right to time on your calendar? Chad, I think that I think that's really first of all, they needs to be a serious prospect. That's interesting. The stuff that I click the delete button on is I have I have looked at your profile and you need x y zed. Well, sometimes I don't, so so so. So I find and they've looked at something completely different. They take it a standardy build it that they sent out. So first of all, I think it has to be relevant and if it is relevant, then absolutely I will look at it because it's my duty to do that, not only to myself, to my company, by people in case has something that I know that my colleagues are constantly inundated by stuff that I receive. So I think, I think, I think it would be great if somebody has just actually looked at what we do and will say, I think this is something you can you can use. The second is, if it is something that I can't choose for now, that they're respectful of that, because I do reply and, having having having said okay, we can't use it, they respect that because what that does is that allows them they are then in the door and they know that I will respond pre in the future when there is something that I need. Absolutely and I you know, I think if more people would just do that, take a second say hey, guys, got your message, we can't use what what you're doing or dealing right now. That, I think, would save a lot of people a lot of time and actually build a lot of credibility for him. So the last question we ask call it our acceleration inside. If there was one thing, just one piece of advice you could give sales, marketing or consultants, professional services people, one piece of advice that, if they listened to you, believe would help them hit their targets or exceed them. What would it be and why? I think it would be it's a Chinese problem. Know you're edity and know yourself. Thousand Battles, a thousand victories and most of the time we either delude ourselves about ourselves or have some stylized view about the about the target. So know what you know, know what you could actually do for somebody, because if you know what you could do for them as opposed to what you have to sell, then they're listening to you and know that. So that's that. That would be my my view, and that I love it. I love it. Hey, well, if a listener is interested in learning more about black book where would you like us to send them? Website, other places, but please, please go to black book dot SG, which is our website, as I said to and we...

...when we were chatting earlier. It's opaque. But if you go to to black book, which is black, one more time, is spelt black book, one would black book dot SGE. The moment that launches, it will be it will connect to directly into this gives you an overview and they'll be much more information the moment we've launched and there will be information connecting you directly to the booking site, burn the download side and on its social media platforms and in particularly part we are on we are on facebook, we're on Instagram, we're on Linkedin, on the black book, Black Book travels backsline, and please look us up. We love it here. Well, I can't thank you enough for taking the time. It's been an absolute pleasure to have you on the show today chat. Thank you so much asking me. All right, everybody that does it for this episode. You know the drill. CHECK US out of BEBB exactcom share with friends, family, Co workers, but your kids listen to it. It's better than screen time. Form until next time. We have value selling associates, with you all nothing but the greatest success. You've been listening to the BB revenue executive experience. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show and Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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