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Latest 26 Sep 2019 | Customer Service | 5 min read

When and Where Airlines, Travel Brands, and Retailers Should Use Chatbots


With chatbots able to handle up to 80 percent of inbound queries and on track to save businesses $11.5 billion annually in customer support costs by 2023, it’s no wonder companies are eager to integrate these powerful machines into their existing customer service stacks. Who wouldn’t want to reduce support volume and free up human agents to solve more complicated problems? 

Here are a few ways that industry leaders are paving the way with stellar chatbot support (and have the CSAT scores to match!). In this post, we’ll explain the best places to integrate a chatbot in your vertical, backed by research and real examples from companies who are delivering chatbot services that leave customers smiling. 


1. Airline Chatbots: Anticipate and speed up re-booking

Bad weather and other flight disruptions cause customers to scramble to support channels, anxiously searching for updates on delays and reschedulings. When Storm Emma pummeled Western Europe in 2018, causing heavy snowfall and blizzard-like conditions, Aer Lingus’ customer service team was overwhelmed with a barrage of incoming messages from confused travelers concerned about the status of their flights. 

Using what they’d learned from the crisis, Aer Lingus got to work creating their tier-1 service bot: a chatbot with the capability to handle simple flight status requests over Facebook Messenger. Customers are able to interact dynamically with the bot—without a predefined path—which sources their flight information in a single, smart interaction. Finding out whether their flight is on-time, delayed, or has been rescheduled altogether is as simple as sending a private message. This has alleviated a lot of customer anxiety and freed up Aer Lingus agents to support more complex cases. As Paul Buckley, Aer Lingus’ Head of Social Media, notes, “It’s particularly valuable during periods of travel disruption and has helped us scale our digital care operation over social messaging channels.” 

By using a chatbot to ensure passengers can get a quick answer to their most burning question—Is my flight leaving on time?—Aer Lingus is creating a first-class customer experience. 

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2. Travel brands: Boost CSAT with rapid-fire resolutions

According to the analyst agency CGS, over one-third of consumers ranked having a quick interaction as their top expectation of customer service. “Consumers will use a chatbot when they have a pretty straightforward question," said Michael Mills, a Senior Vice President for CGS' contact center division, in a Forbes interview. “As our survey showed, half of the respondents ranked chat as their top channel for quick customer service.” 

Few brands understand the importance of quick front-line customer support as well as Volaris, a Mexican low-cost airline. Looking to keep airfares low while keeping customer satisfaction high, Volaris has embraced AI inside their messaging solutions. Volaris’ Facebook Messenger bot “Vane” resolves an average of 14.5 percent of monthly inbound messaging conversations without any human intervention whatsoever, and hands the rest over to live support agents. The results are staggering: in the twelve months between March 2018 and March 2019, Volaris’ messaging service channels scored an average NPS 18 percent higher than the airline industry standard, and 10 percent higher than their own phone support. 


3. Retailers and e-commerce: Match demand spikes with social support

From its inception, Gymshark has embraced social as a channel for customer support. But the company grew so rapidly that incoming social volumes were becoming untenable. To improve the quality of their service, Gymshark added automation to their private Twitter DM—their preferred channel for customer care. Now, when a customer contacts Gymshark, they receive a welcome message which prompts them to select their question from a list of predetermined options. Auto-responses to these options allow the tool to provide answers, gather more information, or escalate to a human agent when necessary. 

“Despite the incredibly high volume of customer comments and questions we receive across our social media channels, knowing that we have a social care management system that allows us to efficiently provide resolution means it is no longer a daunting process,” says Daniel Parkin, Head of Customer Support at Gymshark. And it’s not just Daniel and his team who are reaping the rewards—their CSAT score has increased by 63 percent since implementing their DM chatbot. 

“Despite the incredibly high volume of customer comments and questions we receive across our social media channels, knowing that we have a social care management system that allows us to efficiently provide resolution means it is no longer a daunting process” - Daniel Parkin, Head of Customer Support at Gymshark

It’s no mystery what customers want from customer service teams: quick, empathetic responses and fast resolution of their problems. Chatbots, when implemented correctly, can be a highly effective tool to achieve these goals and improve customer satisfaction. Airlines and travel brands should emulate leaders such as Aer Lingus and Volaris who are proactively using AI to anticipate traveler needs and provide fast front-line support. Retailers whose customers live on social should look to Gymshark’s example to provide a seamless messaging experience. If these brands are any indication, customer satisfaction will increase by leaps and bounds as a result.  

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