The Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Crush and AI

Written by Can Ozdoruk  on   Oct 17, 2019

What smart and Creative Airlines are doing in customer service right now

Want quick service with travel woes? Tweet loudly. Airlines have made a conscious choice to prioritize needs of noisy complainers but setting up dedicated teams to respond to social support requests. The question is, can airlines scale this support effort to reach a broader customer base – especially during the Thanksgiving crush?  

Airlines are slammed during the holidays. Last year, over 54 million Americans traveled for Thanksgiving. People traveling by air grew by 5.4% to 4.27 million travelers1. While 2019 estimates are not out yet, it’s anticipated that this growth will continue. 

This holiday season, conversational chatbot AI in chat, email, and online channels may be the ticket.

Can Conversational AI Deliver A Two Minute Rebooking?

It’s past midnight. A weary passenger is stranded at Los Angeles International Airport. Instead of standing in a long line to talk to a human customer service agent, she sends the airline a DM on Twitter. She’s rebooked within two minutes. Say what?

American Airlines rebooked a passenger within minutes.

This passenger story was included in a New York Times article which suggested to readers that in order to get a fast response from an airline, travelers should tweet or write a Facebook post. Forget the phone. Forget the lines at an airport service desk.

Between agonizing hold times to speak to a human agent (a friend of mine recently waited on hold for 6 hours to find lost luggage), endless phone trees and hours-long responses to a customer support email, customer service for airlines is often incredibly frustrating for passengers. That is, unless it’s on social media. (Of course, there are still grievances about support on social media, but it’s the best option for customers today). The really good news is that Conversational AI can actually perform a similar task, without requiring any human interaction at all. Ask WestJet about how they do it. 

Airlines Are Mastering Social Support. Can They Extend That?

When it comes to customer service for airlines, immediacy tops everything for customers.

Whether it’s the procrastinator frantically trying to figure out if she can bring her skis with her on the flight five minutes before her Uber arrives to take her to the airport, or the frustrated passenger hopelessly stranded after she missed her connection, travelers need quick resolutions. 

Click here to learn how a travel chatbot solution can help them get the answer they need quickly… and help your organization cut down on resolution time.

Southwest Listening Center

Perpetuated by the public shaming and battered brand reputation of customer service gripes that go viral, airlines have staffed up to monitor, flag and respond to customers on social media in real-time. For example, Southwest Airlines has it’s Listening Center and American Airlines’ has its Integrated Operations Center. These divisions were created with the purpose of bringing together hybrid teams of customer service and operations reps. These teams listen to what customers are saying, identify needs and resolve issues. Simple!

In fact, customer support teams now own the social media at 44% of global airlines. This is up from 26% one year ago, when more marketing teams owned social2.

Just as airlines are grasping how to deal with public shaming and complaints, customers are moving to private messages. Gartner predicts that requests for customer support through consumer messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and Twitter DM will exceed requests through public feeds3 .

The Holiday Airline Customer Service Playbook

There is no higher-stakes period of customer support for airlines than the infamous Thanksgiving Day travel rush. The busiest travel period of the entire year, any snafus during Thanksgiving Rush grab headlines. Nasty tweets and videos invariably go viral. 

To alleviate tension and resolve any issues that arise, the smartest airlines are turning to AI this holiday season. AI turns customer support into a real-time, synchronous conversation. It eliminates hold times. AI relieves some workload from stretched human agents.

Bringing AI customer service into the workforce enables customers to get instant answers to questions like how to check skis or car seats, immediately, as they come in. When airlines are deploying Conversational AI, these simple and repetitive customer questions will be diverted from the busy human agents’ queues. As customers grow more accustomed to AI-powered support, they start to appreciate the same immediacy they’ve given to social media to other channels – whether it’s AI voice, email, chat or 1:1 messaging.


Discover the best help desk software solutions today.


Even more sophisticated airlines are using AI to proactively communicate to specific travelers. Examples include sending real-time alerts of security line wait times to travelers who have a flight coming up out of busy airports. Airlines can also deploy AI to automatically alert people about traffic delays around airports to ensure people leave themselves enough time. (For those traveling out of LAX around Thanksgiving, good luck)4. This proactive customer care powered by AI helps make the travel day smoother for passengers, and prevent issues from arriving (i.e., the need to rebook a missed flight).

Full-loop closure of automated messages about delays, cancellations

While airlines already are automating emails or texts when a flight is delayed. The smartest airlines take this one step further. They enable this automated customer service message to become a two-way conversation. If a passenger asks a question like “Is it still departing out of the same gate” or “Is there another flight I can get on?” a Conversational AI  agent could answer these questions or escalate to a human agent when needed.

