By Euan McNeil, GM FCM Travel Solutions
Step aside Siri, stand back Alexa. AI assistants and travel bots might be gaining ground in today’s world, but digital solutions will still need to be complemented by a knowledgeable Travel Management Company and Consultant.
The average business traveller today checks their smartphone 34 times a day, so it’s not difficult to understand the popularity and attraction a virtual assistant holds.
The travel bot is the perfect technological answer to address the modern business traveller’s need and desire to manage their trip on their own. TMCs can, therefore, make use of bots to improve their service to travellers in a format the travellers desire in a cost-effective way.
Today, bots in the corporate travel industry allow customers to access information as conveniently and friction-free as possible. They can answer common queries, support the booking process, and provide easy access for customers to their travel information.
The possibilities for travel bots in the future are endless. We’ll see bots becoming increasingly sophisticated, powered by conversational intelligence, and as technology like NLP progresses, bots will be able to manage the booking process end-to-end, including crisis management, with seamless integration into any company’s framework travel policy.
In comes Sam
FCM has its own travel bot called Sam, an itinerary management tool on steroids. I predict that Sam will be how most business travellers interact with their travel programme in the future: they can book a car and hotel themselves and complete the booking without having to work with a consultant.
Travel policy will also not be a problem for Sam. We have a generic policy based on best practice in the market. Then, if customers want to take their full travel policy and load that into Sam, there will be a level of commercial uplift.
Who will win? TMC or Bot?
Both. There is a clearly defined role for both the TMC and the Travel Bot in the corporate travel landscape, and we can expect them to operate side-by-side.
Travel bots will enable TMCs to combine human service with technology to create a more advanced level of customer service and to cut costs.
Travel chatbots can be deployed to handle redundant questions such as policy questions, baggage fees, customer support, and limited booking capabilities. But, the TMC offers value because he has intimate knowledge of the business traveller.
Tasks such as checking flight information, routine booking, changing traveller information and even checking the weather in your target destination are perfect for the chatbot. But, the human steps in when you miss a flight to your daughter’s wedding.
While the bot may help you rebook, it’s the human-to-human sympathy when you call a representative that will give a brand it’s customer service cred.
This blog is an opinion piece written by Euan McNeil, GM FCM Travel Solutions. Any Amadeus partners or customers who are keen to share their story can get in touch with Amadeus.