Technology

Consumers keen on instant messenger chat bots in travel industry, study suggests

Posted by Ben Ireland on
Consumers keen on instant messenger chat bots in travel industry, study suggests

New research suggests travel companies could improve customer service by introducing instant mobile messaging.

A study of 2,000 people in the UK and France shows 53% who use apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp have interacted with a company via mobile messaging, or is open to do so.

Only 28% of respondents said they are not interested in interacting with companies through the channel.

The research, by London-based agile marketing firm Kenshoo, also found that consumers expected to be able to block brands they are not interested in and messages to be personalised and responsive.

Facebook, whose Messenger service is reportedly used by 11% of the world’s population, recently announced support for brands to build artificial intelligence bots for automated messaging to consumers. Since then, more than 30,000 have been created including Expedia, Cheapflights, Kayak, CheapOair and airline Lufthansa.

Bots are now capable of taking payments.

According to the Kenshoo study, 15% liked the idea of setting up group interactions with brands – this might involve discussions around joint purchases, such as researching and booking a holiday.

Meanwhile, 33% liked the fact that messaging apps retain the complete history of any conversations with a company so it is easily available in the app – no need to search through emails, or notes from telephone calls.

Of those who are open to using messaging to communicate with businesses, 46% said they would be tempted by the prospect of receiving exclusive deals and offers, 25% said they would use messaging to respond to ads, 35% to participate in games and competitions in which they could win prizes while 24% said they would like to use messaging to receive updates on products and services they have expressed an interest in.

Kenshoo’s managing director for Europe, Matt Vignieri, said: “Mobile messaging presents a new opportunity for businesses to connect directly with individual consumers – and potentially build long term customer relationships.

“Many consumers can see the advantages too – but their expectations are high. They expect timely responses and will want communications to be personal to them and in context.  If businesses get it wrong, then messaging could quickly turn into a channel for complaints. And because users can easily share negative experiences with their contacts, things could easily get from bad to worse.”

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