Make passengers thankful for quick resolutions

With the surge in customers, comes a surge in customer issues and needs. Call centers and customer support agents are slammed. 

The impact of bringing AI Into the workforce is huge. Human agents are more satisfied as AI eliminates mundane work, and customers are happier. In one example, WestJet  sees more than 50% of all inquiries handled by Juliet, the airline’s virtual assistant. The Canadian airline has also seen consumer engagement sky-rocket and customer satisfaction jump by 24%. 

Interested in learning more about how an AI chatbot platform is the key to four-star service and five star reviews in the travel industry? Download our ebook here.

 References 

  1. AAA: More than 54 Million Americans to Travel This Thanksgiving https://newsroom.aaa.com/tag/thanksgiving-travel-forecast/ 
  2. Airline Social Media Outlook Report
    https://app.box.com/s/05qb5rksjxey6ric56arkihipu6yui7a
  3. Conversocial: The Social Messaging Advantage  https://www.conversocial.com/hubfs/TheSocialMessagingAdvantage.pdf
  4. Travel & Leisure: Thanksgiving Travel By the Numbers https://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/thanksgiving-travel-numbers-statistics

Can Telecom Customer Service Be Turned Around By AI?

Written by Dylan Max  on   Oct 8, 2019

A Look At The Opportunity For Customer Service Automation In Telecom

Customer service in telecom remains one of the worst in any industry. Can it be helped by better leveraging customer service automation?

According to the American Customer Satisfaction Survey, customer satisfaction with subscription television service peaked in 2013 at a score of 68 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s 100-point scale. Since then, it has wavered. The industry is now stagnant at an ACSI score of 62, tied with internet service providers for the last place among all industries tracked by the ACSI.”1

This boils down to a high volume of incidences, inconsistency across channels and issues, and long resolution times. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the best and most scalable means for telecom companies to provide the support that customers demand today. 

The Telecom Customer Support Landscape 

Every month, I get an automated alert from my phone carrier letting me know my credit card is being charged. If I respond to the text message with a related question – say why it’s higher this month than last –  crickets. I never get a response. 

And it’s not something specific to me. While telecom companies are trying to provide good customer experiences and have put it at the top of their strategies, customers like me still feel frustrated. The sheer thought of having to call my phone carrier with a billing question or my broadband provider when I have a connectivity issue makes me want to shudder.  

So why is it so hard for telecom companies to provide a positive customer experience? 

Volume and Reach 

If you look at the top ten searches related to customer service on Google, five are telecom companies.

Telecom companies represent 78% of the top 5 searches by volume in the United States over the last 12 months. Search results provided by Google’s Keyword Planner in September 2019.

You did not read this wrong. 919,000 people try to understand what’s wrong with their Verizon service every month in the US. 

Telecom customer service queries make up over 78% of the top five customer service queries and 63% of the top 10. 

Whether it’s issues related to billing, being charged for a service a customer never signed up for, service issues, installation requests, or collecting personal information, telecom companies are inundated with customer needs. What’s more, support is now expected on an increasing number of channels. Customer service chatbots are now expected to work over email support, social, chat, and voice. 

Fragmentation is Frustrating

Great segmentation within the business also leads to poor customer service. Customers interact with different business groups. This leads to inconsistency, fragmentation, and frustration. For instance, a person is often asked to provide contact information multiple times as they get passed around to the right department. Also, the tone of employees that your customers interact with varies greatly. In contrast, the sales process is enjoyable and fast. When a customer wants to cancel their contract or make changes to an account, it’s slow and frustrating. 

Providing a seamless, consistent experience is fundamental to high customer satisfaction (CSAT).

The Risk Of Poor Telecom Customer Service Has Never Been Higher 

Providing a positive customer experience is tied directly to customer retention.  A McKinsey + Company’s Report found that satisfied customers are 80% more likely than unsatisfied customers to renew their policies 2

Consumers overwhelmingly don’t have an emotional connection to telecom companies. To your customer, there’s little differentiation in service, quality or price. 

The cost to switch to another provider is lower than ever, and there are more competition and choice today. Just consider the rise of cord-cutting, as cable providers lose a staggering 14,000 customers per day 3. WeChat and others are also emerging as competitive alternatives to SMS customer service. Customers are not afraid to look for alternatives.

