you met, Juliet?
you’re a WestJet customer, you may have gotten flight info, baggage allowances
and even information on how to fly with your wedding dress from the Canadian
airline’s digital agent. She responds in less than one second to the most
frequently asked questions. With Juliet, WestJet is now solving 74% of all
customer service queries via Facebook Messenger without needing any human intervention.
Initially launched on Facebook Messenger to be more responsive around the
clock, the airline has seen customer satisfaction rise 24% since her debut.
Unlike simple chatbots that are easily confused and don’t understand the context
of a situation, Juliet is smart enough to know to ask the date when someone
asks for a flight status. She can also tell a passenger that she needs to hurry
because the security lines are long.
This is just one example of how airlines are quickly adopting AI to solve
customer service issues that plague the industry. In fact, nearly 70% of
airlines already have or plan to implement some version of AI as part of
customer service interactions.
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In 2020, we’re going to see airlines delegate even more responsibility to AI
within their customer service organizations. Today, AI agents typically manage
simple, repeatable tasks like notifying a customer that their flight has been
delayed. As AI becomes more connected within complex back-end systems, higher-level
tasks will be delegated to AI, like offering to rebook the passenger if the
delay is serious.
A step above this might be to warn them that they will likely
miss a connecting flight and they should probably call the airline. As AI has
had time to mature, the impact it will have on both the agent and customer
experience will be felt more than ever before.
Why AI will take off in 2020
adoption rates of AI are soaring as loyalty and profits hang in the balance.
Modern travelers demand more today than free Wi-Fi on a flight. They demand
effortless, convenient customer experiences. With seats remarkably similar, the
airlines that cater to these demands for exceptional customer service - both on
and off the flight - are the ones that stand out. In a Gartner survey of
marketing and customer experience (CX) leaders ”... over 80% of organizations
expect to compete mainly based on CX.”
The rate of change in customer expectations has been extraordinary. Not long
ago, calling and waiting on hold - sometimes for hours - was accepted by
customers looking for a lost bag or trying to change flights. This is no longer
the case. Propelled by the instant gratification we get from our smartphones
and the overall shift towards frictionless experiences in every aspect of our
lives, people have little tolerance today for the frustrating, delayed and
fragmented customer experiences of the past.
Global airlines are turning to AI to provide the immediate, convenient and
effortless customer service that is so crucial to protecting their brand. AI
can also be used to provide incremental revenue. Personalization is more
important than ever, with 57% of U.S. travelers saying that travel brands need to tailor
information to their personal preferences. More so, over one in three people
would pay for more personalized services. Conversational AI offers a way for
airlines to provide personalization and localization at scale through
recommendations and suggestions based on a person’s itinerary.
AI provides immediate resolutions to everyday interactions
service is increasingly sought on text-based channels, which have exploded to
dominate all communication. To address this, airlines are leveraging virtual
agents to immediately answer questions like baggage allowances, flight status
and in-flight services. This takes the response time from minutes (and
sometimes hours) to seconds.
By removing mundane tickets, human agents are freed up to focus on more complex
needs, which in turn makes agents happier and more fulfilled. With customer
service turnover one of the highest of any industry, reducing agent attrition
can save airlines significant resources for hiring, onboarding and ongoing
training of new agents.
AI enables proactive and predictive care at scale
of the really exciting opportunities with AI in 2020 is proactive and
predictive customer care. This is because it can transform the CX tremendously
for travelers in their most stressful moments.
For example, by tapping into
contextual signals on a personal level, an airline could predict that a person
is going to miss their flight as they are stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Based on traffic delays and an unusually long line at TSA PreCheck, the
airline would reach out with a rebooked boarding pass on the next flight.
With AI, this personal-level predictive care is scalable to a global customer
Customer service expands to voice channels
month, 112 million people use Google Assistant, Alexa and
other voice assistants to listen to music, make grocery lists, send messages
and, increasingly, connect with brands. In 2020, more airlines will start to
leverage AI to provide hands-free customer support.
WestJet, for instance,
extended its digital assistant Juliet to Google Assistant to answer frequently asked questions
like how to fly with skis and real-time flight status. As the move
towards effortless customer support continues, airlines will follow WestJet to
channels like Google Assistant.
2020 will be a breakout year for AI and
The role AI will play in the customer
service operations of airlines in 2020 will grow substantially. AI will manage
complex tasks made possible by integrations with back-end systems. AI will
scale immediate support capabilities to emerging channels like voice. And it
will anticipate and solve issues before your customers are even aware. As a
result, unprecedented customer satisfaction will follow.
that are late adopters of AI risk driving customers to competitors, leaving new
revenue streams on the table and suffering reputational damage with frustrating
experiences inevitably going viral.
About the author...
Puneet Mehta is founder and CEO of Netomi