Mar 24, 2020

3 Mindset Shifts to Customer-Obsessed Engineering in Inventory

Giacomo Palma
Engineering Manager
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What’s the difference between being customer-obsessed and simply customer-focused? Giacomo Palma, a backend engineer, tells us the difference between the two mindsets and shares how he applies the former to his mission team. We deep dive into how getting into this mindset helps engineers build seamless trip planning experiences.


Before diving into our customer-obsessed approach, it’s important to understand that we work in mission teams, also known as cross-functional teams. Within the company, these teams are made up of different specialists such as product managers, designers, copywriters, and engineers. Each team has a specific mission that drives the company’s product development forward.

The mission of my team, Inventory, is to make sure customers can seamlessly book the many activities we offer. We do this by creating a smooth API integration with our tour and experience partners, and third-party reservation systems.

Essentially, we make sure that every customer has a flawless booking experience of tickets with the right price and availability. As a backend engineer on the Inventory team, my job involves a vast realm of services that connect our platform to our suppliers.

There is no percentage of errors, or even better, there is no percentage of unsatisfied customers that is acceptable for us.

Before joining this company, I would have thought that the first thing we would do to achieve this mission would be to dive into the top notch technology we used, the number of external API the system needs to make use of, or the huge quantity of data and information to keep in sync.

While it’s not a wrong assumption — the infrastructure and code base we use is absolutely fascinating, what really caught my eye as an engineer joining this team, is that we started with the customer experience and worked backwards to the technology.

1. Set your numbers on successful experiences

Like many companies, we use data to make our decisions, to keep our systems healthy, and to receive prompt alerts when intervention is needed. This is why every one of us on the Inventory team has access and is trained to use monitors and graphs to track and anticipate any possible situation we have to take care of. An attraction we work with may have a system go offline or we may have to deal with API errors when a supplier is experiencing a technical issue.

Still, it’s impressive how members of the Inventory team set their mentality and how the team can be defined not only as customer-oriented but truly customer-obsessed. What’s the difference? Simply being customer-oriented means the customer is in mind as only one of the many stakeholders, but truly being customer-obsessed puts customer satisfaction at the forefront.

There is no percentage of errors, or even better, there is no percentage of unsatisfied customers that is acceptable for us.

Due to the massive number of customers, we see thousands of live API transactions on our monitors, and yet we track and react to every single booking showing issues.

Our team mentality shift became, Whatever is going on in the monitors is not just a number. It’s not simply a percentage of failures, nor broken code, nor just a bug or missing revenues, it’s somebody’s vacation.

2. Pick your technology based on the impact it would have on the customers

The data on your monitor is somebody’s long-awaited holiday to celebrate retirement, or a couple’s first trip together to Paris that just has to be perfect, or it’s that family holiday in Rome where everyone wants to come home with an amazing story to tell. It’s our honor and duty to ensure that their experiences run smoothly. Working from this angle, we approach our job, team, and technology with a high level of responsibility.

On the subject of customers and technology, there is a great quote from Steve Jobs:

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology”.

This is translated in the Inventory team with the omnipresent question whenever a technical decision is taken, “How is this improving the customer experience?”

With this question in mind, every piece of technology we use is an enabler to improve the experience we give to our customers. Experimenting with new solutions, techniques and processes is fundamental and whenever we see space for improvements, there is no recipe we have to follow, the metric is always how fast and impactful we can be for the customer.

3. Provide your suppliers with excellent service

The way the Inventory team acquires the availability of tickets for our customers has its focus on API integrations with suppliers and third-party reservation systems involving two sides of the same coin:

  1. The technology created to allow third-party integrations with the GetYourGuide platform, from the supplier API documentation and the core of the endpoints exposed to the testing tools.
  2. The personal relationship built with integrators like suppliers, a reservation system, or external API system we collaborate with.

This solid relationship with suppliers is not only built on technology, but on the trust those third parties have with GetYourGuide engineers. Trust that is built on the ability to make decisions, build customer-focused tools, with a commitment that goes from a kick-off call with the designated engineering team to flying to that partner’s office and making that integration and that relationship possible.

The results of this approach to engineering in the Inventory team is something we count in satisfied travelers, and this is what we call being a customer-obsessed engineer.  

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