Travel, Transport and Hospitality (TTH)

Transformation success, with reservations

Travel, transport and hospitality businesses have led successful Front Office Transformation exercises. But what can the industry do to build on the success it has enjoyed so far? Businesses in the travel, transport and hospitality (TTH) sector face the realities of digital disruption every day. Their customers expect to be served at any time and anywhere, with products and services provided through the channels of their choice. From a transformed hotel experience to last-mile delivery in logistics, these businesses must transform to remain relevant, especially as new entrants emerge, unencumbered by legacy systems and culture. This is where Front Office Transformation (FOT) comes in. However, our new research suggests that the industry has more to do to capture all the benefits of FOT.  

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What is Front Office Transformation? A major project to transform the business processes and technologies used to identify, engage, sell to, service, and retain customers – across sales, marketing, service, and support.

Start with cultural change

The evidence of this research is that transformation projects towards more customer centricity requires fully fledged culture change. In practice, however, this is a difficult shift to achieve. Nearly all TTH businesses (98%) say that tranforming the front office business proved to be a major cultural challenge for their employees, and just 8% say that their employees were very keen to take part. 

If companies can involve their people better, the benefits could be significant. Developing a people-centric culture is a key success factor in FOT across the board: 63% of all companies that strongly believe their initiative put people ahead of technology say that their Front Office Transformation was a success, compared with 52% of all companies. Getting employees on board is clearly a priority. 

Clear communication is a key ingredient of improving the transformation culture in a company. Many employees may fear change, but clear communication from the top will ensure that employees understand that offering superior, tech-enabled customer service and experiences will help the firm to differentiate, and ultimately earn loyal customers.


Lead from the top

Solving the cultural challenge will require more impetus from the most senior levels of the business, which are best placed to communicate and drive change. A meagre 2% of TTH companies say they were ‘very clear’ about the culture they were trying to build through FOT; almost all (99%) concede that their employees saw the initiative as a side project – not helped, perhaps, by the top team. Only 22% of TTH firms say that their senior leadership was hands-on and fairly actively involved in the Front Office Transformation. 

After all, 68% of companies overall whose senior leadership were fairly or heavily involved in FOT say that their project was a success, compared with only 45% of companies whose top team was not actively involved. This is a stark lesson for TTH businesses.


Front Office Transformation success is within reach – culture, leadership and enablement are crucial drivers of successful projects.

Bolster enablement

Our research suggests that the more imaginative a business is in the way it engages its workforce, the greater its Front Office Transformation success. Traditional training strategies still have a role, but new ideas can be very effective: 70% of companies overall whose transformations of front office functions have been a success have incorporated experience-based learning initiatives, such as escape rooms, into their employee-enablement programmes; only 47% of somewhat successful businesses have done the same.  

TTH businesses are ahead of the pack. About two-thirds (67%) already use experience- based learning, and 55% have appointed enablement champions to help their colleagues – in both cases, TTH businesses have moved faster than their peers in most other sectors. Still, there is room for further innovation: only 6% of companies in the sector have embraced novel learning ideas such as gamification, for example. 


Budget better

What about budget? For some TTH companies, resourcing could be the final piece in the jigsaw. Almost half (47%) complain that the resources they had at their disposal during their most recent Front Office Transformation project were not adequate for their needs. Meanwhile 45% say that funding transformation projects was not seen as a priority for their business, and 32% describe as ‘difficult’ the process of getting the budget signed off. 

This shows that TTH companies’ transformation success has been in spite of a tricky financial situation. Businesses that want to complete Front Office Transformations in the future should pay close attention – if budgets are bolstered and delivered in a more effective way, then the results of their FOTs could be even better.


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Alexander Schultz-Wirth

Alexander Schultz-Wirth

Partner, Customer Transformation and Technology Consulting, PwC Switzerland

Tel: +41 58 792 47 97