Customers want automated answers rather than human interaction “as long as it is done well” says the boss of eDreams ODIGEO.
Chief executive Dana Dunne said that ultimately the customer will decide which takes priority among travel businesses but said the speed of automation often beats the human touch.
“I don’t want to force the customer into an automated experience,” he said at a Travel Weekly Business Breakfast. “But I know myself that if I can get the information quicker through an automated vehicle my satisfaction can sometimes be a lot higher than going through menus and waiting for an agent, explaining it and so on.
“There are a lot of people that, as long as that automated process is done well, have a greater sense of satisfaction than if they had a human interaction.”
He stressed throughout the session that putting the customer first and providing a good product the cornerstones of a successful travel business and warned against marketing “gimmicks” and an over-reliance on PR.
Dunne also defending automisation at a recent Travel Weekly Business Breakfast, saying it doesn’t detract from a customer’s choice.
“One of our foundations as fundamentally a technology company is that we are really rich in data,” he added. “We can create clever ways in which customers can search our data.”
He said the results of machine learning had been “staggering” but warned that it would still be “some years” before the end-to-end booking journey of a holiday or flight can be done through artificial intelligence such as chat bots.
And despite confidence in eDreams’ product, he said they need to focus on “offline” channels to increase brand awareness in the UK, one of the only European markets in which one of its brands is not the leader in flight search.
“We are investing in [offline marketing],” he said. “It’s like an online company going offline, so to speak.”