With generative AI, online travel agencies (OTAs) are gaining a competitive edge by offering personalized customer service and efficient issue resolutions to couple with their extensive range of travel deals and offerings.
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Generative AI has likely been the hottest discussion topic in the travel industry throughout 2023. Companies are pursuing new solutions with urgency as they aim to implement search tools and chatbots that can influence a more seamless booking experience and better customer service interactions.
The challenge with generative AI, as with any game-changing technology, is for companies to deploy quick, purpose-driven roll-outs that also have high functionality and relevance to their customers’ journey. They won’t be able to capture its true value just by using generative AI for the sake of it. And travelers won’t be impressed if they’re unable to get what they want, especially when it comes to customer service issues.
“Similarly to how internet software and e-commerce enabled the emergence of online travel agencies (OTAs), AI has the potential to change how consumers shop for travel products and services,” said Chris Cave, CEO of Justfly. “We expect AI to enable hyper-personalization at scale in a way that is impossible today.”
This article explores how generative AI can give OTAs a competitive edge. Their ability to move quickly and operate deftly in the digital world allows them to lead in this exciting and innovative space while delivering hospitality and personalized service central to the travel industry’s core mission and value proposition.
AI Can Give OTAs New Capabilities for Sales and Service
Booking travel through an OTA often gives customers access to better deals and packages that better suit their unique trip needs, which may be unavailable through direct booking with an airline or hotel — or at the very least more difficult to put together piece by piece. However, if an unexpected hiccup occurs during the journey, some travelers may be unclear on who to call for help: the OTA who sold them the deal, or the travel suppliers themselves.
Justfly has stepped in to alleviate these customer pain points by deploying AI-driven products and services for OTAs. Rapid advancements in generative AI will help OTAs build smarter search result algorithms, which can make intelligent recommendations that best fit customer needs to enhance deals and packages. It can also provide enhanced customer service and after-sales support.
“Travelers increasingly expect seamless and immediate solutions to their travel needs,” said Henri Chelhot, chief revenue officer of Justfly. “AI is critical as it can process vast amounts of data to provide tailored recommendations, automate routine inquiries, and enhance overall customer experience.”
“AI will also streamline and make the overall operations of the company more cost-efficient, thus allowing OTAs to pass those savings on to customers,” added Chelhot.
How OTAs Can Leverage Generative AI Today
Because generative AI is still a relatively new technology — at least in mainstream applications — its capabilities are expected to evolve rapidly over the coming months and years. That’s why it’s important to start experimenting now. The knowledge of and familiarity with these early iterations will allow companies to experiment across different channels and build upon a foundation for the future.
Justfly CEO Cave shared a few important tips with this in mind:
- Start now. Adopt a progressive and/or iterative rollout of the technology while adapting rapidly, based on customer feedback and system performance. In other words, don’t go for a “grand reveal” following months or years of development.
- Think long-term. Develop a system with future capabilities in mind, knowing that the technology will evolve to be more powerful over the coming quarters.
- Test and learn. Expect generative AI to make mistakes. It’s important to have strong visibility and system performance tracking and quality assurance capabilities in place to catch mistakes and avoid misleading customers.
As an example of how Justfly is putting this advice into action, Cave said, “One important expectation for most consumers going forward is the ability to get help in case something goes wrong or they need to make changes to their travel journey.”
There are countless situations where generative AI will be able to step in and handle customer service issues without human intervention — changing a reservation, rebooking a flight, or offering a standard refund, for example. The trick to getting it right is knowing when to flip that switch and bring in a person to handle the more nuanced, complex, or potentially emotionally charged interactions.
To that end, Justfly has developed a platform to monitor and analyze customer interactions via phone and live chat in real time. The technology identifies customer interactions that most need specialized help from human agents to avoid a negative customer experience, and it also monitors live phone and chat agents for quality assurance. In both cases, the technology produces insights across all customer interactions and deploys the necessary coaching and training required to improve agent performance.
Learn more about Justfly.
This content was created collaboratively by Justfly and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.