Apple's acquisition of Siri last year, and its launch as part of the iPhone 4S release, have done wonders for the profile of online virtual assistants and their potential for the travel space.
Online virtual assistants, such as Scandinavian Airlines' Eva and Netherlands-based Connexxion's Lisa, are being touted as the answer to consumers expecting instant information but frustrated by call-centres and an often poor online experience.
The above research is from Artificial Solutions, which develops Natural Language Interaction technology, and believes consumers will increasingly expect this sort of level of interaction with brands.
Marketing boss Andy Peart says some companies are already using virtual assistants to handle up to a third of queries that would otherwise have gone to a live agent.
The company has just unveiled Teneo, its service for mobile and here's a clip demonstrating some potential applications for travel.
Peart says providing the service on mobile closes the loop in term of a seamless customer experience.
Integration of the technology with smartphone capabilities, as shown in the clip, also makes it compelling.
"Very soon we will expect to speak to our phone and for it to give a response. A virtual assistant can interpret a query, ask further qualifying information and give meaningful responses to take customers or the relevant page of the website."
He adds that Siri has done a fantastic job of raising awareness of virtual assistants with many of its ads centred on travel situations.
The use of natural language in search is also on the increase and there is much debate on its integration within travel as well as consumer acceptance of the technology.
Further findings of the Artificial Solutions research include:
- 96% now go online to resolve a query rather than calling
- Only 1 in 10 have had a good customer experience via web, phone or email
- 3 out of 4 agree having an interactive online help facility to get information would make a big difference in their decision to use that company
- 81% say they would engage with a virtual assistant if it reduced waiting time
- Nearly a third have used a virtual assistant and 70% found it helpful
The research was conducted by Axiall on 1500 consumers across Europe.