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Maneuvering Mobility with Charnie Chen behind Planning & Operations, Taipei

A few question marks might pop up in your head when you come across the term “planning and operations”. Indeed, it’s a vague term. And judging from the name itself, it doesn’t give away much information on what a person in planning and operations does exactly.

At Klook, our Planning & Operations department is divided into three categories: mobility, experiences, and digitalization. Simply open our app, you’ll find tons of categories on our homepage. But one thing that’s indispensable in our lives is mobility, which we commonly refer to as transportation (aka the art of getting around). 

Piqued by the large, impactful transportation projects they’ve launched, we sat down with Charnie Chen, Senior Manager of Planning & Operations for the Mobility vertical, to spill the beans on their daily operations.


 Charnie_-_Round_Frame.png

Charnie Chen

Senior Manager, Planning & Operations (Mobility Vertical), Taipei

 

Could you summarize what our mobility vertical is all about?

Our mobility vertical covers a lot of categories, from buses, railways, ferries, cruises to airport transfer – anything that transports a user from one place to another. We hardly realize it but there’s demand for mobility almost every day. Our responsibilities revolve around standardization, integration, and digitalization. 

 

What challenges is Klook helping to solve in the mobility industry? 

Many mobility service providers have fragmented systems. Their websites were built decades ago and they often update their schedules using manual procedures. There are too many steps involved without clear instructions, not to mention a lack of multi-language content. Most of them are still using paper tickets that require offline redemption. This creates a huge barrier for foreign tourists who are not familiar with it. 

The transportation network is very complicated in most countries. While we’re living in a highly digitalized world, it's hard to imagine how old the whole system is. We see a lot of opportunities in this vertical, not just business opportunities, but impactful changes to the industry.

What we’re doing now is providing solutions to merchants who need an already-established platform and technology to help make their products or services more widely accessible and easy to use. Integrating all the bookings into our platform, we make sure that our users only take 60 seconds or go through at most 4 steps in the entire booking process. 

 

Booking is quick and easy on our Klook app!

 

Booking experience, redemption and boarding are equally important to us. Our goal is to make booking a transportation ticket as easy as getting a cup of coffee. If we do well in this, users are satisfied with their experience and are more likely to return to our app for future bookings. 

How does Klook come into play for standardizing the transportation systems?

We want to build a system to integrate not only the rail systems but also other transportation systems. This concept is called MaaS (mobility as a service) or TaaS (transportation as a service), and we have yet to achieve this goal.

So, we investigate two questions: (1) Can users book all tickets at once if they have to transit from a train to a high-speed rail? (2) Can everything be done on the phone when taking transit?

For our users’ and merchants' convenience, we introduced the Dynamic Voucher feature, a digitalized method that requires no tech effort from the carrier. Passengers can show it to the staff at train stations before entering the gate. We’re also working on QR Code boarding that lets passengers scan at each boarding point easily while saving time and hassle.

Some local travel operators intend to collaborate with each other for ticketing integration, but back-and-forth communication is a barrier for them. This is where a third party like us steps in to make this whole process easier thanks to our high flexibility. 

 Klook - Taiwan High Speed Rail

Users got to enjoy discounts from the Taiwan High Speed Rail x UBER package during Klook’s 7th Anniversary. 


Our bestselling Taiwan High Speed Rail x UBER package is a good case in point. High Speed Rail (THSR) stations in Taiwan are far from the downtown area, so passengers have to look for a taxi operator on the spot when arriving at the station. We integrated both THSR and UBER to mitigate this hassle for passengers so they can hop on an UBER ride immediately upon arrival.

 

What’s something you’ve learned from user behavior? 

Compared to online marketing, offline promotions are hard. It’s difficult to get more eyeballs from customers. In gaining public awareness and exposure of the brand, we partnered with approximately a thousand convenience stores around Taiwan. We put up posters with a scannable QR code that helps bring traffic to our platform. This QR code is trackable, which is useful for measuring results. 

