As travel companies emerge from COVID with fewer people and an increased focus on customer service, chatbots could be invaluable. But could a bad chatbot do more harm than good? Ahead of his session at this week's TravelTech Show in London, Guillaume Laporte, general manager of Chatbot International, explains where brands go wrong and how travel companies can integrate a chatbot successfully.
The session you're hosting at TTS is called "How a bad chatbot can wreck your brand." Can you provide some examples of a bad chatbot experience and where brands go wrong?
I can give some guidance on what travel companies are often doing (or not doing) well, which results in having a bad chatbot experience. Typical bad chatbots on the travel market are either:
- A Facebook messenger FAQ chatbot. It's very common for airlines to launch this as it's considered as a "quick-win" for their innovation teams, yet it provides very limited business value and incremental customer experience. The main two issues are:
- By being solely on Facebook Messenger, it is limited in terms of reach, as only users logged into Facebook Messenger have the ability to engage with it.
- By being focus on informational content, the bot is not solving some of the most common customer service use cases, like cancellation, changes or upgrades, for example, which requires the ability to take an action into the PSS or within the NDC APIs.
- A bot without any agent handover capabilities. It's quite clear to anyone who has tried a chatbot that it will at some points fail to answer properly. It's normal, the long tail of possibilities is very large, and therefore many users will have a specific question or issue that the bot cannot answer.
In this case, the chatbot should offer the possibility to either transfer to an agent via live chat (and transfer the context to the agent, to avoid the customer having to repeat the issue) or offer to schedule a call back. Building connectivity between the chatbot and the customer service tools (like Zendesk, Salesforce ServiceCloud or Genesys) is critical and hard to achieve, this is why many airlines, agencies and transportation companies don't implement it.
If they are going to avoid making mistakes in future, what are your top five tips for integrating a chatbot into your customer journey?
Here are some of my recommended tips to integrate a chatbot successfully for travel companies:
- Focus on the business case and ROI. Bots can improve customer service efficiency, can facilitate the booking process or can activate the customer for return purchases and retention. Focus on one of these objectives with the right department involved.
- Start small. Implement the first use cases quickly, in a matter of weeks, and push it live quickly. The bot will only be able to handle a limited scope, but at least you'll be able to learn from your users quickly.
- Involve the people on the ground. Very often, chatbots are perceived as a "digital IT AI product" for a travel company, and therefore they involve a lot of IT leaders, developers and data scientists. But remember that the chatbot will be engaging with real travelers, therefore, customer service agents (who know what customers are asking) or flight attendants (who spend their days with customers) are a valuable asset to ensure that the chatbot communicates the right information to customers, in the right way.
- Connect your customer service/contact center tool. Ideally, you would select a solution partner who can implement an agent handover protocol in the chatbot in order to cope with the limited capabilities of the first weeks/months. Giving the possibility for the customer to contact a customer service agent in a quick and simple way will provide a better experience in any situation.
- Use a "no-code" solution. Working with large IT providers, or with a developer-first provider, will force the organization to apply extensive and complex IT processes to deploy the bot (scoping, coding, testing, staging, pre-production, production and revert the whole thing at every iteration). I highly recommend selecting a software which is "no-code," giving your organization more agility and autonomy to build and deploy as they see fit.
How can they do that "without it costing the earth"?
There are great software providers out there (including Mindsay/Laiye) who are charging a licence fee starting as low as 25'000$ per year, up to 250'000$ per year depending on the volume of usage of the Chatbot. This allows the organisation to forecast the cost over time, depending on the usage. You have to choose a solution that is "easy to implement" because if the solution is too complex to implement, it will require hundreds of hours of IT services to implement and manage, then the total cost of ownership becomes unbearable.