Lola Travel: The technology is good. The empathy is great
By Sarah Moore & Eric Michrowski
Some of America’s oldest chapters in history were written on the banks of Boston’s Charles River, but today it hosts a different kind of revolution.
Paul English, co-founder and former Chief Technology Officer of Kayak (the website and app that helps you plan your next trip by searching hundreds of travel sites for the best deal) is once again revolutionizing the world of travel.
His new app, Lola, brings a human touch to business travel. The app learns your preferences, so it can make smarter recommendations for your travel. And Concierges – real humans – are available around the clock to help out when travel goes awry, or you just want reservations at that hot new restaurant in your destination city. It’s like Kayak and an old school travel agency had a baby and named it Lola.
While many have recognized the potential of his technology (Forbes’ listed it on its 2017 50 most Innovative Companies, next to the likes of Airbnb, Marriott and Vail resorts), few have talked about the people side of his business.
His approach, in a word: empathy.
For example, when you walk in to his Boston offices, you notice a bright space with lots of windows. Those sitting along the windows are not Lola’s highest paid executives. Those leaders are in the basement, right next to the technical engineers. The customer facing agents have the coveted window space because, as English sees it, they represent the Lola brand to the world. And if they are happy, customers will be happy.
He also knows that the technology is in its early stages and he needs agents to be sharing customer experiences with developers. So, in true Boston tradition, he installed a keg in an open concept kitchen to encourage people to hang out any time they need to wet their whistles….and perhaps share some feedback from their customer interactions that day.
One of the app’s functions is customers rating agents on their service. Having spent a good part of his career at companies he founded, he knew he couldn’t possibly understand what it felt like to get ratings all day, every day. So, he took his Tesla on the road, and became an Uber driver for a few weeks (he got a stellar rating, but that may have just been the car?).
By empathically creating a compelling employee experience, he seems to have created a compelling customer experience. Travel + Leisure says it’s “more attuned than ever to the needs of business travellers”. We would agree. Our team members were part of a Lola Travel beta test and used the app in exchange for feedback. The best way to describe the experience is like a first-class lounge – smooth, easy, and just a little upscale.
Eric Michrowski is CEO of Propulo and travels roughly 120,000 miles per year on both American Airlines and Air Canada and holds top tier status on both airlines (equivalent to circling the globe 9.67 times per year). He’s an extreme road warrior that is focused on ease of the journey, is known for packing electronics to fulfill every need and lives from a carry-on suitcase. With expertise and agility in navigating the travel world gained in his early days flying for an airline, he’s been voted the least likely to get stuck.
Sarah Moore focuses on Learning and Change Strategy and can’t hold a candle to Eric’s travel*.
*And she’s ok with that.