After a period of time, we found out that the traffic was low. That means very few people paid attention to our posters let alone scanned our QR code. This is one of the initiatives we thought would be impactful but turned out to be less so. Despite the lack of traffic, we still remain in close partnership with the convenience stores as we still have other programs to collaborate on. 

Although changing user behavior (offline to online) costs a lot of time – and sometimes money, transportation is a must-have and has a very high demand. Users become loyal customers once they get used to our digitized system. 


Senior Associate/Assistant Manager, Planning and Operations (Mobility) - Taipei

 

Klook Planning and Operations Team

The Planning & Operations team managed to gather before the pandemic.

 

What is it like working in the Planning & Operations team at Klook?

I’m not exaggerating this, but my position allows me to unfold something new every day. There are always problem-solving opportunities that encourage me to delve deeper into the gaps in data and devise a new strategy that can entice users to book on our app. 

I think what’s good about Klook is that we don’t see mistakes as failures. They’re not a huge deal here. It’s normal that the more we experiment, the higher chance we make mistakes. Making mistakes isn't stigmatized here but it also doesn’t mean we can repeat the same mistakes and dwell on them without finding a solution right away. What matters more is making data-backed decisions, and how fast we find a solution when we fail. 

Since Klook is a global company, we work with talents from different cultures and backgrounds. I learn a lot from the team and everyone has strong ownership. It’s exciting to work with such great people. 

 

What does your typical day/week look like?

We develop business strategies from the ground up, and it’s important to constantly communicate with various stakeholders to ensure we’re making the right decisions and going in the same direction as a team. 

Data analysis is just one of our essentials, but what’s more important is observation. On a daily basis, we need to stay curious to find a pattern, dig out the root cause, and discover opportunities from there. Think about quick hacks that don’t involve the tech team’s involvement at first. Once something is successful, we need to think of ways to scale it.

Since innovation in the transportation industry relies heavily on technology, collaborating with product managers and the tech team is one of our daily responsibilities. In this phase, we seek help from our tech team to expand the product into other markets and make it our main selling point.

Oftentimes, we tend to execute projects based on our gut feeling. But if we don’t quantify their impact, we don’t know how much impact they will bring, and whether they're worth the effort. Some projects may look promising, but their actual impact isn’t massive. On the other hand, some projects that seem to require less effort actually have a huge impact. With minimal effort, we incorporated a little bit of coding into our automated booking system for Korea Rail Pass, and yet it yielded a significant increase in revenue. 


Senior Associate/Assistant Manager, Planning and Operations (Mobility) - Hong Kong SAR

 

KTX_Korea_Rail_Pass.png

Korea Rail Pass (or KR Pass) is essential for any foreign tourist who travels around South Korea. This train can take you to Busan, but without zombies 😝

 

What are some of your key learnings after having been in Klook for almost 3 years?

It’s not necessarily true that everything we work hard for will eventually work out. That doesn’t mean we should give up, but we should know our limits. Sometimes, we cannot control the external factors, so we need to know how to move on or find a better way out. This world moves at a fast pace, and we don’t want to be stuck in the same place for a long time. 

People always say, “don’t put all eggs in one basket”. That’s basically how we tackle our large volume of projects – diversifying risk across all. If one thing doesn’t work, we move our focus to another. We need to constantly keep a positive mindset and not be set back by little hurdles. To me, this is both a challenge and learning at the same time.

Another thing I want to highlight is we don't take no for an answer. We keep challenging ourselves and set a high growth standard. We always say this to new joiners: welcome to the rocket ship.

 

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Team Taiwan ushered in spring with a game-filled party in March 2022.

 

Speaking of new joiners, do you have any advice for someone looking to join Planning & Operations?

If you can perform well under pressure, listen to ideas with an open mindset, stay agile at all times, and communicate well with different groups of people, then Planning & Operations is the right place for you to unleash your potential. You can expect to learn from a lot of talented Klookers who are great at problem-solving, and you’ll be applying your problem-solving skills to your daily tasks too. So if you have a knack for thinking outside the box, we certainly look forward to delivering an impact on the mobility industry with you!


Stoked about cross-team collabs and business strategies?

Join Planning & Ops here

 

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