Chatbots in the travel industry

The travel industry today

The digital revolution has impacted all industries. The travel industry, and the way in which consumers experience it, has been disrupted by the rise of digital transformation: low-cost carriers, online travel agencies, online booking, online check-in, etc.

Even if today more people are travelling every day, the increased competition had an impact on the margins. Traditional airlines are disappearing due to low-cost competitors, or they are changing providing a unique customer experience throughout the entire journey: booking, payment, check-in, services at the airport and after the flight.

The online revolutionized the role of traditional travel agencies: travellers can book their own flight and hotels online, compare prices, access price predictions, read the reviews and much more.

Consumers want a seamless user experience, regardless of channel or device – online through mobile, tablet, etc. or offline in a store. They are responsive to new technologies that can enhance their experience such AI, ML and VR.

Travel brands need to change their business model, find new sources of revenue and improve the quality of their core offering to adapt as consumers expectations rise.

Reply supports companies to stay at the top of technological development and be competitive and respond to changing customer expectations. Reply has a deep expertise on all new paradigms that are affecting the businesses: Big Data, Cloud, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Virtual Reality, etc.

Chatbots, AI and ML

A Chatbot is not just about technology. It’s a new, customer-oriented communication channel that uses Artificial Intelligence, like Machine Learning tools or Deep Learning technologies, to connect the company with its customers.

A Chatbot is built on two main pillars:

  • Recommendation systems: the Chatbot enhance the customer experience by finding similarities among users and/or items and generating a list of items tailored to end-user’s preference.
  • Conversational systems: the Chatbot is capable to conduct a written or verbal conversation with a Customer

Thanks to its features, a Chatbot can offer resourceful assistance to customers providing an interactive service based on natural language while economizing processes.

Chatbots have a number of benefits:

  • Chatbots help to cut cost: maintaining a high level customer service is costly and most of the requests can be automated. Bots can handle time consuming routine communication, while skilled workforce can focus on important tasks.
  • The customer service is available 24/7: bots continue to operate every day throughout the year without a break and they can simultaneously have conversation with thousands of people.
  • Be more customer centric. Customers don’t want to install apps or calls. They want to chat. A Chatbot can be available on the channel preferred by the customer, increasing customer satisfaction. This can be achieved also thanks to their language that will be always polite and perfect.
  • Be more employee centric: Deployed internally, chatbots enable their human coworkers to be more efficient and allow them to concentrate on the important tasks, i.e. supporting their customers. Chatbots help reduce daily admin to free-up time - whether it’s replacing arduous intranet info searches with a quick command or Chatbot conversation to booking conference rooms and expense claims.
  • Last but not least, they provide a personalized experience to customers. Chatbots are able to suggest customers customized products based on their profile and past behaviour.

Reply assists companies during all the phases of the Chatbot creation: from the analysis of the solution, the selection of the right technology, the definition of the architecture, the integration into CRM Systems, to the implementation of the Chatbot.

Reply has successfully implemented Chatbots for various industries: Automotive, Banks, Utilities, etc.

Chatbots in the travel industry

Reply has a deep experience with the travel industry, supporting transportation companies on land, water and air worldwide to improve processes and benefit from Digital Transformation.

Portaltech Reply, the Reply group company specialising in the provision of ecommerce implementation and multichannel consulting services, has also developed the Travel Accelerator based on SAP Hybris. The Travel Accelerator supports travel companies to transition from existing proprietary or home-built ecommerce systems, to state-of-the-art, omni-channel Customer Engagement and Commerce (CEC) solutions allowing them to build stronger, lasting relationships with their passengers.

The travel industry today faces a number of unique challenges when it comes to engaging and selling to customers across online and offline channels. Passengers are using the web and mobile devices to research, book and pay for trips; the number of third parties involved in the customer journey makes orchestrating the process challenging; and the need to provide different services adds another layer of complexity.

From a customer perspective, this degree of complexity establishes a real opportunity for smart travel companies: by providing streamlined processes for the customers, companies have the chance to offer tangible value through simplification, the aggregation and provision of relevant information.

