Technology

Role of chatbots in travel scrutinised in new report

Posted by Ben Ireland on
Role of chatbots in travel scrutinised in new report

Travel brands must find a suitable use for chatbots before they decide to invest in them, concludes a new report looking at the technology.

EyeforTravel looked into the growing role of chatbots in its latest report: Are Chatbots Worth the Bother? and found travel companies can find different uses for the technology.

Instead of using them as an acquisition tool, the report suggests chat bots could be of better use improving the customer journey or analysing the data chat bots collate to learn more about the way customers interact digitally with the brand, using artificial intelligence.

“We look for a gap where there’s a huge customer need and maybe a chatbot could help. Then we come up with a strategy to apply the chatbot to solve it – that way, we know the chatbots will be much more successful in terms of customer satisfaction and metrics,” said Mike Sloane, chief experience officer at software firm Travelaer.

“I think with artificial intelligence there’s a huge opportunity,” added Tim Gunstone, managing director of EyeforTravel. “The travel industry has been focused on bookings, bookings, bookings for so long, but the direction has changed and they are trying to increase the lifetime value of customers.”

Other uses for chatbots included a personal travel assistant for a business traveller or apps for staff to record notes on guests, as implemented by Edwardian Hotels.

The report also looked at brands which have already implemented bots, such as Icelandair, KLM, Skyscanner and Voyages-sncf.com, and concluded that having one is worth it. The report says those companies were able to drive bookings, boost ancillary sales and increase customer service using bots and that customers have even been fooled into thinking they are talking to an actual person and leaving TripAdvisor reviews or cash tips for their artificial helpers.

With the typical cost of implementing a chatbot between €15,000- €50,000, Sloane suggests they are value for money in the industry. “These aren’t a significant investment for an airline when they’re spending hundreds of thousands, if not millions, a year on other digital experience products,” he said.

But there is, at least currently, a limit to what bots can achieve, the report found. For instance, talking to a bot when you’ve lost your luggage might exacerbate the situation, it said. And because of the human error or humans, bots may miss the semantic meaning of human interactions with customers who lack precision in language.

Sloane added: “Building a bot is easy. Building a bot that solves real customer pain points and
represents your brand well is as serious as building a call centre and training people.

“The expectations of people who use bots are very high. They think they should operate like something they see in a movie, whereas the reality is that conversational bots are quite immature today.”

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