Key Points
  • As travel companies operate in a hyper-competitive and disruptive landscape, agility in customer service will be a key business enabler

  • With more than 50 percent of customers expecting 24x7 business availability, deploying a live chat function can give travel companies a competitive edge

  • Live chat solutions aided by technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning will drive customer service of the future

In an extremely competitive and disruptive environment where digital and emerging technologies are changing the face of travel every day, businesses have to be agile in serving customers swiftly. Today’s discerning traveler visits 38 sites before booking a vacation because they have the choice to do so.

This is where live chats come in handy. Live chats can boost sales significantly, and help companies save on resource cost and enable effective resource utilization.

By moving the communication to live chat, companies can drastically reduce the bounce rate or site abandonment rate. One study reveals that 92 percent of customers are satisfied with a live chat feature compared to other communication options such as voice, e-mail and social media. With more than 50 percent of customers expecting businesses to be available 24x7, deploying a live chat function in contact center operations can give companies a competitive edge.

Live chats, when implemented by a business to proactively assist customers, help manage crucial micro-moments of the customer’s travel booking journey. It ensures an all-day hassle-free booking experience and enables:

  • Access to complete information such as terms and conditions, booking and cancelation policies

  • Improvement of metrics such as First Contact Resolution (FCR) and Net Promoter Score (NPS)

  • Engagement of travelers with relevant, useful and personalized offers

  • Increased conversion of prospects to customers

Live chat also enables sentiment analysis. Automatic triggers can notify managers when a customer is unhappy with the services of a live chat agent paving the way for immediate remedial actions to be taken. Sentiment analysis can help identify cross-sell and upsell opportunities as well.

Live chat solutions are now becoming more advanced aided by technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). Here are some futuristic possibilities of live chat that can bring about a 360-degree transformation of the current customer support scenario:

  • Augmented Reality (AR) can be effectively used to enhance the capabilities of live chats in getting more information to and from customers based on visual, auditory, haptic, somatosensory and olfactory senses. With AR, companies can offer customers a virtual tour of a hotel or location to help them take a decision. The example of a European airline that uses AR to help customers measure the size of their baggage and see if it’s as per the size allowed by the airline for either check-in or carry-on is a case in point.

  • Voice-aided live chats enable agents to retrieve information based on voice commands and help improve the speed of service. Another version of voice-enablement is where customers can interact using voice. It could provide a hands-free experience to the customer, allowing them to multi-task. This can also help customers with disabilities.

  • Chatbot enabled by Natural Language Processing (NLP) is the next frontier of agile customer service for travel companies. A leading Online Travel Agency (OTA) has launched chatbots for Facebook, Skype and Amazon Alexa. Chatbots enable quick responses to match customer expectations of speed by reducing wait time and offering faster resolution. Chatbots are expected to cut business costs by USD 8 Billion by 2020.

According to Mckinsey, digital-care channels will account for almost 50 percent of customer care interactions by 2020. Also, millennials are the most significant customer cohort for the travel industry in terms of spending. Live chat, therefore, is clearly an important part of the strategy to build agile customer service of the future.

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