Initial launch includes Facebook Messenger Bot that allows Airline Customers to Search and Book Flights Via Chat
Travel is an inherently social activity and a frequent topic of conversation in most circles. People love to discuss the trips they want to take as much as the trips they have already taken. New ideas for trips emerge from casual conversations around coffee in the office, to a friend showing recent photos of a trip on a smartphone, or even a discussion surrounding the source of a new sunburn (wink: Brits visiting the South of France) from a weekend adventure.
Way back when, booking travel couldn’t take place without a conversation. But with the Internet era, most of us traded the personalized interaction with a travel agent for quick access to dates, destinations, and deals via websites and apps. The saying “what comes around goes around” is very true for the travel industry. Fast forward to the mobile era and the once mighty app now faces Customer fatique, with users spending 84% of their time using just five apps each month and very little desire to download new ones.
With Customers visiting on average of 38 websites when researching a leisure trip and most using mobile for quick travel searches while on the go, it’s only natural that a Customer’s desire for a simpler way to search and book travel on a mobile device would take us back to the original travel interface- the conversation.
Strong relationships start with listening to Customer needs and responding with timely, convenient, personalized messages. Existing messaging and chat tools, such as Facebook Messenger are a natural channel to facilitate these exchanges between airlines and their Customers and we believe bots will play an important role in triggering and assisting with these conversations. Utilizing already installed and frequently used messaging tools as a Customer interaction channel will allow airlines to proactively engage in conversations directly with Customers that lead to additional commerce and support opportunities.
So, how does it work?
Chances are, most airline Customers are already using digital messaging to discuss past or future trips with friends and family, but maybe they haven’t realized that they could use the same tool for communicating directly with an airline. Building on top of Travelaer’s Conversational Commerce Suite, Airline Customers can now search for flights on any device using Facebook Messenger in the same way they’ve always chatted with family and friends- using the conversation.
To initiate a conversation with an airline, the Customer simply needs to message the airline through Facebook Messenger- either by clicking “message” on the airlines Facebook account or by searching for the airline account within Messenger or Messages. Facebook has also started providing direct, short links to the Messenger application such as m.me/icelandair, which makes it very easy reach the airline.
Once a message has been initiated with the airline FB Messenger account, the bot will immediately respond asking the user how they would like to proceed- either with a Flight Booking or to Chat with An Agent. To view the bot in action, watch the video below for a quick introduction.
Our beta FB Messenger bot launched earlier this week with our launch partner, Icelandair. The current version of the Icelandair bot lets users search for flights through a series of conversational questions and answers using FB Messenger. As a Customer answers a series of questions, the bot will respond with live flight information and prices. If a user does not want to book a flight and/or they need assistance, they can click “chat with an agent” and a real human will then assist the Customer with their requests.
Travelaer has linked up with Icelandair to develop the airline industry’s first search and booking Facebook Messenger bot. The conversational interface encourages flyers to search for the flights which suit their schedule best and offers optional Iceland stop-over packages. The bot also has a customer service element, answering common travel questions with text, photos and video replies. — Tnooz
Travelaer is actively working on improving our bot product and developing enhancements by evaluating real time conversations in the Messenger environment. Observing how Customers are interfacing with the bot and human agents via Messenger is allowing us to quickly adapt how the bot responds to users and to provide a richer, more natural conversational interface. We hope to introduce many new features and improvements in the coming days and weeks as we rapidly advance our product based on 24/7 Customer observation.
“We understand we are one of the pioneers and that it can feel a bit robotic at first,” Óskarsson said. “But it’s going to get better.” — Skift
Even though some media in the travel industry, have referred to the current Facebook Messenger Platform as “clunky,” we believe that it is important to be an active participant in this space and experiment with how to design conversational interfaces appropriately for the travel industry. We understand that the current platform may have limitations and some hurdles to cross, but we believe that to build the products of the future you must be an active participant on the platforms available today.
If you are an airline or a travel company, and you want to work with Travelaer on a conversational commerce product or project, please get in touch. We are actively looking for additional launch partners to collaborate with that believe the future of travel booking and management will happen through conversation.