Few days back, a friend after reading my article on Artificial Intelligence and Travel asked a question – What do you think of ChatBots and how can they impact the Travel & Tourism Industry. Here are my thoughts on ChatBots and their impact on Travel, Aviation and Hospitality industry as a whole.
Let’s first understand what are ChatBots – A ChatBot is a service, powered by rules and sometimes artificial intelligence, that you interact with via a chat interface. The service could be any number of things from functional to fun, and it could live in any major chat product (Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, Slack, Text Messages etc).
Why ChatBots are so Important?
We spend majority of our time communicating on Mobile than on desktop. 90% of our mobile time is spent on email and messaging platforms. As per BI Intelligence report, about 20% of all online transactions are happening on Mobile currently and by 2020 mobile commerce will make up 45% of total e-commerce. Another BI Intelligence report says that Big 4 messaging Apps have already overtaken Big 4 social networking sites last year. People are using messenger apps more than they are using social networks.
It’s a big opportunity for industry to be available for customers on these messaging platforms, where customers are already present and that is only possible using ChatBots.
ChatBots in Aviation, Travel and Hospitality Industry –
If we look at Travel Industry as a whole, the numbers are much higher. Reading from earnings report of listed companies in Aviation, Travel and Hospitality segment, mobile commerce brings over 60% transactions, which is 3x of total mobile commerce penetration today and it’s growing.
ChatBots has the potential to bring lot of efficiencies, of time and money for the industry. Most importantly for companies where they have large customer service teams.
On a high level, if we look at the volume of calls handled by customer service agents, majority of these calls are simple, plain vanilla calls for basic issues, queries etc. There is a huge potential to automate these calls using machine learning in a chat interface, where customers will no longer be required to call, but has to send a chat message. From other side, there will be a chat robotic who will answer these queries and help the customer resolve the issue without having the need to call and speak to an agent.
For customers, all this will bring efficiencies on time and money (if using international numbers to call). Customer will get a faster resolution of their query and most importantly will retain the transcript of their entire conversation within the messaging app.
For Companies, they can automate up to 60% of their call volume, reducing their dependencies on people. Companies have to spend lot of money on creating physical infrastructure (office space, Intelligent Phone Systems, Toll Free lines, IVR’s and other office infrastructure) and on People (hiring, training, attrition, salaries and well being among other things). Imagine, if 60% of the volume gets automated, how much cost savings will be realized by the companies deploying such technologies.
Road Ahead –
With so much goodness in ChatBots, the road ahead is not as smooth as it looks like. So much work needs to be done in understanding how your customer is interacting with your brand today, what are the queries/issues the customers are calling your contact centers for and then build logics, integrations, flow optimization and analytics accordingly.
With ever changing market trends, needs and platforms, the bot also need to keep up the pace. Also, for deeper integrations and bringing commerce in the ChatBots, there should be continuous error checking, API integrations, understanding NLP, routing and an escalation process to live human support among other things should be working in sync to each other.
Before a company decides to launch their ChatBot, it is important for them to understand what their Bot is going to do for them, what problem you are going to solve for your customers and then go from there.
The most successful Bots will be the one’s where users want to come back to regularly and that provide consistent value.