How a Hotel Bookings Platform Transformed Customer Support with Voice AI

Vaccine equity reopened the global tourism gates in 2021, reigniting the wanderlust of travelers, many of whom were keen on holidaying internationally.

Picture this; customer support of leading travel bookings and tourism companies began clocking over thousands of pre-booking queries and inbound calls. In addition to the chats, emails, and other contact touchpoints. The two possible ways to rise to the occasion—scale up contact center support or explore ‘novel automation areas’ beyond the scope of IVRs and Chatbots to help agents answer customers’ questions.

Travelers in the digital age prefer pre-booking research and planning over spontaneity. Even more so, customers simply desire to talk to voice support on the other side of the line, a study confirms.

While IVRs and Chatbots are excellent for very simplistic FAQs, tickets, and status handling, they need to catch up in meeting the expectations of potential travelers with generic discovery queries that can only be addressed effectively via voice conversations with contact center agents. 

However, managing the entire inbound query process over calls is an overpromise that most contact centers can only live up to by draining their agent resources, time, and cost.

From the potential customer’s standpoint, booking during peak seasons, poor agent bandwidth, and long waits at the IVR loop can be frustrating. This ultimately leads to under-delivery of the promise of consistent and quality customer experience (CX), causing poor conversion and mid-call abandonment.

How AI-powered Contact Center Automation is Ideal for Travel Companies

Travel and tourism brands must factor in CX while offering a seamless flow of information on airfares, accommodations, destinations, booking and refund policies, travel safety, and guidelines over inbound voice calls. AI-powered voice automation helps intercept repetitive queries, taking away the lion’s share of the burden from the agents. This way, it augments contact center support teams to meticulously manage time and resources for solving complex customer queries while staying on top of their SLAs. Additionally, travel booking companies can leverage automation to offer more information over voice calls in their inbound support. 

Voice AI, built on powerful AI and Spoken Language Understanding (SLU) algorithms, can guarantee this two-fold benefit for travel and tourism platforms looking to unlock new automation angles in inbound customer support for an impactful CX. In this blog, we will explore the journey of Southeast Asia’s leading hotel bookings and management platform with Voice AI for transforming their inbound CX through seamless voice conversations. 

Explore how Voice AI Empowers Contact Center Agents 

Automating Inbound Customer Support Call with Voice AI 

Before adopting Voice AI, the hotel bookings company had an IVR system that was able to confirm only those customers with booking IDs before connecting them to the agents. The bots could not handle customers looking to fetch pre-booking and pricing details. Due to poor agent bandwidth, the company’s customer support hit its lowest point whenever the call volumes peaked, recording below-par FCR, call containment, and call abandonment rates.

After evaluating market-leading platforms, the travel bookings company chose Voice AI and predefined objectives to empower its customer support team to work across customer intents previously handled by bots. The platform’s powerful AI capabilities helped dive deeper and crystalize goals such as:

  • Automating inbound customer calls with simpler intents, like inquiries about booking status, to improve call containment rates.
  • Implement a solution that will allow the team to handle seasonal surges without hiring more agents.
  • Give customers a seamless experience that would reduce wait times and the likelihood of call abandonment.
  • Handle more query types, even involving customers without an active booking ID.

Discover How Voice AI Transforms Contact Center Automation

Reaching Customers Faster at Less Cost and Agent Workload 

The transformation began with inbound query areas like reservation status inquiries, booking cancellation and modification information, account information, and policies. After Voice AI deployment, the travel bookings company also identified critical areas that can be managed by their bots; new booking, refund status, pricing inquiry, and location details. This made their bots proactive and prescriptive and seamlessly scaled up the query volumes within two weeks of going live!

In the second phase of implementing Voice AI, the call containment rates gradually increased by 75%, opening new avenues in customer self-service. This meant more inbound callers could get their answers faster without impacting the agent productivity and call center costs!

Voice Automation helped the company to save nearly $200,000 on the annual staffing and recruitment budget. They improved HR efficiency and adopted more competent staffing without the additional costs of recruiting agents just for managing calls during peak seasons for the following year. 

Role of Voice AI for Insurance: Streamline Inbound Support

Voice-led Customer Support for Seamless Elasticity and Higher CX

Delivering elastic customer support is another driver for CX for digital brands and businesses. In the travel and tourism industry, especially during peak seasons when the customers are in the pre-booking phase, the bookings platforms and contact centers must be agile to keep up with their changing preferences and low attention spans. Elastic customer support means the platforms and their contact centers are scalable, and the customers do not face poor user experience from frozen applications or busy contact center lines.

