Customer Experience Flies High with Travel Chatbots

Chatbots, Messaging

Customer Experience Flies High with Travel Chatbots

By 5 Minute Read

One of the most dynamic customer-facing global industries is the travel and tourism industry, making it a perfect fit for travel chatbots.

From airlines to ferries and cruise lines, from railways to coach tours and hotels, the industry represents one where people are continuously on-the-go, itineraries are in flux, infrastructure is capital intensive and distributed, and customer service can make or break you.

The airline industry alone reported increased passenger volumes in 2017, reaching a record-breaking 4.1 billion passengers on global flights. For operators of airlines, cruise ships and ferries, railways, buses, tours, hotels and entertainment, the ability to provide superior customer experience relies not only on excellent customer service but also on the quality and availability of their infrastructure. 

Technology has always played a pivotal role for travel and tourism operators, supporting scheduling, booking, infrastructure maintenance, loyalty, and more. In recent years, however, tech-savvy passengers, armed with their mobile devices, have initiated a transformation of the travel market as they interact, transact and seek information on-the-go, by means of mobile apps, SMS notifications, or email clients on their devices.

Now, the travel chatbot has emerged to take this digital disruption to new levels, allowing airlines and other travel operators to engage with customers and employees in more automated and frictionless ways, via the power of chat. At ServisBOT we created the Army of Bots with the goal of getting companies started quickly and easily on their bot implementations.

Putting Smart Conversations at the Heart of Passenger Loyalty

Customers browse and shop around for their travel, whether it’s for business or for pleasure. They hop across various device platforms, from their desktop to their mobile phones, but they also hop from one booking platform to another and from one airline to the next. As such, loyalty to a travel brand remains somewhat elusive, albeit highly desirable for the travel operator.

However, loyalty goes beyond a price deal or a single customer service engagement, encompassing the complete customer experience across all the touch points that they engage with, from booking to transportation, hospitality, entertainment, and other related services. An Epsilon study on customer engagement and loyalty in the travel sector found that 87% of respondents said they were much/somewhat more likely to do business with travel websites or apps offering personalized experiences. This is where chatbots come in, helping to enhance personal experiences by giving the customer exactly what they want when they want it, and making the engagement as frictionless and convenient as possible.

The power of chatbots, through either voice- (Siri, Echo, Cortana, Google Home etc.) or message-based interfaces (SMS, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp etc.), is increasingly shaping how travel companies engage with consumers. Technology advancements now enable travel operators to have a true voice, to build their identity through chat, and to enhance their brand identity through the underlying natural language processing (NLP) and AI capabilities. 

Five Compelling Use Cases for Travel Chatbots

Consider all the touch points for consumers as they engage with travel operators and there you can uncover the opportunities for chatbots. But it’s important first to think about how conversations are more fluid and less structured than typical forms-based experiences that take a consumer through a defined set of screens or steps in order to complete their transaction. So rather, than think in terms of chatbots being a replacement for a human interaction, a web form, or live chat, think in terms of how a conversation can move a customer seamlessly through a journey or set of tasks, and even inject other processes into the conversation. Here are some great use cases common to the travel and tourism industry where chatbots can improve the experience as well as drive greater engagement and efficiency. 

  • Completing Reservations: As consumers shop around and initiate a reservation, there can be many steps in the search and booking process that can be cumbersome, necessitating interaction either with a customer service center or with live chat on a travel web portal. Making a booking process convenient and seamless helps generate completed bookings, increases bookings revenue, and reduces customer abandonment prior to completion. A chatbot can guide a customer through a conversational flow that reduces the friction often found when booking travel. It can answer customer questions relating to their travel plans, inform them of the status of their reward points, upsell other related add-ons or services, process payment, and remind them to finalize the reservation, all in a single chat.
  • Managing Bookings: A booking bot can respond to a consumer via messaging, web, SMS or email and update them on the status of their existing reservation, make changes to the booking, process related payments/refunds, send proactive notifications, and give detailed information on their itinerary. For example, a clever travel bot can notify a customer of a delay in their flight due to weather or other conditions and rebook their travel, all in the same conversation. This demonstrates how a chatbot can handle different tasks in a chat with less friction than a customer getting a text to say their flight is delayed and having to then contact customer service to rebook their travel. Available 24/7, the bot is always accessible to answer queries, handle different reservation tasks, and provide information, handing off to a human if needed. 
  • Managing Upgrades: Upgrading from economy to business- or first- class on an airline flight or from a standard room to a suite in a hotel is highly valuable for most travelers. Although upgrades are usually reserved only for frequent travelers with miles or points, the cost of upgrading a guest is quite low compared with the retail value. For these customers, managing their reward points and loyalty status and redeeming points for upgrades is an essential part of the travel experience. It’s also one where travel operators can significantly impact brand loyalty. However, making the process of managing and redeeming membership points more transparent and seamless and proactively upgrading loyal travelers in times of low occupancy can be made easier using chatbots, giving the added benefit of eliminating calls and wait times in the customer service center.
  • Baggage Tracking & Claims: For airline and airport operators, the task of baggage handling is critical. While there is a lot of technology to help track and manage baggage between destinations and bring it safely to the passenger as they arrive at their final destination, luggage still can be delayed, damaged, or lost. Most travelers have experienced the inconvenience and anger of this situation, resulting in contacting the customer service center to track and deliver their luggage. Or worse, when bags disappear altogether, the customer needs to make a claim for reimbursement, a process that can be riddled with wait-times, paperwork, and frustration. Imagine, a bot that can update a passenger on the location of their luggage estimated date and time of arrival at their desired location, and even process a claim for damaged or lost luggage. Here’s an example from the car insurance industry but you get the idea of how a Claims Bot can make the process much more seamless. 

  • Employee Scheduling: Chatbots are not just for typical customer-facing use cases but can be equally powerful in employee-facing processes. In an industry that relies heavily on staffing, scheduling and managing shifts plays a role, not only in improved customer experience, but also in operational performance. Having the right staff, at the right time and in the right place, allows for better service delivery at a lower cost. Similarly, for the maintenance and operations workforce who are responsible for the availability, uptime, and condition of important infrastructure, scheduling and equipping them with the correct work orders and tools is key to operational excellence. So how can a chatbot help? Many employees in the travel industry are on the move and work different shifts throughout the day. Using chat, these employees can be updated on schedule or location changes at short notice and be redirected if needed.

In today’s travel business, the pace of technological change and an increasingly tech-savvy and demanding consumer are giving travel and tourism operators a run for their money. More than ever, airlines, rail operators, hotel chains, tour operators and others in the industry can own the whole conversational experience and innovate in new ways to transform how they engage with their customers and keep them coming back.

To read more about how bots can be a simple, yet powerful, way to transform customer engagement. Download our eBook: 10 Use Cases for an Army of Bots in Customer Engagement.

Visit us at ServisBOT to learn more about how we can help you deploy task-oriented bots quickly and easily 

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