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Can Conversational Virtual Assistants Offer a Better Way to Travel?

May 24, 2016

Recently, my family and I traveled from Boston to a vacation out West, leaving the cold, snowless city in search of sun and better skiing. We flew a national airline, rented a car, and stayed in a vacation rental home — all booked online.  Mostly, it went fine. But there were, as usual, snags that took us away from the calm of vacation and back to the reality of dealing with issues that felt more like work.

For example, when we completed the first leg of our flight, there were weather delays at our connecting airport. Thinking that we had a close connection, however, we ran halfway across the airport, kids and bags in tow, only to find that our flight was delayed and we actually had time to grab food, sit back and relax. Once we arrived at our destination, there was a long queue at the rental car station, so we sat and waited again. This is about the time when my happy, excited kids became cranky and exhausted.

On our way home, we needed to make a small change to our plans. After repeating my name and reason for calling multiple times to an IVR system that didn’t understand me, I sat in a seemingly endless phone queue waiting to speak with an agent.

Vacations should be a time to step away from the troubles that plague our everyday lives, and yet here I was being pulled away from the thing that mattered most to me – spending time with my family.

The consistent issue with many travelers’ woes is a reliance on dated customer service systems that just don’t make for a modern travel experience. When my flight was delayed, why wasn’t I notified? When the rental car line was out the door, why didn’t I have other check-in options?  And when I needed to change my plans, why did I have to endure an IVR and wait so long for an agent?  This all makes me want to think twice before using these companies in the future, and I’m not the only one. According to the Customer Experience Impact Report, 86 percent of people say they would stop using a company if they have a bad customer experience, and just three percent of consumers say they like using an IVR system.

As highlighted in a recent Gartner blog, there is a growing gap between experience and expectation when it comes to customer service. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Better self-service tools, such as conversational Virtual Assistant solutions, could greatly simplify these tasks and improve customer experience. These self-service applications allow you to communicate naturally, as if you were speaking to or texting with a human, to get things done. Additionally, they  eliminate the frustration that occurs from long wait times or systems that fail to provide valuable information.

One great example of this is a popular high-end hotel chain that allows customers to converse naturally with an automated system to book reservations. The system allows consumers to speak in full sentences to provide the details of where they want to stay and when, answers property questions and completes the reservation. In doing this, the company has eliminated the hassle of long wait times and frustrating IVR menus.  And it makes good business sense too. By automating essential tasks, the company saves money in agent costs while providing a greatly improved customer experience over the traditional IVR to service queue experience.

A recent study found that 93 percent of travelers say they want updates regarding important information during their trips. Virtual Assistant technology makes this easy. It can proactively reach out to guests via text or voice call to let them know when things have changed or require attention. Also, because they are conversational, if I have a question or request, I can quickly and easily interact with the application to make that happen. Simple and efficient. The possibilities here are endless, from quickly getting from plane to car to room, to requesting in-room services or quickly changing return flights.

When it comes to travel, there is a lot that is out of our control. We generally expect some headaches, but travel and hospitality companies can reduce the number and severity of these by introducing technology that makes it easy for travelers to get things done. Virtual Assistant solutions are a big step forward in technology that simplifies the travel experience.

Ready to learn more about how Virtual Assistant solutions can help improve your travelers’ experience?

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