Interview: New Comtec boss says firm is ‘back on track’

Interview: New Comtec boss says firm is ‘back on track’

The new boss of travel technology firm Comtec has promised a much more partnership-based collaborative approach to its clients having undertaken a root and branch review of the business

Kevin Gordon, chief executive of the technology specialist, admits that the firm had previously not been good at understanding its customers’ needs.

But he said behind-the-scenes work in the last 12 months has transformed its internal working practices and started to pay off in terms of the way it is engaging with its travel sector clients.

“The external view of Comtec was pretty poor,” Gordon said. “We were reactive and mostly sales-led, not really about pleasing the customer.

“We started by looking at customer experience and it did not take long to find out that we did not really understand the customer.

“We were a technology company but did not know why our customers wanted us to do what they wanted us to do. We were not really a partner.”

Gordon said as part of the review five distinct sets of customers were identified, including its large accounts such as Thomas Cook, Tui Travel and Travel Impressions – the Big Ts.

Next were a larger number of smaller but still sizeable tour operating customers such as Mark Warner, Classic Collection and ITC, followed by two sets of smaller clients.

Finally there was Comtec. “We realised we needed to invest in our core products,” Gordon said. “We were ignoring Comtec.”

Gordon said this meant, for instance, that its key Gateway search and book product had fallen two years behind rivals allowing them to seize market share – a situation it is addressing.

And he admits Comtec was lucky that no one had managed to produce a credible rival to its widely used Travelink reservation system.

As a result of the business review Comtec has reorganised its resources behind the five customer groups identified and developed a plan to support each one.

Gordon admitted that previously there was a great deal of energy being expended at Comtec but not necessarily in a strategic way with the demands of its larger clients often sucking up resources.

“We now have dedicated resources, but there is also a fair amount of flexibility built in so we can cope with the peaks and troughs.

“We are now far better at understanding our customers, far better at delivery. The feedback has been that we are in a far better place. Are we perfect? No. But we will strive to be better and we have the fundamentals in place. We need to get truly embedded with our customers. It’s about people, products but also our internal systems and processes.”

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