Conversation Design starts with User Context

Two months after launching their flight booking chabot, airline X (true story, name not important) was disappointed with the results; it wasn’t getting much interest.

What went wrong?

The strength of a chatbot or a voicebot is conversation and sometimes conversation is an inferior engagement method.

Conversation design starts with user context.

In the image below, the top right quadrant of a frequent flyer (a.k.a. status flyer) customer journey is the pre-travel zone. It’s an information presentation and transaction zone. I chose status flyers because they are more likely to use an airline app, which comes into the story later.

A chatbot/voicebot doesn’t add value to the customer experience in the pre-travel booking zone.  On the contrary, it adds friction versus the current method of eyeballing your options in a web browser.

A well executed web page is optimized to leverage our sense of vision to quickly digest a lot of information. In seconds we can zero in on flights of interest and move forward.

A bite-sized, back and forth conversation with a bot would be a painful alternative to scanning this nicely organized web page. 

Conversation AI starts to look more interesting when our flyer arrives at the airport.

Keep customers within brand?

Status flyers live out of their airline app while on the go. Why not leverage that devotion to keep them within your native brand experience for as much of their journey as possible?

Adding a microphone icon to a mobile app and connecting it to a natural understanding engine can turn an app into an AI-powered voicebot. That same natural language engine could also power conversation AI during other phases of the customer journey where it would be helpful.

Airlines and hotels have a long history of relying on third parties leading up to the point of sale. The new era of conversation AI introduces a window of opportunity for travel service providers to deepen their customer relationships through more of the customer journey.

When considering a chatbot or voicebot take some time to map the customer journey to

  • Understand where and if conversation truly improves the customer experience. Conversation must reduce UX friction.
  • Consider how conversation AI can be integrated with your existing systems to make them more useful and engaging.
  • Look for opportunities outside the air travel window where you can add value to enhance the customer relationship.
  • Look for other opportunities where conversation AI can add value to the business, for example conversational feedback instead of an NPS survey.

If you’ve already deployed a chatbot that is under performing have another look at the possibilities throughout the entire customer journey. Shifting it to a place where it delivers real value to the user could breathe life into it.

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