I remember my first business trip many years ago, when paper tickets were as valuable as cash and everyone had to check-in at the airport to get a boarding pass. Today, with self-service check-in kiosks, smartphone apps, and the internet, passengers can check-in to a flight, change their seat or change their flight without talking to anyone from the airline.
Self-service technology provides customers with the tools they need to plan and monitor each trip, ultimately giving them a much better experience than they would have to endure if they were required to wait on hold for an airline operator. Furthermore, self-service technology enables the airlines to handle more customers with less employees, allowing them to be competitive and much more efficient.
In 2016, Hilton hotels introduced a robot powered by AI named Connie. “Connie will work side-by-side with Hilton’s Team Members to assist with visitor requests, personalize the guest experience and empower travelers with more information to help them plan their trips.”
To stay competitive, many travel service providers are exploring Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a way to improve the customer experience, to improve efficiency, and to lower overhead costs.
How will AI impact the travel industry?
Although chatbots have been used for many years in the travel industry, chatbots powered with AI technology will personalize the customer experience in ways we have not yet experienced. AI technology expands conversational capabilities of chatbots so that customer requests are interpreted properly and then assigned to the appropriate backend process, such as a process that issues a ticket, or a process that resolves a customer issue. We will see the chatbot framework and chatbot technology used by the travel industry expand into solutions like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Talk, and Apple in 2019. Soon, booking a hotel or an airline ticket will be initiated by simply saying “Alexa, I would like to go on vacation.”
Big Data technology gives advertisers the ability to discover and interpret unstructured data, such as data found on a someone’s social media page. AI provides “machine learning” technology that refines the process of identifying and profiling potential customers with pinpoint accuracy. For example, by analyzing comments that customers share about vacation experiences on social media outlets, advertisers will identify what a person likes to do and when they like to do it. Furthermore, by analyzing data about vacations previously taken by a customer, advertisers would be able to predict a customer’s budget constraints. With AI machine learning capabilities, advertisers will be able to target potential customers by creating much more relevant and personalized advertising than is available today.
Organizations that provide travel services such as airlines, cruise lines, hotels, and travel agencies are using AI technology to gain a better understanding of the customer experience. One of the customer service best practices listed by Salesforce is to “Collect as much data as you can – and use it” and this is something many organizations do. Information that customers share on social media along with data collected from customer surveys is used to identify what people liked about recent travel, in addition to what they didn’t like about their experience. Combined with data collected from other sources that provide research and science information, AI technology will provide analytics and recommendations to travel service providers for improving the customer experience, such as how to make a hotel room more comfortable, how to make a flight less stressful, or how to improve the menu on a cruise.
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