Customer Service is the Key 

With this convergence of factors, customer service excellence is what can get someone to stick around. According to PWC, “even when people love a company or product, 59% will walk away after several bad experiences, 17% after just one bad experience4.” 

If getting in touch with a company is frustrating or if customers are not treated nicely, they will churn. A competitively-priced alternative is a click away. 

How Automation in Telecom Can Drive Higher CSAT

The average wait time to reach a call center agent for a telecom company is 5 minutes. Only 44% of operators offer web chat as a support option. When you hear stats like these, it makes sense that telecom is failing at customer service 5. Our society expects effortless, on-demand, and personalized experiences. 

Incorporating AI for customer experience into the workforce can help resolve over 50% of customer service issues instantly. Think about high-volume, mundane and repetitive queries. These can be eliminated from your human agent’s workflow so they can resolve high-touch and complex issues faster. Examples of Telecom workflows that can be delegated to AI include:  

  • Top-up or recharge: Enable customers to replenish mobile account data instantly. 
  • Modify plans: Whether it’s adding a line, changing plans or adding roaming for an upcoming international trip, AI connects in real-time to back-end systems to close tickets. 
  • Incentives to churning customers: Only 28% of telecom companies offer an incentive to avoid churning 5. An AI Agent identifies which churning customers are high-value and worth the cost of an incentive. The AI Agent offers a promotion at the initial termination request. 
  • Account termination: A customer terminates a contract, AI easily communicates with the customer and makes updates on the back-end. There’s no delay in completing a request. The relationship ends on a positive note. 
  • Billing questions: A customer has a question on a new charge or why the amount changed from month-to-month. An AI Agent either responds immediately or gathers necessary data before elevating to human agents. 
  • Network issues: An AI Agent reactively gives updates to a customer about an issue or proactively lets someone know about planned service and outages. 
  • Delivery fulfillment: Conversational AI agents keep customers updated on the status of new hardware or parts. 
  • Product / Service research: For prospective customers, an AI Agent guides a customer through the discovery and research process. It helps people compare plans. A Virtual agent drives profitability through up-selling. 
  • Reduce truck roll: AI Agents help customers help themselves. They can help troubleshoot issues, activate a SIM card or reconfigure equipment.

We Are Data Addicts

Whether we’re streaming TV or reading the news on the go, we’re consuming data 24/7. Telecom companies provide services that are fundamental to our lives. We expect swift resolutions when there’s an issue. Negative customer experiences boost churn and can cause brand degradation over time. Positive customer experiences can keep customers around. 

Customer service automation empowers telecom companies to put the experience of their consumers first. Let us show you how quickly we can launch a powerful support organization run by human and machine intelligence. Schedule a demo with Netomi’s chatbot platform.

References 

  1. American Customer Satisfaction Index: https://www.theacsi.org/news-and-resources/customer-satisfaction-reports/reports-2019/acsi-telecommunications-report-2018-2019/acsi-telecommunications-report-2018-2019-download 
  2. McKinsey & Company: Customer Experience – New Capabilities, New audiences, New Opportunities https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/featured%20insights/Customer%20Experience/CX%20Compendium%202017/Customer-experience-compendium-July-2017.ashx
  3. BGR: Cord Cutting Statistics 2019 https://bgr.com/2019/05/09/cord-cutting-statistics-2019/
  4. PWC: Experience is everything. Get it right. https://www.pwc.com/us/en/services/consulting/library/consumer-intelligence-series/future-of-customer-experience.html?
  5. KPMG: Still Searching for a Better Customer Experience https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/xx/pdf/2017/07/searching-for-a-better-customer-web.pdf//

How retailers can win customer service this holiday season with AI

Written by Can Ozdoruk  on   Oct 3, 2019

AI in Retail: Leverage Machine Intelligence to scale customer service teams to manage the influx of tickets, offering 24/7 support 

The greatest innovation in the e-commerce space in the last decade just might be the retail chatbot (though it goes by many names). No matter what you call it, AI is the ultimate seasonal hire for retailers.

The holiday shopping season is a golden time of year for retailers of all sizes. November and December represent 20 to 40% of yearly sales for small and mid-sized retailers1. This year, eMarketer predicts a US retail spending growth of 3.7% to $1.035 trillion during the holiday season2. With over 60% of shoppers planning to do more than half of their shopping online, the influence eCommerce has is undeniable3.   

To protect this incredible growth in e-commerce sales, retailers need to leverage AI customer service to boost customer happiness, decrease returns and scale high-quality support through this hectic shopping season. 

