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Author: Rajesh Kumar R |09/16/16

Chat bots promise top-flight experience for airline customers

Chances are you’ve used some chat service like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Viber, Snapchat, Telegram, Slack or Skype. In fact, many of us can’t imagine life without them. These apps are so ubiquitous that the combined user base of the top 4 chat apps now exceeds the user base of the top four social networks put togetheri . But the next horizon is approaching. How will business leverage these apps for their profitability as well as customer services and brand recognition? We think we have the perfect hack for airlines that want to lead this revolution.

Airline passengers usually have many questions. This is because airline travel is complicated, misunderstood, and prone to sudden and unexpected changes or disruptions. And anxious passengers don’t want to use complicated, unfriendly channels to find answers. What they want is the good ol’ “let-me-ask-someone” approach. That’s where familiar apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber and Telegram offer a compelling potential.

Now imagine your passengers using their favorite chat apps to get answers to questions ranging from “Which gate do I need to get to?” to “Can I get vegan meals on my flight?”, “What is the baggage limit on international flights?” and the more typical “Is my flight on schedule?”

Airlines would love to give prompt answers to those questions. But, of course, it is impractical to expect anyone to deploy an army of chat agents to take those queries.

The answer lies in chat bots – smart, tireless and uncomplaining troops of robotic, self-learning systems that produce natural, human-like responses to questions from millions of passengers. These bots offer instant resolution to most of the typical queries asked by customers and create an unprecedented quality of passenger engagement through personalization. If, and when, they reach their knowledge limits during a chat, they are programed to gracefully hand over the conversation to a human.

Bots are a form of dynamic artificial intelligence. They examine text, look up solutions and personalize conversations using existing data about the customer—all in real time. Bots make powerful agents and they will, undoubtedly, be at the forefront of the next messaging revolution.

There is an excellent business reason to deploy bots. This reason goes well beyond the ability to manage passenger conversations on popular messaging platforms. Conversations on these platforms allow us to hear a little more of what passengers desire and what they prefer. This data is priceless and often gets lost during human conversations. It is, in fact, a goldmine of information having the potential to design experiences delivering customer delight at every touchpoint.

Notice that a question like “Can I get vegan meals on my flight?” allows the airline to capture preferences that go into shaping future services, meeting passenger expectations and driving effective cross-sell and upsell. These insights combined with great passenger engagement will make chat bots a popular part of airline backroom operations. For those that are early in the game, chat bots will also construct a sharp competitive edge.

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