How to Use Generative AI in Travel to Supercharge Your Support

Providing excellent customer service is crucial, especially in the travel industry.

Slow and unsatisfactory service when dealing with travel stress can ruin your customers’ opinion of your brand.

According to a recent report by McKinsey, 80% of American travelers report experiencing at least one travel-related issue in 2023. This leaves support teams swamped as they try to keep up with the onslaught of requests. Luckily, the latest developments in generative AI for customer support can help.

Generative AI can make it much easier for customers to manage bookings, check rental policies, and receive personalized support whenever and wherever it suits them.

A generative AI-powered chatbot will help them resolve common issues more quickly and give your support team more bandwidth to focus on those more complex queries that require a human touch.

This article makes the case for why you should implement generative AI for your travel support, provides key examples of how to get the most value out of it, and explains what’s next for AI in the travel industry.

What is generative AI? 

By now, you’ve probably heard about generative AI, but to make the most out of its many applications for AI in travel, it’s worth explaining what exactly this groundbreaking new tech is and how it works.

With the emergence of ChatGPT, generative AI has taken the world by storm for its ability to mimic human-like conversations to an unprecedented degree. In fact, this chatbot has even passed the famed Turing Test, which measures how well AI technology can exhibit human-like intelligence. 

For customer support, the release of ChatGPT has also meant that leading companies no longer have to use clunky chatbots that give canned responses that are only actually helpful sometimes.

But the techy folks among you may still be wondering just what sets this kind of chatbot apart from the rest. The key to the success of tools like ChatGPT is that it has been trained on large language models (LLMs), which are massive data sets of content produced by real people. In the case of ChatGPT, this includes much of the written content on the internet. Other tools like DALL-E do the same but with images.

In the context of generative AI for travel, these bots draw on billions of industry-specific support interactions. This means they are ready to provide conversational support to your customers right out of the box. 

However, the benefits extend beyond the lack of training and programming needed to get started. So, let’s break down how generative AI is revolutionizing the travel industry

Why use generative AI for travel support?

Generative AI is quickly becoming an essential tool for support teams across industries, as it helps customers access speedy support and achieve quick resolutions at their convenience.

This is crucial when you consider that 88% of customers expect brands to offer online self-service options for customer support, according to Statista.

Travel is inherently an industry that requires round-the-clock support in multiple languages because people might need support in-destination and across time zones. It is also a high-stakes and expensive one where purchases are less frequent than e-commerce, so having a great customer experience is paramount for attracting and retaining customers.

And being able to provide quality support around the clock and at scale is paramount in the travel industry — as buying an entire trip to Thailand is certainly more consequential than, say, purchasing a pair of sneakers. When customers trust you to make their travel dreams come true, nothing can dash their hopes like sketchy service and lack of agency when managing their trip.

With the market for generative AI in travel rapidly growing, those who don’t adopt will quickly fall behind because they simply will not be able to offer the same level of service to their customers. But aside from trying to keep up with the competition, generative AI offers some really exciting capabilities for supercharging your support. 

For a lot of people, travel time is precious.

Customers want to research their options carefully, and being able to present them with clear information at their fingertips builds trust. And trust is paramount when it comes to making big purchases or deciding on which company they will depend on while navigating a foreign environment. When they have long wait times and unresponsive service while trying to modify their booking, it doesn’t bode well for your brand.

If, on the other hand, they can access the information they are looking for in an approachable and conversational way, it will boost customer loyalty. Generative AI can help support feel human, conversational, and personalized. 

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No one wants to feel like they are interacting with a soulless monolith of a corporation. If this is how it feels to seek support, you can bet that customers will start looking for options elsewhere. According to Helpscout, 65% of customers will change brands after just one negative support experience. That’s two-thirds of almost guaranteed churn.

Generative AI allows you to deliver natural conversational experiences at any scale. It can even speak to your precise brand tone of voice, which will help establish rapport with customers and build lasting relationships with your travel company. 

