1. Blog
  2. /
  3. Customer support
  4. /
  5. Virtual agents in the travel and hospitality industry [8 automation-ready use cases]

Passengers often find themselves in a position when they need to instantly make changes to their reservation (for example, they are late to the airport and needed to book a new flight quickly). In these situations, they can’t spend 20 minutes on hold, waiting to be connected to a live agent. With COVID-19, the problem of long wait times in time-sensitive cases is even direr because of the ever-changing restrictions. Thousands of customers need to be able to quickly reschedule flights, change booking dates at a hotel or cancel a car rental.

Even the biggest airlines, travel agencies, and hotel chains weren’t prepared for the number of customer inquiries during this confusing and difficult time. And even if it was economically feasible to hire hundreds of extra temporary call center agents, it takes time to find that amount of temporary staff (not to mention the additional cost of providing a safe environment for them to work). The great benefit of AI agents is that they scale up or down without any additional costs (other than the cost of extra minutes spent talking to customers), so they make your customer service KPIs future-proof. No matter what happens, you will have the capacity to handle all customer cases promptly.

In this article, I’d like to share with you different travel and hospitality use cases that can be automated with AI agents:

Automation idea #1: Smart routing

Misrouted calls are costly for contact centers and frustrating for customers. With AI agents, you say goodbye to the traditional IVR (press 4 to…) and instead greet customers with How can I help you? The AI agent extracts the intent from the customer utterance and connects it to the right person (or even handles the inquiry itself). It’s fast, efficient, and error-free.

Automation idea #2: Booking management

AI agents can take customers through the entire booking process and do it similarly to a human agent. They can be designed to book flights, hotel rooms, tours, or rental cars. Because you can connect them to your systems, they can offer a personalized experience and, for example, ask customers booking a business trip if they want to stay at the same hotel and rent the same car as they previously did when traveling to San Francisco. With so many competitors on the market, making the booking experience as smooth as possible can be just what makes the customer stay with your company.

AI can help with the entire booking management process, and later changes, cancellations, invoices, and can also remind customers about a due payment or any other action required from them.

Booking processes that AI agents can help with:

  • New reservations
  • Reservation changes
  • Cancellations
  • Confirmations (e.g. email or text after the booking is confirmed)
  • Reminders and notifications (e.g. due date for a deposit, check-in, or itinerary)
  • Collections (e.g. late payments)
  • Claims (e.g. warranty)

Automation idea #3: Travel recommendations

It’s not only the booking process that AI agents can help with but also what comes before, helping prospects find the best offer for them, hassle-free. People often don’t have time for proper research, so getting travel recommendations that are tailor-made for them can be what convinces them to book with your travel agency. The process is similar to a conversation with a human travel agent. Prospective customers answer a few questions like the type of destination, the purpose of stay, dates, budget, etc. The AI agent provides recommendations that fit those parameters. The call can also be transferred to a sales specialist after certain conditions are met so they can use their negotiation skills to close the deal.

Automation idea #4: Customer satisfaction surveys

You probably want to know how your service can be improved to turn one-off customers into loyal ones.  With virtual agents, you can collect feedback right after the customer engages with your contact center or reach them via phone, mail, or text at any point of their journey. This way, you can make sure that they have a positive experience with your brand across many different touchpoints, from booking their dream holidays to support during their stay, up until they are safely back at home.

Automation idea #5: FAQ

Virtual agents for the travel and hospitality industry can be equipped to answer questions that are general (Do I get travel insurance when I book a package vacation with you?) and customer-specific (Could you tell me when check-in opens for my nearest flight? ). This means that customers can get solutions to many types of problems, day or night, without having to go through the help center on your website, wait on hold, or call back during business hours.

Automation idea #6: Virtual concierge

Whether your customer service team takes care of providing a broad range of amenities in a business lounge at an airport or room service as a hotel, virtual agents can take over processing these requests, so humans can focus on delivering them.  AI agents can handle a set of standard customer requests over the phone, like collecting food and drink orders or providing information about the local attractions. With smart routing, high volume, standard requests are quickly handled by AI agents, while the unusual ones can be swiftly routed to human concierges.

Automation idea #7: Reward programs

In recent years, customer retention became as important as acquisition. One way to keep your customers coming back is to reward them for constantly choosing your brand. But with so many loyalty programs available, customers find it difficult to keep track of them and end up needing to call the help desk to check their point balance, activate cards, request missing points, and so on. All these repetitive calls can make up a big part of your call volume, even though each conversation only takes 30 seconds. The high repetitiveness of these cases makes them a perfect use case for automation. Customers will be happy with the prompt service, and so will be your customer service team as they will be able to put more time into more meaningful tasks.

Automation idea #8: Emergency response

Where travel is involved, customers expect to be immediately informed when anything changes with their itinerary and can quickly access any information they need. In the case of canceled flights or any other unpredictable events, you can use virtual agents to quickly call or text several customers to let them know about the changes.  What’s more, if you use DIY virtual agent builders, like Talkie, you can quickly adjust the greeting for your agents, so in case of any case spikes, the information most people are calling for is included in the welcome message.

Try conversational AI for customer service

Last year only proved how unforeseeable events could disrupt customer service processes, even for the biggest travel and hospitality enterprises. AI agents make your customer support future proof thanks to their capability to scale up or down on demand without any extra costs involved. If you’re in charge of customer service at your company, you can book our experts here, and we’ll talk about how Talkie can help your contact center always be ready for the unforeseeable.

Working in a different industry? Check out these virtual agent use cases:

Do you want to innovate your customer service?