To capitalize on the pre-booking queries that are not tied to booking IDs, the hotel bookings firm uncovered new automation angles within customer service and expanded customer support areas with Voice AI. This gave them the agility and flexibility to resolve over a hundred calls, of which the bots handled the majority. In turn, this increased agent productivity, allowing them to focus on answering questions over calls and improving customer loyalty and retention at the pre-booking stage. Local languages integration to the IVR was the additional enhancement using Voice AI that drove the platform’s net promoter score (NPS) up by 71% and reduced call abandonment rates by 54%. 

Our Takeaway:

In today’s pure-play tech world, automating inbound customer support is vital for the judicious disbursement of pre-sales/booking activities. As customer expectations increase, the opportunities for automation are endless. However, travel and tourism firms must create a realistic roadmap and flow route on their platforms for better customer experience and engagement across the entire booking value chain. With AI at work, brands can unleash automation in the right places to drive ‘conversion through conversations’ even with a lean team.

Voice Intelligent platforms, like Voice AI, help join forces critical to customer support, allowing an absolute human and machine partnership.

Are you interested in contact center automation to chart unique customer experiences with our Digital Voice Agent? Use the chat tool to schedule a call with one of our experts.

Rethinking Self-service in the Age of Voice AI 

What’s common among interactive voice response (IVR) systems, ATMs, knowledge base, mobile applications, virtual assistants or chatbots? They are all self-service options that can help dispense answers and resolve queries at lightning speed! Self-service or self-help tools and options make for an empowered customer support team and a loyal customer base. 

Self-service equals simplified customer journeys! 

In a mobile-driven digital economy, a brand’s relevance and value is measured in terms of the speed, convenience and the level of autonomy offered to their customers. Digital self-service is the central objective of today’s automated customer support, but tailored for better CX and performance. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the usage of digitized self-service by customers across demographics accelerated with sudden digital transformation (DX). With newer entrants into the market— more digital native brands, always-on, smartphone users and Gen Z customers, numerous possibilities await businesses using digital self-service in their customer support. As per the recent OnePoll study involving over 10,000 respondents from 11 countries to explore humanity’s shifting relationship with digital tech and experiences:

  • Nearly 58% percent of participants said they will continue their digital brand interactions more than their pre-pandemic levels. 
  • Most study respondents felt that the digital experience was fast and convenient, making it better or on par with the real-world, face-to-face customer service interactions. 
  • Almost 66% reportedly had a ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ experience using online customer service options. 

Diving a little deeper, the research summed up the exact reasons for positive reactions:

  • Instant issue/query resolution (48%).
  • Convenience (46%).
  • Speed (45%).

These findings form the crux of self-service. In this blog we will begin our exploration on why self-service tools are truly adept in capturing customers’ interest, and meeting productivity and performance goals of brands’ customer support. 

Psychology behind Self-service

Self-service is not the same as automation. Sure, digital self-service gives automated responses to repetitive queries in blazing speed. It is not only about allowing customers to resolve things on their own but also empowering them to address them faster. The overall value of the self-service strategy is measured in terms of its impact on CX. The faster, more convenient and more cutting-edge the self-service options, the better would be the CX scores. Moreover, the intuitiveness and simplicity of self-service helps reduce customer effort while solving problems on their own. This lowers the customer effort score (CES), another key metric for frictionless CX!

An intuitive, anytime self-service strategy across the platforms or channels also helps evade a laundry list of options for customer service-related interactions and unnecessary contact with human agents.  This is integral for curbing additional contact center operations costs and allocating resources and human efforts in areas that build proactive and customer-centric impressions.  No wonder, in the U.S. 88% of customers prefer self-service for dealing with their everyday problems. The number is equal to the global average of customers that expect brands and businesses to include a self-service support portal. 

The Most Common Types of Self-service Options

Now, let’s have a look at this run-down of the widely adopted self-service support options.

