SafeScore: Guiding travellers towards answers to their FAQs

12 Sep 2022

Duncan Hancox, SafeScore. Image: RDI Hub

What started out as a way to keep air passengers up to date on Covid-19 travel restrictions is evolving into a flexible tool to enhance the customer experience.

Kerry start-up SafeScore is using data to improve the customer experience – not by storing it away for the perusal of algorithms, but by making it presentable and accessible for customers themselves.

“Any data can be used with our tools,” said head of strategic business development Duncan Hancox. “Our goal is to condense that information, and provide users with an intuitive platform where they can be informed, make purchases and increase their overall customer experience.”

SafeScore was founded in 2020 with an initial goal of making Covid-19 travel information easier for travellers to understand. “Our capability grew rapidly when we first identified the opportunity to provide curated, up-to-date and personalisable Covid travel restriction data to the aviation industry,” said Hancox.

With this initial product, SafeScore leveraged its early team members’ contacts in the aviation sector to find its first clients. Its widget was installed on the websites of Kerry, Cork and Ljubljana airports, helping travellers through these ports to understand travel requirements as they were continually revised.

“Airports were left isolated during the pandemic, and were relied upon to communicate arbitrary and constantly changing governmental travel policies to often irate customers. SafeScore identified this gap in the market and moved in to help provide airport visitors access to simplified versions of confusing travel rules,” said Hancox.

“Our core technology is a bespoke search engine that allows users to query certain desired datasets,” he explained. “We identify the online sources of this data, and create an initial baseline dataset held on a database. We then use an automated scraper tool to identify changes to the source data on a daily basis, which we then review and make a decision about whether to update the database, based on whether it is material or not.”

This database is then accessible to customers via a widget that can be easily installed on a client website. “The user can then use the widget to run their query. We also offer API integration, should the client want to incorporate our data feeds into their infrastructure,” said Hancox.

While it started as a way to keep on top of travel restrictions during the pandemic, SafeScore’s technology can be applied to all sorts of data. “The nature of the data is immaterial,” said Hancox. “It could be anything the customer requests.”

‘We are now evolving our product past travel restrictions, and encompassing other key data’

Indeed, with pandemic travel restrictions largely eased, the need for this information has died off over the past six months. But while it has active clients in aviation, SafeScore is exploring where else it can be of use in this sector.

“We are now evolving our product past travel restrictions, and encompassing other key data that often create stumbling blocks to a customer’s experience,” said Hancox. For example, the widget can be used to answer customer questions on visa requirements, baggage allowances and duty free, automating responses to common, time-consuming queries.

“We have recently partnered with carbon offsetting organisation Reflora, who are based in Portugal, so we will soon be bringing carbon offsetting capabilities to our customers as well,” Hancox added.

The challenge, however, is directing airports’ attention to customer experience when there are other fundamental operational issues to be tackled following a summer of travel chaos.

“We recognise that the operational challenges faced by the aviation sector this summer have made it difficult to sell a service that primarily improves customer experience rather than operational performance and resilience,” said Hancox. “We are looking to use the quieter period of autumn to build out this offering, when airports have more time for planning.”

‘At every turning point somebody is there willing to lend an ear or a hand’

SafeScore is actively seeking investment to attract and retain the right talent it needs to improve its product offering.

“We want to improve the efficiency of our core tool by automating more of it and reducing the amount of human intervention when reviewing updates to the data sources,” said Hancox.

“Second, we need to ensure we can maintain the data quality that customers access through our widget … Third, we need to invest more in marketing, to reach out to airports and drive introductions through to sales conversations as we push our new services.”

All of this will require developers, quality assurance specialists and a dedicated marketing lead. They will join a team that currently includes Hancox, SafeScore lead founder Nicholas Gorman, head of operations Alexander Gorman and CTO Julian Hansen.

“Nicholas has a background in engineering and consultancy. Alex, a former archaeologist, has a background in operations and growth management. And Julian is a full-stack engineer with over 30 years’ experience,” said Hancox, who himself is a management consultant and former director at Deloitte.

They work together remotely while the company itself is headquartered in Co Kerry, at the RDI Hub in Killorglin. “We have found the start-up scene to be a major support network, more so than we expected,” said Hancox. “At every turning point somebody is there willing to lend an ear or a hand.”

Being part of a welcoming community has proven essential in the establishment of this early-stage start-up. “We have found that warm introductions have been important stepping stones in creating lasting partnerships,” Hancox added. “Where we haven’t received those introductions, getting through the door has been a lot more difficult.”

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.