In this sense, generative AI can improve customer experience by providing quick support and easy access to FAQs. Especially when coupled with “traditional” AI based on dialogue flows and conversation design, automated support can make support experiences better overall, which will help boost customer retention.

Using generative AI for more personalized support by region

Generative AI also has the capacity to provide highly personalized support.

One such capability relevant to the travel industry is that it can instantly help with multilingual fluency, right down to regional dialect — no training required. 

Being able to seek support in your mother tongue can be a huge relief for a lot of people, especially while lost in another country or when confused about whether their flight status has changed. 

The incredible part is that, unlike previous iterations of support automation, you don’t even have to train your generative AI-powered chatbot to do this. You can simply connect to your monolingual knowledge source (such as your help center or FAQ page), and the bot will instantly be able to translate the information into the customers’ preferred language.

These bots can also provide support tailored to your customer’s specific location, which is certainly helpful when you are a booking company that rents vacation homes in several cities worldwide.

Your bot will be able to provide specific policy information to the particular place where it’s needed. This sure beats digging around a generic FAQ page for answers on their specific situation. 

Assisting your human agents in solving complex issues

Even as the tech behind your chatbot becomes more sophisticated, your automation tools should only be your first line of defense when resolving customer queries. 

Your chatbot must work in tandem with your human agents, always to offer your customers the best possible support. So, in case your customers are experiencing issues with something urgent, like getting into their rental accommodation, your human agents should be easily accessible.

Yet, generative AI can be helpful here as well.

That’s because these chatbots can summarize their initial conversations with your customers and auto-populate tickets with this information. This way, your agents can hit the ground running when stepping in to help, and your customers don’t have to repeat themselves.

AI use cases in travel

So far, we’ve discussed what sets AI apart from its predecessors and hinted at how this can help your travel support. But with so many exciting use cases for AI in travel, we’d be remiss not to share some of the biggest game changers for your support team and your business. 

You can use AI to identify what your customers are asking most, help them receive in-destination support around the clock, enable them to customize their bookings, and even provide them with personalized recommendations. 

The following sections will dive deeper into each of these areas to give you the lowdown on many possibilities for generative AI in travel.   

Identify what your customers are asking most

Travel industry support is full of people asking similar questions—whether about adding baggage to their flight booking or checking the rental policy for their holiday stay. Automation can do the legwork of sifting through all this data to help you provide better support by generating answers tailored to those questions. 

This can be especially useful during peak season, which hits the travel industry harder than most. 

So, suppose your chatbot sees a sudden surge in requests around changing bookings due to unexpected storms during the summer holidays. In that case, it can implement responses to offset any sudden spikes in volumes. This will soothe customers’ travel anxieties and help keep your support team from spiraling as well.

Manage flights and car rentals, 24/7 

Whether you’re a car rental agency, a bespoke holiday booking platform, or an enterprise airline — travel is an industry that must offer 24/7 support to stay competitive. 

Let’s take the example of 24-hour cancellation windows on flights. If customers have to wait days to hear back from a human agent to do this, that window will have already closed at no fault of their own. Whether you can eventually remedy the situation, the stress caused and money lost on this will surely leave a bad taste in your (former) customer’s mouth. 

When customers are able to easily access support whenever they need to access support that’s useful, quick, and on-brand, it will help keep churn rates at a minimum. 

Use generative AI to check booking details

Rather than having to fish around an FAQ page for the travel visa requirements at their destination while using shoddy WiFi in a foreign location, generative AI delivers precise answers to their questions in a conversational form.

Especially when combined with other automation tools like API integrations (which serve as messengers between your bot and your backend systems), your chatbot can fetch customer data in your backend and produce answers within seconds — all on your customers’ channel of choice (email and chat to WhatsApp and more).

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This can be especially useful when issues arise or a rental is not as listed. Offering instant and comprehensive support can be instrumental in remedying the situation and ensuring your customers have a pleasant stay.

Instantly purchase add-ons and upgrades while on the go

If a customer wants to bring back more souvenirs that can fit in their carry on?

No problem. They can instantly and easily add more baggage to their reservation with the help of your chatbot. Your generative AI bot can check the baggage allowance associated with a given reservation and carry out transactions if there is a fee associated with adding more luggage. 

