A majority of business traveller concerns can be broadly organised into two categories, those relating to organisation and those relating to comfort. Many conferences involve heavy travel itineraries, leading travellers to feel unable to take time to enjoy their trip or even organise their schedule. At the same time, business trips are often stressful, busy and tiring, which can lead to anxiety and discomfort. AI can provide solutions to help travel managers alleviate both of these issues.
A number of personal assistant AIs have become available in recent years, from Siri, the original Apple-based AI software, to the Amazon Echo – an independent piece of hardware with a built-in AI.
AI personal assistants are useful to business travellers for several reasons: AI apps can warn travellers of changes to their schedule, such as delays or cancellations, as well as give weather alerts. Machine learning can be used to recommend amienities based on previous preferences or set meeting reminders.
Although AI personal assistant technology is still currently in its infancy, the ability to delegate simple tasks such as these can be invaluable to busy travellers, and it is likely that this technology will only continue to advance as it is used more widely.
AI-directed live chat is becoming more popular for sales and customer service. There is a clear majority (75%) of millennials who feel more comfortable using SMS than they do talking over the phone, and in a recent poll, 65.5% of respondants of all ages reported having engaged with livechat at least once.
For 21% of respondants, live chat is now their preferred method of customer service, just behind telephone (23%) which, considering that the former is a relatively new innovation, means that live chat has great potential moving forward.
AI can be used in travel management in the form of real-time chatbots, which could be used in place of, or to support, live assistants. This would allow travellers to make schedule changes, ask for help, or check information such as flight times or hotel booking references, without ever having to pick up the phone.
As with AI personal assistants, chatbots are still a very new technology, and all but the best could be faulted for being too easily confused. Although this currently rules them out as replacements for human assistants, they are used very successfully to answer simple questions or give directions.
Benefits of AI
Recent advancements have produced several examples of extremely human-like chatbots, able to comprehend language, colloquialisms and even humour. Web-based livechat is built on the same premise, and can function as a sales tool as well as a customer helpline.
These benefits help your organisation to carve out digital niches for customers, in terms of defining their needs and personalising their travel experiences. This has been done before, of course, but often in the broad context of defining customers as buyer personas, and by trying to meet the needs of generalisations rather than people.
Modern AI, informed by big data, can allow you to treat each traveller as an individual by acknowledging their personal preferences and providing customised experiences. This will undoubtedly lead, in the future, to improved personalisation and a larger and more satisfied loyal base.
However, current AI technology is still considered to be basic compared to the potential advances in the next few years. So although some services such as personalised offers and simple Q&A text chat could currently be delegated to bots, it may be better to wait until further advances in AI technology have perfected more advanced tools such as personal assistants.
A Changing Industry
This growing trend in the use of AI to satisfy changing customer preferences is evidence of a rapidly changing industry. Today, personalisation and customer experience are the order of the day, and the establishment of AI is just one representation of this.
Another representation of this change is the rise of the sharing economy, a phenomenon that enthuses many travellers but rings alarm bells for much of the travel industry. To learn more about how the travel industry is changing in order to provide better customer experiences, follow the link below to download our concise, free report.