Skyscanner has seen a “significant spike” in users of its chat bot since Facebook introduced its Discovery tab within Messenger.
The flight metasearch first introduced its chat bot onto Facebook Messenger in March 2016 with the view of reaching out to users on a modern, growing platform.
It is designed to help customers find flights from their local airports hassle-free and offer search results within the app, one of the most popular on smart phones.
Speaking at We Are Social’s seminar, Chatbots and the social commerce revolution ’17, Skyscanner’s senior growth marketing manager Sam Poullain said: “We’ve seen a spike in the last 24 hours.”
It follows the launch of Facebook Messenger’s Discovery tab, in which people can see their recently used bots, browse bot categories, see trending experiences or search for specific bots.
Speaking to Travolution, Poullain added: “We couldn’t put an exact figure on it but it’s a significant spike. Customers want to speak to us through Messenger and we were one of the first to adopt the technology in the travel industry.”
Poullain explained that bots only work if made simple, and also warned of the potential pitfalls of the technology.
“Epic fails can happen to bots and humans,” he said, citing a Microsoft bot – Tay – that was taken offline after it was manipulated to be racist.
“It’s not going to solve all your problems and run perfectly. Human conversation can lead to beautiful things but errors happen.”
Poullain said that Skyscanner introduced a ‘chat to a human button’ when analysis of customer usage found that most people just wanted to talk to human being.
He admitted that travel problems can often be too complex for a bot to solve – typically, bot users tap 17 times to make their way through 11 steps to find their answer – but said companies must stay ahead of the technology to make the most of it.
He added that take up is not large scale at present but that customers are moving towards bots, with the introduction of Facebook Messenger’s Discovery tab a potential turning point.
“You need a balance between humans and bots,” he added, saying that bots can answer some frequently asked questions more efficiently than humans while struggling with complex queries. “We like to help travellers at every stage of their journey.
“Bots can bring huge efficiencies in customer service and help you scale. Think about the questions you want to solve and then implement that.”
Poullain’s advice for travel firms looking at using bots? Keep it simple, use data and keep your customers hooked by sending useful information, such as price alerts.
And his big DON’Ts? Don’t do it just because the technology is new, don’t expect people to use it because it’s new and don’t over-complicate it.
Earlier in the seminar, Caroline Lucas-Garner, senior account director at We Are Social, said travel and tourism were industries that had done well in bringing the purchase and aspirational phases on social media closer together.
“Booking flights, making hotels reservations and ordering rooms service can all be done on social media,” she added.