Original Title: Avi Benezra explains how the airline industry is leveraging SnatchBot chatbots
In the highly competitive aviation industry, great customer service sets apart the winners from “me too” brands. According to Avi Benezra, AI-powered chatbots provide airlines with a special competitive advantage.
A search for available flights from any place to any destination will bring up many airlines to choose from with very little difference in prices. This makes the airline industry (US$589 billion in passenger revenue) very competitive. Poor service is also common among airlines, with problems like over-booking, lost luggage and flight delays inconveniencing many travelers. With planes looking the same and prices almost the same, what differentiates an airline is customer service. We asked Avi Benezra of SnatchBot a number of questions about the use of chatbots by airlines.
Why is customer service generally poor among airlines?
Most factors that affect travel, such as bad weather and airport infrastructure, are out of an airline’s control. When there are problems, an airline that uses human agents to tackle all the customer complaints cannot cope with all the inquiries. Unfortunately, increasing the number of customer service agents is very expensive. That is why many people have bad experiences with airlines.
How can an airline improve customer service?
An airline can make the trip smoother by communicating enough to keep the travelers informed. They should also get feedback from customers at every touch point, take customer comments on social media seriously and make improvements. In order to keep up, it can deploy a chatbot on social media to chat with customers and get feedback and suggestions in real time. In this age of artificial intelligence, AI chatbots provide the edge which is why many airlines are deploying them and benefiting from their use.
Why do you suggest a chatbot for airlines?
In a survey released by Inbenta in early 2018, 50% of customers indicated that they prefer chatting to chatbots when shopping, instead of calling a support center. There is no surprise because chatbots provide everything that customers need, such as self-service and fast and easy access to information. Therefore, it makes sense that many airlines are deploying chatbots for customer services.
What are the advantages of chatbots?
First is accessibility. Chatbots are available on websites where people can visit. They are also available on social media where people are already spending a lot of time. Those airlines that share travel news items and special offers on social media through chatbots are most likely going to engage people who are interested in traveling. By freely providing information and answering questions, the bots encourage such people to make their travel bookings through the airline. Good customer service brings sales. Therefore, accessibility of chatbots benefits both the travelers and the airline.
The next advantage is information. Travelers want to ask a lot of questions before they make a booking and chatbots provide the required conversation and give instant answers. When people get satisfactory answers, they can make personalized reservations that meet their preferences. Both the customer and the airline benefit.
The next advantage is ticket specials. Airlines occasionally offer special packages and they communicate the specials on social media. Anyone who intends to travel and sees the special offer will take it up. Chatbots therefore potentially increase conversion while customers benefit from the reduced prices.
Which airline is already using chatbots and how are they using them?
Many airlines have been using chatbots since their debut a few years ago. For example, Aeromexico deployed its chatbot, Aerobot, in late 2016 for booking tickets. Later it added group booking to the offering. The company estimated that within 6 months of launching the bot, its customer service was automated 96% (up from zero) and customer resolution fell to 2 minutes (down from 16 minutes).
Doesn’t a chatbot add to the operational costs?
On the contrary, a chatbot saves on operational costs. There are ready-made chatbot templates like those offered by SnatchBot that are quite affordable. The airline can purchase an airline chatbot template and then customize it to its needs without the need for coding. Within a short time, it launches its bot on its website and most social media platforms. The bot can engage with customers 24 hours per day without costing anything and without getting tired. It takes the place of many agents that are normally needed to provide customer care and to sell tickets. For an airline, there is a huge saving on customer service labor costs and on commissions that would otherwise be paid to travel agents.
What is your advice to airlines?
All things being equal, airlines can only compete in customer service. Therefore, I recommend that each airline deploys a chatbot to improve on customer service and have happier customers. If the airline gets many positive ratings and positive comments on social media, it will become the airline of choice for many people. While increasing its sales, it saves on operational costs and therefore increases its profitability.
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