Speak­ing Out: The fu­ture of chat­bots

The Business Travel Magazine - - Contents -

There’s much hype sur­round­ing the rise of chat­bots, but is 2018 the year of wide­spread adop­tion? Mezi’s Johnny Thorsen puts for­ward the case

Un­til now the travel in­dus­try hasn’t been able to take ad­van­tage of the un­lim­ited num­ber of cus­tomer in­ter­ac­tions pro­cessed via on­line travel solutions. In fact, all we knew about a user when they booked via a browser-based or mo­bile app is who they were and what they bought (or at least what they searched for). Travel plan­ning lends it­self per­fectly to the au­to­ma­tion and per­son­al­i­sa­tion that ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and ma­chine learn­ing can pro­vide. AI can help un­der­stand the trav­eller’s pref­er­ences like a hu­man travel agent can, while ma­chine learn­ing can help fine­tune the most per­son­alised rec­om­men­da­tions based on the trav­eller’s pref­er­ences and in­stant anal­y­sis of large num­bers of sim­i­lar con­ver­sa­tions from the past. As a re­sult, I ex­pect to see chat­bots rep­re­sent­ing 20% or more of trans­ac­tions in the cor­po­rate book­ing world by 2020.

So, what does this mean for hu­man jobs? As the pres­ence of chat­bots in­creases, so does the fear that AI will re­place many jobs. How­ever, AI will never re­place hu­man ex­per­tise com­pletely. AI, ma­chine learn­ing and al­go­rithms are de­vel­oped to do spe­cific tasks, but can­not think on their own or beyond what has been pro­grammed to be pro­cessed. The tech­nol­ogy does not have the com­plex sys­tems of a hu­man mind. While job func­tions for hu­mans may shift, or new jobs may be cre­ated due to AI, ro­bots will never com­pletely take over.

For in­stance, there will be sce­nar­ios in which it fails to un­der­stand the trav­eller’s need ac­cu­rately and as­sume the wrong pref­er­ences. In such sce­nar­ios, it's im­por­tant re­quests are seam­lessly trans­ferred in­stantly to a hu­man travel agent so that the ser­vice never fails even if the AI fails. Cur­rently, with Mezi, 60% of re­quests are han­dled with­out hu­man in­ter­ven­tion and we hope to shift that to 80% look­ing ahead to 2018. With these un­cer­tain­ties loom­ing, who will em­brace chat­bots? Fre­quent busi­ness trav­ellers and mil­len­ni­als are drawn to book­ing tools

that utilise AI and ma­chine learn­ing be­cause they pro­vide con­ve­nience. The im­me­di­acy of the process is fa­cil­i­tated through a text mes­sage-style in­ter­face, which is how most peo­ple are used to com­mu­ni­cat­ing on a day-to-day ba­sis. In fact, AI for travel pro­vides a re-launch of the “per­sonal travel as­sis­tant” back in the dig­i­tal ver­sion.

Mil­len­ni­als and very fre­quent trav­ellers are used to heavy mul­ti­task­ing. To them, the idea of be­ing forced to re­main ac­tive in a travel search for mul­ti­ple min­utes to avoid a “ses­sion time­out” is very frus­trat­ing. Chat tech­nol­ogy re­moves the re­quire­ment as con­ver­sa­tions can re­main ac­tive for hours and even days mak­ing it far more com­pelling to use in a mul­ti­task­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

De­spite the ar­rival of smart­phones some ten years ago we haven’t re­ally changed the process and work­flow as­so­ci­ated with travel search­ing and book­ing.

AI chat­bot tech­nol­ogy makes it pos­si­ble to fi­nally cre­ate a truly per­sonal end-to-end travel ex­pe­ri­ence. Once users re­alise that they ac­tu­ally get a more per­sonal ser­vice based on their past be­hav­ior and de­ci­sion­mak­ing they will find it in­creas­ingly hard to go back and use a ser­vice which doesn’t of­fer this ca­pa­bil­ity.

While job func­tions for hu­mans may shift, or new jobs may be cre­ated due to AI, ro­bots will never com­pletely take over”

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