Chatbots are a potential route to billions of consumers but travel brands are failing to fully take advantage of their possibilities, according to a recent report from EyeforTravel and Travelaer titled Are Bots Worth the Bother?
The report investigated how many travel brands have used Facebook Messenger to deliver customer service, and how many bookings were secured. The might of Facebook, which has seen its share price rise by 30% in the last six months, has not been missed. Today 93% of airlines have a Facebook page and 81% a Messenger link. But it seems that many don’t want to talk about it. Of the 206 airlines contacted, only 38% responded to messages and a third of those took at least a week to reply.
Of the airlines that did respond via Facebook, most used generic messages pointing to their website or reservation team, but did not necessarily include links or numbers.
Airlines are not alone
The report notes that airlines are not alone – to date no vertical in the travel space is fully taking advantage.
Companies are, however, beginning to get a handle on replying to customers. Nearly two-thirds of airline brands (64.1%) are responding to customers within 24 hours, ahead of hotels, airlines and car rental companies in that order.
Hotels also performed well with 81% of the brands monitored saying they responded in under week. However, when it came to driving potential customers to booking, both airlines and hotels fared less well. Just under half of online travel agencies (OTAs) provided assistance for booking through a Messenger chatbot, compared to 18.8% of car rentals, 15.2% of hotels, and 8.7% of airlines.
The report recommends that brands move to invest in chatbots as consumers are increasingly spending time on social media and messenger services.
In addition, they are gradually beginning to expect interaction via these platforms. The upside for travel and tourism brands is that, if done correctly, these channels can deliver low cost bookings, while easing the burden on customer service. However, with Facebook beginning to insert more adverts in apps like Messenger, travel companies will need to be conscious of how consumers respond to this. So as Facebook reports earnings this week, travel brands should be looking to read between the lines to understand where one of the world’s three most valuable internet companies is headed next.
Other insights to be gleaned from the report include:
How market conditions are creating an environment ripe for chatbots
How many chatbots are deployed with travel brands currently and what level of functionality they have
How they work, what tasks they can perform, and where their limits are
What the costs associated with a chatbot are and how it can help your brand save money
How chatbots can improve customer service
What effect they are currently having and will have on the travel industry