How loveholidays used AI to turn frowns upside down

How loveholidays used AI to turn frowns upside down 2000 1304 Ben McCulloch

Hot air balloons flying in the blue sky.

The travel industry is not known for treating its customers particularly well. You only have to check the news to see examples of stranded holidaymakers. Most people go on holidays for relaxation, so this contrast only gets amplified when people vent their frustrations about poor service.

A portrait photo of Eugene wearing a dark top. Eugene Neale, Director of Business IT and CX Engineering at loveholidays, gave a talk on the VUX World stage at the European Chatbot and Conversational AI Summit where he showed how loveholidays improved things in leaps and bounds with its chatbot, Sandy.


Turning a negative into a positive

As Eugene explained, the travel industry’s reputation for poor customer service was an opportunity.

What stood out to Eugene’s team was that customers booked their holidays well in advance of the actual trip. This meant there was plenty of time for potential issues to arise (such as customers wanting to change their travel dates), which would lead to more customer service interactions.

loveholidays aimed to improve key areas of the customer experience, such as compensation for travel-related problems, in the hope it would lead to happier customers.

Also, as with many industries, there’s a shortage of live agents in contact centres. The travel industry often experiences spikes during peak seasons too. Eugene’s team knew that conversational AI could help here. If the chatbot could cover most interactions, that would allow their live agents to tackle the more complicated customer chats.

Eugene has also observed a growing willingness among customers to talk with machines. They tend to trust information provided by machines without bias, too.

Sandy knows what to do

So, they knew the customer’s pains (issues can arise in the time between a customer booking their holiday and when they finally leave for the trip), they had rationale for automating conversations (a shortage of call centre staff) and they had a use case: helping with compensation for travel-related problems.

To solve these issues, they created their chatbot (playfully called ‘Sandy’) who is the customer’s first point of contact at loveholidays.

They worked hard on Sandy’s persona. While people may perceive holidays as luxury experiences, the industry is dominated by low-cost travellers. loveholidays knew that Sandy should exceed expectations to improve this perception.

They also wanted Sandy to be personalised to every customer. Sandy will greet customers by name, and each customer’s specific likes and dislikes inform the way that Sandy communicates with them. loveholidays believe that this personal touch builds trust and enhances the customer experience.

Eugene Neale on the stage of VUX @ The European Chatbot and Conversational Summit 2023 in Edinburgh

Chatbots can even surprise their creators

The personalisation of Sandy’s customer interactions has also led to increased revenue for loveholidays. Eugene’s team experimented with using Sandy to upsell to customers. The team were doubtful that this would succeed, but were quickly proven wrong. They found that building trust and personalising the conversation can support up-selling efforts.

Sandy has a high resolution rate of 70%, meaning that human intervention is not required for 70% of customer interactions. For a large travel company with millions of conversations, that’s a great success.

But it’s not just a matter of Sandy taking over more conversations – Sandy also converses well. Eugene presented data that shows that their conversational AI solution outperforms human agents in various metrics, including resolution time, time to handle, and overall customer satisfaction scores.

Focus on data and personalisation

So what would Eugene recommend to anyone else who wants to adopt conversational AI in their organisation?

It’s all about personalised interactions and a data-driven approach. The two feed into each other.

If you use data effectively, and have it available to the conversational AI system, then conversations improve. The chatbot should know about customers – not just their name, but also what they like, what they don’t like, what they bought before, and more. With that data, you can know them more intimately, and your automated conversations will flow better.

That’s why Eugene and loveholidays believe they’re at the forefront of a new era in customer service, and have the opportunity to significantly improve the travel industry’s reputation and provide better experiences for their customers.

Watch Eugene’s presentation here to learn more.

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