  1. Knowledge Base and FAQs: Internet-savvy customers leverage business/brands’ digital presence to find their way from the search engine platform to access information in a variety of forms (videos, landing pages, texts, infographics, illustrations, audiobooks, guides, and icons) for problem-solving.   Dedicated FAQ pages that are brief and true-to-context is another form of self-service option that guides customers through specific customer service-related scenarios on the company’s website. 
  1. Integrated Contact Centers: Customer data is created across multiple channels. Integrated contact centers bind sales, contact center agents or other representatives with unified data sharing, collaboration and improved access to customer data across customer journeys and omni-channels for customer service. The intention is to boost CX and reduce the need to repeat information as customers navigate different customer service departments to solve issues on their own. 
  1.  Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Systems: IVRs have existed for more than five decades. They are customer-facing phone systems that offer (inbound and outbound) support with pre-recorded messages and self-service menu responses to customers’ text inputs. They are cost-effective, scalable, and automated alternatives to human agents. 

Move Beyond IVRs: Transform CX with Digital Voice Agents 

  1. Chatbots: Chatbots use text-based or voice interfaces that are integrated to websites or mobile apps’ chat/message window  to interact with customers. They are AI-driven and created based on the planned interaction flow chart to respond to customers in a matter of seconds. 
  1. Mobile Applications: Mobile apps with intuitive and interactive UX and UI give information to customers via dashboards, push notifications and updates in their moments of need, on their mobile devices. 

Voice AI: A Quantum Leap in Self-service 

The common forms of self-service options are the building blocks of the new age customer support. But there’s always the expectation for solutions that drive up the cost savings and operational efficiency while also helping brands’ contact centers meet their CX objectives. Imagine, if brands were able to achieve that while also offering self-service support that was voice-led, personalized, empathetic and proactively responds in real-time! For today’s automation and customer-first era, Skit.ai’s purpose-built Voice AI platform redefines self-service for optimizing customer support not only for better CX but for enhanced employee and business experience. 

Built to enable conversations that are modeled on human interactions for prompt query resolution and personalized caller experiences, Voice AI is a next level of innovation in self-service. It delivers the best of voice experiences for brands through their contact centers that go beyond the capabilities of generic voice bots. 

Voice AI is built to be domain-specific unlike generic voice-first platforms by Amazon and Google. The  spoken language understanding (SLU) layer of Voice AI helps capture short, conversational utterances and is capable of deciphering semantic details that helps identify the right intent.  

Why Every Company Must Have a Voice: Read Now 

How Voice AI Lays the Framework for Self-service 

Voice conversations are the most natural forms of human communication and still remain one of the most sought after brand-customer interactions. Live voice conversations are critical to delivering high-quality customer experience. Customers interacting with self service options such as IVRS and messaging chatbots think before inputting a text command and hit send. Voice AI is a technology built to understand the intricacies of spoken language and not limited to text. It can quickly grasp customers’ voice interactions and filter through pauses and repetitions.

The  Digital Voice Agents plug into the contact centers for automating cognitively routine work and independently resolving tier 1 customer problems. This would aid the human workforce to focus on more complex customer queries and contact centers to adopt intelligent human-machine collaboration. This way customers can stay in control and brands also get to pick the best self-service strategy for delightful CX. 

Now, let’s dig into various features of Voice AI that makes it a better alternative to conventional self-service support:

  • Natural human-like Interaction: Digital voice agents that can mimic human-like conversations and comprehend interactions at a semantic level. It doesn’t feel like interacting with IVRs. It feels like holding conversations with the brands’ contact center agent.
  • Problem Recognition: Customers navigating through the self-service option can feel like they are lost in translation because of the complex IVR loops, limited menus or options that do not cater to their requirements. Sometimes chatbots are built with an ASR layer on top of NLP. They are great for transcriptions, not conversations. They deliver the same experience as going through a rigid IVR system. Digital Voice Agents can understand the right sentiment and nuances of human conversations, allowing the customer support to accurately identify and solve customers’ problems.
  • Always-on, Human Agent-free experience: One of the core value propositions of implementing a digital voice agent is its ability to function 24/7 for the ‘always-on’ customers without the dependency on human agents. This translates to cost savings by automating high-volume, zero-value and repetitive customer queries.
  • Quick Resolution: Self-service platforms optimized by powerful AI-capabilities and strong data sets based on customers data can be used for competitive advantage. It allows fast resolution, impacting customer satisfaction and CX. 
  • Diversify Customer Service at a Lesser Cost: When more problems that are unique in nature can be handled by voice agents and automated, it helps brands’ customer service be a one-stop-shop for addressing customer queries at a fraction of a cost.
  • Smarter Human Resource Allocation: Self service options in contact centers make it easier to address trivial problems or anything that is repetitive in nature using Digital Voice Agents. Human agents can be allocated only for complex customer service issues, allowing for better resource planning and empowered customer support teams.
  • Make Self-service More human: Digital voice agents add a human touch to the overall experience without involving a human. The datasets are designed for SLU and built for domain-specific words which makes it easier to hold contextual conversation with the customers even via self-service options.
  • Hyper-personalize Customer Support: Brands can guarantee hyper personalization leveraging Voice AI’s extensive language support. It helps break spoken language barriers for enhanced query resolution and overall caller experience.