The seasonal surge in customer service tickets 

Naturally, the holidays are the busiest time of year for customer service. More customers + more sales = more potential issues. BigCommerce found that between October and December, companies see a 75% increase in average daily customer service volume4

Most retailers are not set up to effectively manage this surge in customer service tickets. This can lead to long delays – hours or even days. Seasonal agents who are new to protocols and navigating various systems often provide inconsistent support. This can hurt first contact resolution and average handle time metrics. 

Even though there might be many celebrations during the holiday season, customers are not always merry, especially when they have a question or issue. They don’t have time to interrupt their lives to find a way to contact your company. They don’t want to wait hours for a response. During the busy holiday season, providing effortless support is even more critical to improving your brand reputation and ultimately customer happiness.

Holiday AI in Retail Use Cases 

Fifty-six percent of people actually say gift shopping is the most stressful part of the holidays5. Retailers can establish themselves as heroes in their customers’ eyes by resolving issues quickly. Bringing AI into the customer service workforce enables retailers to respond immediately – within seconds. Our clients generally see over 50% of incoming issues span 5-7 use cases. 

  • Help the last minute shopper: It’s reported that nearly 30% of holiday sales are from last minute shoppers6. AI can help these procrastinators track their order (Help! I’m leaving tomorrow. Will my gift arrive before then?). A virtual agent can also recommend gifts to make them feel confident in their purchase. 
  • Facilitate returns: Nearly 30% of all gifts purchased are returned7. A virtual agent can help a customer throughout the returns process, answering questions about company policy and eligibility. (Learn more about how AI can work well with RMA platforms to uplift the returns process here). 
  • Price adjustments and matching: During the holiday season, a lot of people shop around. If your business offers price adjustments and matching, a virtual agent can act as the first line of defense. It can gather information or request necessary proof before a human agent takes over to refund an account.  
  • Proactively reach out to get in front of issues: If a package is going to be delayed or gets damaged, a virtual agent can proactively reach out to customers to let them know of the issue and what’s being done to remedy the situation. This helps to maintain customer satisfaction as you address the problem, while underscoring that your company appreciates their business.  
  • Store finders and hours of operations: Stores usually have extended hours throughout the shopping season, which are not always updated on search engines. A virtual agent can link to internal systems to pull the most accurate data. 

There are many AI in retail use cases, but the ones above have particular importance during the busy holiday season. Consumers spend on average $1,226 on holiday gifts8. When considering customers will change their buying decisions based on the customer service they receive (pre-and post sale), it becomes clear that support needs to be a strategic part of the retailer holiday playbook.

You should deploy an AI-powered virtual agent to satisfy the increased demands of your customers this holiday season. As ticket volume skyrockets, your customers will expect quicker, more convenient service. Delegate high-volume, costly repeatable customer queries to AI and let human agents focus on more complex needs. Give time back to your customers and agents. It’s the best gift of all. 

It’s not too late to bring AI into your customer service workforce using a chatbot platform. Get in touch today to scale high-quality support that delights your customers while empowering human agents to work faster. 

To get more of our insights on retail customer service before you contact us to request a demo.

References 

  1. Constant Contact: 30 Holiday Shopping Stats That Every Small Business Owner Needs to See (https://blogs.constantcontact.com/holiday-email-examples/)  
  2. eMarketer: US 2018 Holiday Season Review and 2019 Preview, February 21, 2019 (https://www.emarketer.com/content/us-2018-holiday-season-review-and-2019-preview)
  3. Digital Commerce 360: Holiday e‑commerce 2018 data analysis in 10 charts, January 24, 2019 (https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/2019/01/14/holiday-season-ecommerce-analysis/)
  4. Big Commerce: Make Customer Service Your Most Valuable Asset This Holiday Season (https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/holiday-customer-service/#customers-know-youre-busy-and-they-dont-care) 
  5. University Hospitals: The Most Concerning Holiday Stress Statistics, November 29, 2018
  6. Big Commerce: How to Ease Holiday Shipping Anxiety for You and Your Customers & Holiday Shipping Deadlines for 2019 (https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/holiday-shipping/)
  7. Small Biz Trends: Final 2017 Holiday Sales Figures Show Best Season in 4 Years, January 15, 2018 (https://smallbiztrends.com/2018/01/final-2017-holiday-sales-figures.html)
  8. The Wordstream Blog: 14 Holiday Shopping Stats to Help You Plan in 2018, August 8, 2019 (https://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2018/10/10/holiday-shopping-statistics-2018)