Technology

Opinion: Why conversational commerce is integral to travel

Andrew Cannington

Travelling is exciting, but it’s also daunting. Tourists rely on quick access to information to guide them and give advice, often in strange time zones or with time sensitivity.

It is therefore imperative that industry players wanting to build relationships with travellers offer seamless and efficient channels through which they can make queries.

E-commerce and the website have failed the travel industry

In this way, traditional e-commerce and websites have failed the travel industry; they are impersonal and slow.

Websites force travellers to find and read static pages, which are often out-of-date, to get answers. Often, travellers can’t find what they’re looking for and have to call to get up-to-date information.

An email function with a two business day response time is no longer acceptable, nor is the option of calling.

Travellers want answers—and they want them now. People want to ask questions and get help and they value one-on-one interactions with an expert.

Enter conversational commerce.

Conversational commerce is shifting the travel industry from one that puts the burden on the consumer to self-serve to one that is instant, interactive and personalised.

So, what is conversational commerce?

Conversational commerce is the ability for consumers to communicate with brands through natural language conversations, using digital channels they know and feel comfortable with such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or the native messaging app on their phone.

Conversational commerce allows the use of natural language to buy things or query a service at any point in the customer journey. This is achieved through the use of bots in conjunction with humans, allowing a brand to have conversations with its customers at scale.

Think about the disruption caused by an A380 being grounded. Hundreds of passengers are left with flow-on connections, accommodation, and activities that need to be altered or rescheduled. How can an airline cope with the vast and complicated requirements to communicate and rebook each of these travellers?

The only manageable option combines mobile, automation, and artificial intelligence.

Travel companies are moving to conversational commerce in droves, realising that it improves travellers’ experiences by allowing them to respond to texts at their leisure, rather than call or queue at an information desk.

Similarly, airlines and agents can sell tickets and help travellers make reservations directly in messaging channels they already use, every day.

Many of the travel companies that we work with have deployed bots that can browse flights, hotel rooms and car rentals, retrieve pricing information, provide discount codes and answer FAQs. This frees up agents to focus on high-value and more complex requests.

As a result, LivePerson’s travel customers that have transitioned to conversational commerce have experienced on average a 95 per cent peak in customer satisfaction.

For instance, since embracing messaging as part of its customer service strategy, Virgin Atlantic’s CSAT score has climbed to 95 per cent and 20 per cent is the average growth in the number of calls shifted to messaging week-on-week.

The business benefits of going conversational

Conversational commerce improves more than just customer satisfaction. It is being adopted by leading travel companies because it also enhances employee productivity and increases sales conversion, benefitting a company’s top and bottom lines.

Most importantly, positive customer experience ultimately leads to more loyal customers, which is every brand’s end game.

Conversational commerce is the key to bridging the gap between average and outstanding customer experience, particularly in the travel industry. With conversational commerce, brands can create a cohesive and communicative exchange that enhances the travel experience.

Andrew Cannington is the APAC General Manager of LivePerson

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