Are Chatbots the Future of Customer Experience in Travel?
Technology is evolving at an incredible pace. It was only a couple of years back that mobile apps for making travel bookings were an in-thing and all the major OTAs invested heavily mobile apps. Come 2018 and most users accept mobile apps as a given and many in fact prefer to use apps to book flights and hotels.
Thanks to advancements in Big Data and Predictive analytics, AI has been making big strides in travel.
The latest example of it is Chatbots, which use AI to mimic human interaction, just like a customer service representative would.
Technically, they’ve been around for quite a while now but are now more sophisticated than ever before.
Just imagine that your customer’s flight gets cancelled, and he gets notified about it on his phone. Your chatbot immediately comes into action and asks the customer if he would like to be booked on the next flight, instead of simply sending a sorry text.
For OTAs, chatbots can serve as a virtual guide and will engage in an interactive conversation with your customer which will be more than a Q&A session. It will ask them for their preferences regarding destinations, hotels, activities and offer suggestions like a travel agent would. By analyzing user behavior over time, bots will eventually become smarter and automate the entire planning and booking process for the end user.
It’s easy to see that chatbots bring immense value to customers by making their online experience smoother and swifter. It will also offer customers a more interesting way to interact with travel brands rather than just apps and social media.
Moreover, spending time and money to train a human, your chatbot can work 24/7 and be programmed to interact in any language to offer customers a more personalized experience.
It is being predicted that in the near future chatbots will not only answer queries but will also respond to emotional responses just like humans. In short, aligning AI with human interests will prove very useful to tap into a new customer base and maximize ROI.
Airlines can use chatbots to make the booking process more intuitive as well as offer smarter in-flight entertainment based on customer preference, operable from their smartphones.
Hotels can use concierge chatbots to enhance customer experience through welcome and goodbye notifications as soon they arrive or leave the hotel, provide room information and location, set the room temperature and lighting and offer meals based on customer preference as well as suggest local sightseeing spots and arrange local transportation.
Many startups, particularly those operating in the trip planning space can use chatbots to help customers plan their trip more efficiently by offering suggestions based on their preferences and history. For startups, it will be a big investment but one that will set them apart and bring huge cost and time savings.
It’s safe to say that chatbots have marked the beginning of a new era in travel technology after the app boom and are definitely here to stay.
Below are some of the major chatbot solutions in the market that online travel brands can use to automate customer service and enhance user experience:
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