A chatbot is a computer program which conducts a conversation through auditory or textual methods. 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, ranging from functional to fun, and it could live in any major chat product (Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, Text Messages, etc.). Chatbot is typically perceived as engaging software entity which humans can talk to. It can be interesting, inspiring and intriguing. It appears everywhere, from old ancient HTML pages to modern advanced social networking websites, and from standard computers to fashionable smart mobile devices.
Advances in artificial intelligence technologies such as neural networking and natural language processing have allowed brands such as Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon to offer conversational products, letting consumers order products or map their journeys through speech or messaging.
Travelomatix is an award winning travel technology platform, enabling the travel agencies, tour operators and holiday companies to leverage the key benefits of OTA platform. Travelomatix as a brand, is identified by improved ROI for customers while leveraging using the “travelomatix technology” and superb client servicing, leading to customer retention and customer base expansion.
Chatbots will become a commonplace 2017 onward particularly in the travel industry. Machine learning will allow chatbots to become more and more sophisticated while customer expectations will rapidly evolve in tandem. When online travel agents democratised travel 20 years ago, they gave the power of flexibility and choice to the consumer. But chatbots represent the next seismic shift that will evolve not only the travel booking process but also the customer service experience for decades to come.
In the competitive world of travel, many in the sector are asking how they can take advantage of these new technologies. This year Expedia launched a Facebook chatbot, a new Expedia skill for Amazon Alexa and a chatbot for Skype. As many travel brands face up to the challenges of launching their first bot, Expedia has been through that process already.
There’s no escaping that booking travel is exceptionally complicated. It might not be immediately apparent how chatbots could make things simpler, given the layers of information which need to be gathering and collated in order to make a travel purchase.
But there are plenty of areas in the travel booking process where chatbots can be implemented in order to improve the user experience.
Travel has an unusually long funnel compared with other e commerce sectors. In the early stage, customers are unsure of the details of their trip, looking for flights or hotels in various destinations and time periods. Users further down the funnel might be business travellers or frequent fliers, who are more sure of what they’re looking for and need less guidance.
Users at each stage have very different information requirements, and so your chatbot needs to be designed to reflect multiple variables.
We see too many brands design a chatbot first and then think about its purpose to the customer afterwards. First, think about bots in terms of solving a particular consumer problem or need. In our experience, a chatbot interaction is more likely to result in a successful outcome for the customer in situations where the task the bot is resolving has clearly defined parameters. This means that chatbots, for the moment at least, don’t have much of a role at the top of the funnel in the research phase, as this is a highly subjective and open-ended experience for customers. It’s difficult to design a single-purpose chatbot that will suit all consumer needs.
Chatbots are still a new technology, so it’s important to not overreach your design. Once you’ve isolated a specific stage of the funnel where a chatbot might be helpful, build a chatbot for that stage of the funnel. Current chatbot technology is not advanced enough to allow for multipurpose bots: they need to be designed for single uses, such as collecting pieces of information from customers specifically to book a flight, or providing date ranges of available hotels matching certain criteria.
For brands just starting to experiment with chatbot development, be clear and upfront about the purpose of your chatbot with customers. Define that first, provide your customers with some basic information about how to structure their queries, and a productive resolution to the problem is more likely. As with any new technology, it is also important for the experience to feel as natural and intuitive to the user as possible. Making the chatbot feel conversational is paramount, and small tweaks to how the bot communicates can result in big changes to customer behavior.
Looking to the future
There’s a vibrant and growing ecosystem of startups developing chatbots for all stages of the travel funnel. New companies such as Mezi, KimKim, and Pana have sprung up to help facilitate the booking process for flights, hotels and entertainment: once the customer has provided the initial information and search terms it becomes much easier for chatbot technology to help by automating key steps in the booking process.