Travel TechnologyWith the rise of social chat apps in Asia, consumers are showing preference for virtual agents.

Social apps — and travellers — are getting chattier

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The rise in chat apps has led to a big shift in communication between travel suppliers and consumers, as tech has now enabled multi-way communications with multi participants.
The rise in chat apps has led to a big shift in communication between travel suppliers and consumers, as tech has now enabled multi-way communications with multi participants. Photo Credit: Getty Images/anyaberkut

Social chat apps have developed faster in Asia than in any other part of the world, and “in Asia you can’t talk about social chat apps without going into super apps and how they are essentially like remote controls for our lives,” said Shyn Yee Ho-Strangas, director, global product management at Expedia Group.

Speaking at last week’s WiT Travel Roadshow Episode 3, she said the rise in chat apps has led to a big shift in communication as they have enabled not just two-way but multi-way communications with multi participants.

“They have replaced the one-way communication in the past where companies and brands sent messages to their customers and hoped they would digest the information and revert back to them.”

The second trend is customers now expect companies/brands to come to them, and the companies also realise that if they have to go to where the customers are, it is essentially within their phones today, or within their social chat apps.

“So you see in many Asian markets traditional sectors, like banking and logistics, are leveraging on social channels to be closer to the customer in their channel of choice, be able to help them with the jobs to be done, or solve their problems,” said Ho-Strangas.

Lastly, customers now expect more actions beyond just the conversation. It’s not just saying goodbye after receiving an order, but they want to know what’s next after this – like if they want a refund, how do they go about doing it.

“So they’re expecting the next best action – what they can do beyond just having that conversation. So the boundaries of what is possible are getting a little bit blurred, but which makes it far more exciting.”

Sharing on what she is doing with virtual agent technology at Expedia Group globally, Ho-Strangas said on the traveller side, the tech allows customer to go into the products, to change or cancel a booking in addition to posting queries.

“For the agents and our partner agents, they’re able to tap into information that allows them to help customers faster and better deliver operational efficiencies.”

She disclosed that in 2019, the Net Promoter Score for its customers doubled when they shifted from phone, i.e. talking to a human agent, to speaking to a chatbot.

During the current pandemic, which saw a huge onslaught of calls, Expedia saw a similar trend where customers were able to self-serve through the virtual agent.

“They (customers) were more satisfied because their problems were solved quickly, which gives them peace of mind. Being able to develop these new skills, or strengthen skills, to better help our customers is a big focus for us,” said Ho-Strangas.

She said the virtual agent is able to learn from the customers’ conversations, and can thus able predict what is the next best thing that it can suggest to a customer. “It is constantly learning, constantly improving and constantly getting better at the job.”.

Source: Web in Travel

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