Agoda – Unlocking new product opportunities and multi-million dollar savings in cost
Agoda is the leading online accommodation booking service in South East Asia. A part of Fortune 100 company Booking Holdings Group (formerly The Priceline Group), It is the sister company of Booking.com, Kayak, Priceline.com, OpenTable and RentalCars.com
We detected an anomaly in the analytics data. We were seeing a huge (USD 5MM) amount of allotment rejects. Particularly when it came to bookings with a short lead time.
An allotment reject arises when a customer makes a booking (ie: room allotment from the hotel is sold to the customer), but that booking is rejected by the hotel when the guest tries to check-in.
Preventing allotment rejects is important because it impacts customer loyalty, creates friction between the company and the hotel, consumes excessive customer support time and costs the company a lot of money.
The objective of this project was to investigate the root cause of allotment rejects and identify potential fixes to mitigate them as far as possible.
To first understand how large and widespread the issue was, I started to look through our existing data for the current year and the past 2 years to identify any patterns. From this analysis, what I found was that over the past 3 years, there was a consistent amount of allotment rejects in line with what we expected, however 3 markets were outliers with a massive amount of allotment rejects. We were able to rule out issues in 2 of those markets due to issues with the actual bookings coming from other partner companies. In the third market, the one with the largest amount of allotment rejects, we didn’t uncover any such root cause for the issue during data analysis.
I shared my findings from the data analysis with the team in a workshop and then brainstormed with them potential hypotheses for this issue and what the plan of action was going to be.
We decided to conduct a research study to deeper understand this issue. I settled on a contextual inquiry method to conduct at the hotels where we observed this happen in the data. I also planned on usability testing the prototype concepts (if any product opportunities / user pinpoints required the creation of those) the designer on the project would be developing while we were in the field.
From conducting the research in field, we understood that the root cause of the issue was lack of access to OTA systems at hotels outside of working hours of the Sales /Reservations teams. Additionally, access to these systems was restricted by policy for the front desk staff.
To address the issue, the field team (comprised of the Product Manager, the UX Designer and me) began working in rapid mini design sprints to develop a few concepts and turn them into prototypes to validate with the hotel staff. We tested a few concepts and iterated on them, resulting in a polished version that we could potentially develop once we returned back to the office from the research trip.
We managed to identify the root cause of the huge amount of allotment rejects that were happening, saving the company around USD 5MM.
We also managed test and validate a potential solution to mitigate this issue in the future, leading to the solution being prioritized in the engineering team’s backlog for development within the next half of the year.