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Author: Srini Kasthoori | 01/16/17

Book with a travel bot: How chatbots are reshaping the travel industry

From social media to mobile devices, technology advancements have given travelers unprecedented power to voice their opinions and preferences and demand better customer service across the entire value chain. These advancements have conditioned travelers to expect prompt responses and quick resolutions to their needs and concerns. Only the travel and hospitality organizations that offer the best customer service along the journey can expect to build their brand, improve sales and ancillary revenues, minimize customer churn and reduce service costs.

Meeting the needs of today’s connected traveler

Understanding business processes from the customer’s point of view helps you to design a better customer service system. It is necessary to identify how travelers or guests navigate across customer service touchpoints and their expectations and needs at each stage to create a better end-to-end experience. By starting from the customer’s point of view, you can better understand what business functions work and what needs to change—and reshape customer service touchpoints across the digital ecosystem accordingly.

Many customers today prefer instant service to phoning a call center or waiting for an email response. Travelers with instant and positive customer service experiences are very likely to recommend the brand to others. Enter travel chatbots, a strategy for travel and hospitality organizations to actively provide customer service through new digital channels. Not only do they offer significant cost savings, they also add scale to your customer experience strategy by providing 24-hour service to millions of customers.

Accelerating customer service through travel bots

Designing an accelerated customer service process requires the development of channel-agnostic intelligent chatbots to support multiple conversational flows, an integration with data and core systems, and the automation of CRM processes with application programming interfaces (API). As Ben Lamm, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Conversable, explains, “Without an integrated back-end, enterprise chatbots are just basic bots, which won’t meet customers’ expectations or drive meaningful business impact to a brand.”

Capturing the full value potential of chatbots depends on how well businesses can integrate people and technology across the organization through nimble, cloud-first, channel-agnostic enterprise solutions. As chatbot use cases evolve, organizations need to build a conversational app store cataloguing the booking bots that serve different customer needs during pre-booking, booking, on-property and post-stay stages of their journeys. An intelligent conversational flow through booking chatbots across multiple customer touchpoints is essential to drive better customer experience.

Reshaping customer engagement in the industry

The travel marketplace is rapidly changing with the entry of new providers and innovative business models promoted by aggressive marketing efforts. Companies can no longer afford to spend two years laboring away in isolation to achieve perfection with homegrown chatbot-development kits. Travel and hospitality organizations must invest in a robust travel bot platform that provides channel interaction layers for Facebook Messenger, Skype, Slack and WeChat—to name just a few.

The platform should also provide a comprehensive bot framework that controls the transaction flow and orchestrates the entire conversation, including interactions between natural language processing (NLP) engines such as LUIS, and Pandorabots. Finally, the bot framework must allow integration with a data analytics engine to test and validate hypotheses. With such a robust bot platform, travel and hospitality organizations can implement an agile, scalable model for building conversational booking bots.

In the travel and hospitality industry, better customer service strongly correlates with customer loyalty and faster revenue growth. Travel bots may not be a silver bullet, but they offer a very effective customer service and booking platform, especially when paired with a customer service agent. Agent-powered chatbots can dramatically improve brand preferences and loyalty while simultaneously reducing customer service costs.

Check out our interview with Conversable CEO, Ben Lamm, to learn more on the evolution of chatbots.


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