Adult avatars and chatbots
Users simply need to open Facebook Messenger (on the web or on a smartphone) and type in Expedia or @Expedia into the “To:” field.
You then tell the bot a bit about your travel plans, and the bot will follow up with questions.
In a previous article, we discussed in more detail how these chatbots are developed. One industry in which chatbots are booming is the travel industry. A common type of travel bot is the customer service bot that accompanies a travel chain’s website or a travel booking site. They are far from intelligent and might invoke the same kind of rage that you get when you are on the phone with an automated customer service system for an hour and you help users navigate a company’s website efficiently and answer some common questions. K.-based site that allows users to book beach holidays by searching for the best hotel and flight deals, has Alison—a virtual chatbot who is (obviously) available to you around the clock and can answer hundreds of common user questions.
KLM has built code on their website that allows Facebook to show the KLM Messenger plugin to customers on the KLM site.
When you are booking or checking in to a flight, you will automatically be opted in to the plugin (although you can uncheck the box to opt out).
While the female avatars that greet you on the Copa and Amtrak websites can help with basic customer service questions, the rash of chatbots being developed for use through Facebook Messenger and Slack (a messenging app for workplace communication) offer a different experience.
The Facebook and Slack travel bots are generally for travel search companies such as Expedia and Skyscanner, and these chatbots are a bit smarter, in the sense that they actually help you book travel through conversation—rather than just showing you where to go on a website to book.
If you visit the TAP Portugal website (a site that focuses on flight deals to popular destinations such as Portugal and Brazil), you’ll find the chatbot Sofia waiting to answer your questions at the top of the page in a search bar.
Ask a question, and a pop-up appears with an answer.
When you enter a destination, the bot breaks down flights into categories: cheapest, shortest, and best. For flights, the bot will return the average cheapest flight, and you are directed to the Cheap Flights website to book.
You can also type “anywhere” to get some interesting suggestions. Once you indicate your date and location for a hotel search, you can search by price range.
Want a digital personal shopping assistant who can deliver an anniversary gift to your spouse? Want the weather forecast texted to you throughout the day? Yet, there’s controversy as to whether or not these bots are as smart as they appear. How many questions will the bot ask you before you give up and just go buy the gift yourself? They have pre-programmed interactions that allow users to interact in a (generally) natural way with the A. Many argue that we have a long way to go before these bots are useful and efficient and can actually handle the nuances of human questions and their expectations for acceptable answers. Joshua March, founder and CEO of Conversocial, argues that “messenger bots today aren’t really A. They’re just a different [User Interface] accessed inside a messaging thread.” Yet, he suggests, that doesn’t mean bots aren’t useful. Dany Agostinho, Innovation Senior Specialist for the Amadeus IT Group, also suggests that “A good customer service bot could save travel companies money by automating tasks and unclogging call centres.” Here, we share our ultimate list of travel bots.