As artificial intelligence continues to make waves across the industry, live chat and, especially, chatbots are the current hot topics in travel management. Live chat and chatbots pose both benefits and challenges for TMCs, but get it right and you could vastly improve customer service and open up new lead opportunities.
According to a recent Kayak study on mobile travel in the UK, 8% of respondents say they regularly use or have used chatbots in the past month compared to just 3% saying the same a year ago. The need for instant customer service online is only going to grow – something which live chat can provide during working hours and, in the future, chatbots could deliver 24/7.
The Benefits of Live Chat and Chatbots
Chatbots can be created for websites and travel itinerary apps, alongside the live chat function, to provide instant customer service. The traveller can have their own personal online agent supplying important travel details and urgent, real-time information throughout their journey, including the initial planning stages. Bots can assess all the risks and notify the traveller of any potential problems with up-to-date alternative solutions.
A travel chatbot in Skype, for example, could allow a traveller to make a hotel booking or be notified of a flight cancellation with the add-on option to be connected to a real travel agent to ask any specific questions. There is also the opportunity to reduce costs by using bots to replace human hours spent on customer service.
A chatbot around the clock can help the sales teams catch new potential customers, who otherwise may not have reached out. The chatbot can be ready to answer questions and gather important information on a new lead.
Sales and marketing teams could further enhance personalised experiences for customers and clients by integrating chatbot data with a marketing automation system and CRM.
Bots will also be a huge help to corporate clients and team members in need of instant account information or strategy data, saving hours of researching. Just one question to gather pages of report data.
While live chat is booming across travel and e-commerce industries, there is still a sense of apprehension when it comes to chatbots. Though a third of people surveyed couldn't be sure that they had not spoken to one in the past year, 75% said they would have concerns about using a chatbot, with the majority anxious about data security. Only 5% would rely on a chatbot over a human, which shows there’s a lot more work to be done in chatbot innovation – or at least in PR.
What’s more, there are potential security issues with chatbots used within travel management companies. When one corporate account is used for the whole company, individual information and conversations may be shared with third party chatbots, causing privacy issues.
The chatbot is still in its infancy but will inevitably improve over the next few years, becoming the go-to agent on social media and mobile travel apps. A chatbot is yet another way to engage with clients and customers at the most important moments – invaluable to the travel management industry.
The key to improving the chatbot experience is to create more human-friendly and engaging software, making it impossible for a customer to tell they are speaking to a human or a bot.
While there are some concerns, live chat and chatbots will become more commonplace in the travel industry, especially in mobile travel apps, as customer demand grows for instant support and guidance.
AI is just one rising trend within the travel industry. For more insights into what the future holds for corporate travel, download our Q&A with Clarity's Pat McDonagh