Carlson Wagonlit Travel plans customer trials this year of a mobile service fronted by an avatar called Carla.
The company built a prototype, with the help of Artificial Solutions, and following an internal trial via an iPhone application with CWT travellers last year, the corporate travel specialist is ready to pilot with customers.
According to Patrice Simon, vice president of business expansion, the initiative is a result of the company looking at what new services it could bring to mobile.
"We had two use cases in mind. Smartphones are popular but devices are small so the priority use cases were to make a transaction efficiently and how do to get all the regional knowledge we have and use it to respond to travellers’ questions.
"We realised it was three innovations in one – the avatar for user experience, the semantic process and once we understand the question, being able to provide the right recommendation to the traveller."
The prototype trialled internally consisted of 100 city pairs which could be recognised when a traveller said they wanted to go from city A to city B. The application would then do a corporate travel policy check and work with a global distribution system for live inventory.
CWT decided that the best way forward was to keep things simple by giving traveller four options- the shortest, cheapest, preferred and a recommendation.
Simon explains the recommendation piece was not easy because of the need for smart, relevant recommendations and the company added more words to the recognition element so travellers could ask about a particular airline or time of day as well as flight status and baggage limitation information.
Future plans include integrating the service into CWT’s existing CWT To Go service as well as Worldmate, which it acquired last October.
There are now plans to increase the city pairs to about 5,000, as well as finding ways for the local knowledge and tips to be used more efficiently.
CWT is also looking at the potential for pushing travel policy information to travellers according to their location.