‘Over to you’ series: TFWA President, Alain Maingreaud column, Part Two

By Charlotte Turner |

Over to You guest columns logo leadIn a second column penned by TFWA President Alain Maingreaud, entitled ‘Stronger Together’, he explores the topic of innovation – particularly in technology – which will be a critical component in driving travel retail sales back to pre-Covid-19 levels. However, the power of the ‘human touch’ cannot be discounted and will also be crucial to pulling through this crisis. Finally, Maingreaud stresses the importance of a collaborative approach to problem-solving at this time.


It’s still quite a task to find any sort of silver lining in the situation we now face in our professional as well as in our personal lives. But looking beyond the next few months, which are clearly going to be brutal, perhaps something good might come out of the chaos.


We have all had to make radical adjustments to the way we conduct our relationships – whether that’s with our friends, our families or the people with whom we work. Technologies such as Zoom, Houseparty and Microsoft Teams have become part of our everyday lives. However, I’m sure no one feels this 2D facsimile of 3D life is a totally satisfactory way to communicate, and we’re all looking forward to when we can speak face-to-face with our loved ones and our business colleagues.


Alain Maingreaud TFWA President tall portrait

Technology should be used as an enhancement not a replacement for excellent customer service, says Maingreaud.

We’ve learned that technology can be used to facilitate some elements of human interaction, but it can’t replace them all. This is a lesson that can easily be applied to the way we consider technology when it comes to looking after our customers.


We as an industry have spoken of the importance of ‘understanding the customer’ at length. That understanding has never been more imperative than it is now, and technology will play a vital role in developing it.


The most useful technology helps us to scrutinise the behaviour of customers, assess that behaviour, and communicate with those who buy our products in engaging ways.


At its very best however, in the duty free and travel retail environment, it should be used as an enhancement, not an alternative, to outstanding personal service for those who want a warmer relationship. It is also an enhancement, not a replacement, for meeting our colleagues. This, I believe, will be a guiding principal in the technologies that are implemented when the world begins to recover.


The second lesson we’ve learned is that a united approach is the best way to tackle the most difficult challenges. Again, as an industry we’ve many times debated the issue of working together to share data and joining forces to combat threats to our prosperity. If ever there was a time to end that debate, it’s now.


The survival of our industry will not be determined by the success of one retailer, one brand, one association, or one event. A rising tide really does float all boats, and unless we recognise that every effort must be put into helping each other now, we’re all doomed to sink.


The recovery, when it comes, will come as a result of working together. It will come from our common efforts and struggle that is shared. Or it will not come at all.


The views and opinions expressed here are those of the columnist’s and do not necessarily reflect those of TRBusiness.

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