A case for chatbots

Among the benefits that chatbots can bring to the travel industry are after-hours customer service, and the ability to amass qualitative data for market research, Bronwyn White, co-founder, MyTravelResearch.com, says

Research shows that more consumers are using messaging apps compared to social networks, and this trend is fast extending to the travel industry where we are seeing chatbots as messenger apps being rolled out as a new and immediate interface of customer interaction.

According to a report from BI Intelligence in 2016, for the first time ever, messaging apps have now caught up with social networks in terms of users. In fact, messaging apps are now even more popular than social networks.

White: How and why chatbots are transforming the travel industry

The combined global monthly active users of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn are between three and 3.5 billion, which lags behind that of messenger apps including WhatsApp, Messenger, WeChat, and Viber at around 3.7 billion.

This is how chatbots can transform the travel industry.

Chatbots can serve as 24/7 front-end customer care specialists. Gone are the days of responding manually to comments and enquiries in your blog, website and social media channel.

Chatbots are capable of totally transforming visitor servicing in destinations after hours. Frequently asked questions and enquiries can be answered any time of the day or night, including when travellers are arriving at a destination and the visitor information centre/welcome centre is closed.

Chatbots meet the “instant” in instant messaging. Responses can be automated using intelligent chatbots that can efficiently carry out basic requests for information. Customers can be served quickly as time spent on hold waiting for enquiries to be answered is reduced/removed.

Chatbots drastically reduce overheads and promote relationship management. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, bots are great at managing relationships with human beings. With thoughtful pre-programming, chatbots can supplement the entire travel experience, beginning with automated pre-arrival reminders, to suggesting nearby entertainment spots and transportation facilities at destination.

Humans are open to using chatbots. In a recent study by Retale, when asked whether or not they had ever used a chatbot, almost 60 per cent of respondents answered “yes”. And of those who hadn’t tried a chatbot, 53 per cent said they were interested.

It is market research as you go. From a research perspective, imagine the rich qualitative data you will collect concerning your customers. You can refine, change and develop travel products as you see trends emerging.

Chatbots are multilingual. Imagine the diverse markets you can reach!
Post-trip, bots may send out feedback forms that can solicit valuable information on how your business could further improve a guest’s travel experience.

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