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Author: Rajesh Kumar R | 09/26/16

Natural Language processing in Travel & Hospitality

Adding the personal touch to customer interactions

The travel industry is well-known for the quick assimilation of technology. The connected travelers today log into websites and click their way through hundreds of travel options. They book hotel rooms and order taxis at the touch of a smart phone. They buy concert or attraction images through the company’s apps. They are informed of delays and flight statuses through their smartphone.

Truly, today’s travelers are spoiled (in a good way). Travel organizations can spoil them further and, en route, deliver customer delight to build loyalty and competitive advantage. And this can be achieved not by giving them more apps and options, but by using Natural Language Interaction to alter the way travelers engage technology. Some instances are listed below:

Forgot to book your rental car? No problem! Just pick up the phone, text your rental car company on your favorite messaging app: “I am arriving at Newark airport at 8 PM and want to rent a car returning next Tuesday at 10 AM.”

Behind the scenes, a chatbot — a computer program designed to simulate an intelligent, human conversation that processes natural language, pops up the available options and provides them to you. At this point, all you have to do is simply say, “Okay, book Options 3.” The chatbot will understand and ensure that your credit card details are made available and the booking confirmed. No more drop down boxes to check, radio buttons to click or data fields to fill in.

And it doesn’t stop there. Want to know the travel time to your boarding gate? Just ask an airport bot.

Want to change the room from pool-facing to near the gym? Tell the hotel bot.

Want to change the date of your upcoming vacation on your favorite cruise liner? Talk to their bot.

These days, chat bots are everywhere, permeating most of our consumer life. These handy bots can be easily accessible contacts on your favorite chat application (FB Messenger, Skype, Viber etc.) – always available on-line to take your requests. Perhaps you are already using some of the popular ones like Siri, Google Now, Alexa or Slackbot. Amazon has sold 3 million units of Echo1, the hands-free speaker you talk to in order to play music, create to-do lists, set alarms, play audiobooks and access updates on traffic, airline schedules, weather and the news. Google recently revealed that its voice search is responsible for 20% of all mobile searches2. Natural Language Interaction isn’t merely catching on. It is making its presence known across industries.

Natural Language Interaction is the next vanguard in the User Interface revolution. Natural Language Interaction does not change the outcomes, nor does it drastically impact the speed with which instructions are executed. However, what it does do is create unique experiences. Things become less clunky and there are fewer web page clicks to deal with. In real terms, this augments the capabilities of airlines, hotels or car rental companies in serving their customers. A bot with natural language capability can cater to millions of customers 24X7, backed by data and automation, with zero ramp-up time. The best part? They are self-learning. They improve their capability and comprehension with every interaction.

Today, apps that process natural language can be developed rapidly, making the travel industry warmer and richer. But the upside doesn’t end there. Bots that work using natural language free up staff that can then cater to the more personal and complex needs of travelers at airports, hotels, events, exhibitions and parks enhancing customer experience and improving productivity. Moreover, this technology allows us to capture priceless data about the customer preferences. Data that, often, gets lost during human interactions. This data can enable tailor made experiences for the customer that have the potential to elevate the overall experience.

The potential use cases for this technology are as interesting as they are innumerable. The travel and hospitality industry can continue to provide the same experience to customers as talking to a human travel agent or a hotel executive would. Only now, the scale would be beyond human limitations.

To understand how Natural Language processing technology can elevate the customer experience at your travel or hospitality company, write to Mindtree at info@mindtree.com

Suggested Reading:

  1. arsTechnica, One year after Alexa: Amazon’s Echo has found a small but smart niche, May 2016
  2. Search Engine Land, Google says 20 percent of mobile queries are voice searches, May 2016
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