Forrester Research travel analyst Henry Harteveldt points out in "Humanizing the Digital Experience," a report released last week, that the travel industry's early embrace and dependence on certain technologies may, paradoxically, be limiting our ability to provide better customer experiences through technology.

"The industry's reliance on computerized reservation systems, yield management and database marketing has forced travelers - whether or not they want to - to bend to the industry's technological reliance," he reports.

The corporate mind-set regarding technology in many industries, not just travel, has been to improve efficiency, cut costs and, in as opaque a manner as possible, generate more revenue. As examples, reservations systems achieve the first of these goals, supplier Web sites the second and yield management systems the third.

But success in each of these areas has led some travel companies to ignore the utility of technology as a powerful customer service vehicle. The focus has been on exploiting technology to achieve specific, internal corporate goals. And despite the orchestral volume of lip service to the contrary, a company that truly believes customer experience can be a significant driver of profit is still the exception, not the rule.

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