With older iterations of chatbots, this seemingly simple task would require you to build out many different conversation flows for each potential scenario — given that the bot needs to pull up detailed booking info, calculate the weight of bags allowed, verify the ticket class, etc.

A bot that utilizes a hybrid combination of generative AI and conversation design can fetch this info using API integrations and then produce tailored responses on the fly.

Provide customers with tailored destination recommendations

Another emerging application of generative AI in travel is that it can help customers plan their dream trips.

They can tell your chatbot where they want to go and suggest custom itineraries based on whether they prefer hiking, check out the local history, or sample the best cuisine in that area. It can then help them find bookings within their price range and those that meet their specific needs for pet-friendly accommodation, flexible cancellations, and more. 

This is a great way to facilitate bookings through your generative AI-powered chatbot, which can accompany customers throughout their buying journey. 

Travel industry leaders that use AI for customer support

Expedia

Expedia was a true pioneer in the space of generative AI for the travel industry. They were one of the first companies to launch a conversational trip planning service powered by ChatGPT.

Not only do users get recommendations on where to go and what to do, Expedia brings in intelligent shopping by automatically saving hotels discussed in the conversation to a “trip” in the app. 

As a result, generative AI assists Expedia in meeting all their customers’ travel needs — from helping them ideate their dream itinerary to bringing them bookings that match it.

GetYourGuide

GetYourGuide is also investing millions into incorporating generative AI into their product, as they see it as something that will deliver even more in ROI

So far, they are using this new tech to help generate smart searches as customers sift through their over 75,000 tours and activities. But that’s not all. They also use an AI-powered chatbot as part of their support stack, which has helped improve agent experience, too.

This travel industry leader is definitely one to watch out for.

Finnair 

Finnair proactively started automating pre-2020, so when they experienced a 500% surge in requests during the pandemic, they were prepared to meet the challenge. Today, they say they couldn’t survive without it, as their bot provides reliable, 24/7 support no matter what’s happening in the outside world.

Their chatbot also provides multilingual support, which is essential for their market, which includes Finnish and international travelers.

Here, they also see the potential of generative AI in improving customer-facing interactions when managing booking changes and more.

Megabus

Megabus has adopted the rapidly growing area of email and ticket automation into their support.

Their bot, Chuck, has helped immensely in instantly dealing with queries about reservation changes, cancellations, and ticket refunds. They’ve seen their bot grow and improve right alongside their business, too. 

As automation technology has become more sophisticated, they’re approaching an 80% automation rate on their most repetitive queries. This has had the added benefit of enabling their human agents to focus on more complex issues when they arise.

How you can get started with generative AI in travel 

Alright, so by now, you’ve seen the many possibilities for offering your customers quicker and more comprehensive support with the help of generative AI. You’ve also seen some of the forerunning travel companies that have already succeeded with these powerful new tools.

However, you may still be wondering just how to make it work within the context of your own business. Don’t worry, we’ve got you. Below are some tried and tested tips and best practices for getting started with generative AI in the travel industry.

Where previous iterations of chatbots would take weeks to train and test every possible conversation scenario before launching, you’re ready to go in a matter of minutes with the help of generative AI.

It’s pretty much as easy as 1, 2, 3:

  • Step 1: First, you’ll want to grab the URL or CSV file associated with the text-based data source of your choice. This could be your help center, FAQ page, or product catalog. 
  • Step 2: Then, you’ll need to connect this knowledge source with your generative AI provider via API integration. It will instantly begin analyzing the contents of your help center or FAQs and begin producing answers to common queries.
  • Step 3: From here, you can set the tone of voice that fits your brand, for example, by choosing between formal and informal. Now, your bot is ready to begin providing conversational answers tailored to your customers’ questions.
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When we said no training required, we really meant no training required.

Best practices for using generative AI in travel

While it’s true that the above steps are all it takes to begin using a generative AI chatbot for your travel support, there are some extra actions you can take to ensure customer experience success. 

