With the COVID-19 pandemic hitting the travel industry hard, maintaining communication between customers and travel companies is at an all-time high. The uncertainty of travel regarding flights, accommodation, and other travel regulations raises the demand for fast and reliable customer service. Yet, travellers, in general, have always relied on accessible contact options and have also expected fast responses for their specific inquiries. The pandemic has only fuelled the industry to evolve its digitisation even more so, with online web support being a key point of contact for many customers, in place of those long holds on hotlines or emails left unanswered to. Today, customers can get in touch with companies through various social channels, such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, which requires even more of the need to provide consistent service on all channels through Conversational AI.
Self-service chatbots for an optimal travel experience
Now that travel is more accessible and moving again, messaging via chatbots are found to be the preferred way of booking accommodation or mode of transportation. A survey conducted by LivePerson found that 73% of consumers prefer messaging when reaching out to airlines, hotels, or other travel-related reservations over phone calls. A significant 90% of 18-23-year-olds prefer this method of contact. As rules and regulations constantly change between countries, the need for on-demand assistance is essential in this day and age. First-level support questions like, “Is my flight on time?” or “What is my check-in time?” can be automated and supported by Conversational AI. These questions don’t need agent support and can be answered directly by chatbots, which saves costs for companies and time for service agents.
Chatbots are incredibly beneficial in not only the topic of post-pandemic travel, but also for the increasing customer demand in the digitisation of customer service. Particularly in the age of millennials and generation z’s expectation for immediate responses, chatbots are found to be incredibly advantageous. One can easily communicate at the click of a button on their smartphone or tablet on the channel of their choice and receive an instant response. Where 71% would be comfortable having their airline, hotel or travel company reach out to them via text directly, the number rose to 80% with 18-23-year-olds. Prominent messaging apps, such as WhatsApp, Apple Business Chat or Facebook Messenger, are viewed as the convenient and preferred option of contact for travellers, as they don’t require an additional app installation.
Self-service chatbots can answer any given number of inquiries at any time, allowing service agents to focus on more complex requests. Additionally, travellers are then able to solve their own individual questions through suggestion-based responses provided by the chatbot. This way, travellers get immediate answers to their inquiries, while agents handle more difficult questions for a better customer experience.
Travel bot examples that are already helping travellers around Europe
This has been shown through the case of ADAC, Europe’s largest mobility association, which has Chatbot Anna integrated into their website as a contact option. Chatbot Anna was active already pre-pandemic, and the chatbot has continually proven to be a reliable point of contact regarding corona regulations. Not only does the chatbot assist in ever-changing regulations for customers, but it also helps throughout a vast range of topics, including memberships, roadside assistance, insurance inquiries, damage claim reports and travel-related questions. The chatbot is continually learning through each question it receives via the hybrid Agent+AI solution and Natural Language Processing (NLP) algorithm from e-bot7. Despite the wide topic range chatbot Anna manages to answer around 70% of requests without human assistance offering an around the clock service. Hence, chatbot Anna is actively strengthening customer satisfaction and relationship as availability is crucial in times of uncertainty surrounding the travel industry, particularly when customers are in need of emergency assistance. Conversational AI provides the immediate and reliable service that travellers require in this day and age.
Additionally, Conversational AI has demonstrated how advantageous it is as a tool to connect travellers and customer service on a global scale. Providing customer service in several languages has always been an unscalable and cost-intensive challenge. Difficulties include service agents unable to speak the customer’s language, or not enough agents who have the time to translate and communicate in that particular language. However, with our multilingual NLP algorithm, the chatbot can manage several chats in different languages at the same time, as seen in the case of AUDI AG. Having this functionality, travel chatbots can empower customer communication, scale service and save costs for companies. At the same time, it increases customer satisfaction and relieves employees from handling a surplus amount of requests.
Another great example of travel chatbots is the VIE-Bot from Vienna Airport to assist travellers throughout their airport experience. With the help of the airport’s complimentary Wi-Fi, VIE-Bot provides every traveller with fast responses concerning topics of the airport’s restaurants, shopping options, passenger offers, and processes at the airport.
“Through automated customer communication via e-bot7, Vienna Airport aims to increase passenger satisfaction by providing fast and accurate information and to focus existing human resources on professional 2nd-level support. In addition, the keyword-based restaurant and store search is intended to increase the revenue per passenger by making the best-fitting suggestions based on passenger needs,” explains Christoph Schmidt, Head of AirportCity Development and Innovation, Vienna International Airport.
Using Conversational AI while travelling improves the travel experience for customers and provides a highly scalable, efficient service solution for companies. A travel chatbot is able to assist travellers with itinerary suggestions, bookings, current entry and exit information, and personalised offers based on customer preferences. Customer service automation is vital in the age of digitisation and even more necessary when handling unpredictable situations and the accompanying request volume that surround the travel sector.
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