When it comes to customer communication and interaction, far too often still, processes do not yet meet the expectations of the customer and they do not yield sufficient value - neither for customers nor for companies. The question is, how the latest technological advancements in terms of AI and Machine Learning can actually facilitate a customer centric transformation and develop innovative services.

Is a Chatbot the solution? How can it help the travel industry to benefit from the digital disruption?

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    Scalable Communication Channel

    “Please hold the line.” hearing this message for endless minutes and hours is a hard test for the customers’ patience. In times of ‘crisis’, such as harsh weather conditions, strikes etc. customer service quickly reaches its limits. The consequence: disappointed customers who feel left alone in a state of uncertainty. This disappointment rapidly finds its way into the open via social media channels, review platforms and affects a brand reputation. A Chatbot is able to quickly solve the most common issues without delays and update the customers as the situation evolves. It can also collect all necessary information regarding complaints before relaying a hard to solve issue to a human colleague.

  • Value Added Services

    Chatbots can use their knowledge of the individual customer to offer further products and services during the booking process, such as insurances, special meals, rental cars, hotels or take orders for inflight purchases upfront. Using the recommendation engine in combination with the information about purchases of travellers with comparable profiles or itineraries, Chatbots can make personalized offers that are more likely to meet the taste of the traveller. Create unique travel experience!

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    Door-to-door Travel Assistant

    A Chatbot can also be a valuable travel companion, having all information about the weather, traffic conditions, train schedules and delays, alternative means of transport during the whole trip. This gives travel companies a chance, to become a meaningful part in their customers’ life instead of becoming a commodity.

  • Source of Inspiration

    “Where do I go?” – With their knowledge of the customer’s preferences and travel history, a Chatbot can recommend destinations that might be interesting. This can be combined with a playful chat in which the chatbot asks the customer, what they are looking for in their next trip: relaxing time at the beach or strenuous outdoor activity in the mountains: The Chatbot always has the perfect location and the corresponding offer.

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    Customer Interaction

    A Chatbot can also ask for feedback about the customers travel experience. The feedback is much more immediate than when relying on e-mail surveys sent out days after the trip. This can provide travel companies with near real time information about the customer satisfaction and enables them to reach out to them to resolve issues, before it is too late. This kind of customer interaction not only proves, that a brand cares about customer satisfaction, it also provides a resource for continuous improvement and can deliver ideas for innovative products, services and business models.

  • Vacation configurator

    Planning a roundtrip for your next holiday requires quite some research. A Chatbot can also assist with that. The Chabot can gather the key information like dates, budget, places to include in the trip and suggest an itinerary that takes into account information like optimal routes, hotel availabilities, prices, local events and holidays etc. and come up with a suggested package that can be booked integrally or divided into separate modules.


Portaltech Reply Value

Portaltech Reply, with years of experience in building multi channel e-commerce solutions based on SAP Hybris platform can bring its knowledge to the table to offer a simple, personalised and engaging travel experience.

Following the current trends, most of the solutions have been built as Headless e-commerce. This allows on one hand to create a completely unique user experience that fits exactly the business needs and on the other hand to separate core capabilities from the way in which they are represented by exposing them as a service.

This is the perfect environment to bring Chatbot and AI into the picture. Services, from flight search to ancillary and extra shops going through customized offers, can be integrated to be available through a Chatbot interface. The use of Hybris platform will allow travel companies to provide homogeneous offers, booking status updates and a step by step guidance through the user journey. These services will be available through a personal assistant available 24/7 that knows the customer and its preferences based on previous interactions.

The customer engagement possibilities are not limited here. Suggestions and ad hoc deals for new destination and travel could be send through the Chatbot to the customer to leverage a channel that is more direct and familiar compared to standard emails.

Portaltech Reply developed and successfully integrated a chatbot with the Travel Accelerator using NDC Standard, a new communication standard launched by IATA to overcome limitations such as transparent shopping experience and this involves Chatbot as well.

Portaltech Reply can bring such experience to the customers and help them on their digital transformation.