So, beyond the ease of starting out with generative AI, it’s important to keep a few best practices in mind. The following sections will cover our tried and tested tips for automation success. 

Make sure your knowledge base is in top form

While you can technically connect your generative AI chatbot to any text-based knowledge source, and it will produce answers, if this information is not formatted with generative AI in mind, you will likely run into issues. 

Mainly, most bots cannot read visual content or follow any hyperlinks. If you have duplicate or conflicting information in your knowledge base, it will not be able to deliver accurate answers. 

Therefore, putting time into your knowledge base management processes is essential to automation success. It’s key that your knowledge base is organized in such a way that the generative AI bot can read it.

Keep your bot on task with guardrails and a hybrid approach to bot building

Generative AI makes it possible for your bot to have conversational experiences with your customers instantly, but as anyone who has used ChatGPT knows, those conversations aren’t always factual and accurate.

Luckily, you can add parameters to your bot to keep it on task, such as setting it up so that it can only produce answers by pulling directly from your knowledge base.

By using a hybrid generative and dialogue approach, you can ensure that your bot sticks to a specific script when needed. This can be useful if you have more complex queries or ones that must adhere to certain legal or security regulations like billing or processing payments. 

To implement a hybrid approach, select an automation provider that allows you to use both the speed and natural conversational style of generative AI and the precision and control brought to you by a customizable dialogue builder. 

Ensure security measures are in place

Finally, security is a key consideration whenever you turn to automation. 

It’s vital to choose a certified provider with experience adhering to security frameworks like the GDPR — the highest standard for cybersecurity. This will help keep customer data safe, as trust is paramount to building brand loyalty with customers who look to you for large travel expenditures. 

What’s next in AI for travel

There’s no doubt that we’re only at the beginning of what generative AI can do to enhance the travel industry. Looking ahead, these powerful tools will only continue to get more sophisticated. 

We’re likely to see more travel-tailored AI platforms powered by medium-sized language models trained on this specific vertical. As a result, the quality and accuracy of what generative AI chatbots can do for your travel support is only set to increase. You can expect to find highly specialized providers not only in the travel industry but even in your specific niche or customer persona.

As generative AI becomes further integrated into your business processes, it is also likely that the tech around model connectivity will continue to improve to match the needs of the companies who use it.

What does this mean in practice?

When incorporating generative AI into your support stack, you can connect it to multiple knowledge sources simultaneously to ensure it gives the best possible answers. 

We also expect to see more comprehensive automation platforms that blend a hybrid of generative AI and conversation design to give customers the right balance of speed and precision in their automation processes and flow. 

Finally, ticket automation is a channel you’ll want to keep your eye on in the coming months. Email is a channel that travel customers continue to rely on for its async accessibility. While we’ve focussed on chatbots, enterprising travel companies will implement ticket and email automation to ensure customers get the support they need on this tried and true channel. 

Automation can prove especially useful when it comes to clearing your backlog, providing faster support, and helping agents handle manual tasks in your backend, like populating, merging, and tagging.

Future-proof your support

With the market size of generative AI in the travel industry set to grow exponentially over the next few years, it’s no longer a matter of whether you should adopt this tech but when. As we have seen, innovative industry leaders from Expedia and GetYourGuide to Megabus and Finnair have already benefited from taking the plunge. 

There’s a growing list of use cases where these tools prove beneficial, including helping customers manage bookings faster, providing them with multilingual support on their preferred channels, serving up conversational responses to questions about booking policies, and more. 

You’ll be able to boast better overall CX for your customers, improve your agents’ job satisfaction by taking repetitive tasks off their plates, and continue to provide quality support as you scale.

The best part is that with generative AI, you can do all this more easily than ever before. With time being of the essence in a growing and competitive industry, there’s no better way to future-proof your support — regardless of seasonal spikes or unexpected challenges.

Curious about generative AI’s potential? Discover how generative AI is revolutionizing e-commerce and reshaping the digital marketplace.

Edited by Jigmee Bhutia

منبع: https://learn.g2.com/generative-ai-in-travel