If you still have questions, refer to the infographic below for a brief comparative analysis between Voice AI and three most popular self-service tools.

FeaturesVoice AIIVR Systems Chatbots Mobile Apps 
Primarily Built for Voice Input YesNoNoNo
Analytics and insights CapabilitiesVery HighLowHighLow
Elasticity of Customer Service  HighLowModerateLow
Hyper-personalized and Contextual dialog CapabilityHighLowHighHigh
Handling time Lowest Very HighModerateLow
Quick Query Resolution Quickest Slowest Quick Quick

Our Titbits

Envisioning customer service in the age of self-service is all about setting the right priorities. With the hope of keeping up with the trends for relevancy, brands and businesses need not steer away from their cost, profits and resource management goals. That’s the core objective of reimagining customer self-service using Voice AI. Brands across industries can supercharge their CX with befitting self-service strategies to be more result-oriented and insight-driven to add a competitive edge. 

Our reflections for the future—customers never settle and self-service alone is not enough! Therefore, we believe Voice AI is the most robust and well-rounded technology to improve customer support capabilities that go beyond conventional contact centers, adding a desired level of autonomy and self-sufficiency in customer service. 

Refer to our Voice AI page for more information on actively engaging with your customers and unlocking the power of self-service.  Book a demo with one of our expertswww.skit.ai 

Customer Success for Voice AI: Building Lasting Partnerships

For the second article of our “Meet the Team” series, we sat down with Joseph DeMarzio, one of our Customer Success Managers for the U.S. market. Joe lives in Staten Island, New York, and joined Skit.ai earlier in 2022.

Hi, Joe. Tell me a little about your professional background.

I’ve been working with start-up companies for the last seven years. I’ve specifically worked in the hospitality and travel industry, introducing a suite of tech products tailored to the hotel industry. Within the start-ups I’ve worked with, I’ve taken on many roles, including sales, customer success, technical integration, partnership development, building internal teams, and more.

What is your role at Skit.ai?

I maintain our relationships with our U.S. customers. I manage the onboarding process, product deployment, pilot testing, and KPI achievement. The overall goal of my role is to convert the pilots into long-term customers for Skit.ai; this is done by building a strong relationship. Additionally, I also work on partnership development. This includes managing discussions and integrations with third-party vendors — who help us enhance our product — and third-party sales organizations — who can help us by selling our product on our behalf.

What do you enjoy the most about working for a start-up company?

A CEO once told me that working at a start-up is like flying a plane while building it. That is very much true, as every day is a new challenge, and days are filled with both wins and losses. With that being said, the idea that my work contributes to the long-term success of the company is unrivaled. I love the fact that my input is heard and helps shape the product we are building. Start-ups also allow you to craft the company culture from the ground up. Start-ups grow at a rapid pace and thus it’s key to hire the right people also from the perspective of company culture.

What does a day in the life of a customer success manager look like?

A customer success manager’s responsibility is to bridge the gap between a client and the internal departments within the organization. A typical day starts with going through inquiries from our delivery team in terms of what is needed from the client, as we are responsible for both client onboarding and the life cycle with Skit.ai. Our job throughout the day is to understand and manage our clients’ expectations. We are responsible for keeping the client informed throughout the technical onboarding of the Digital Voice Agent. A customer success manager also focuses on the overall experience of the client through onboarding, testing, and ultimately live periods. We want the client to have financial success with our product as well as enjoy the experience of working with us along the way.

What do you think are the key factors that lead to a successful partnership with a customer?

Communication, transparency, and availability.

  • Frequent communication is healthy in normal relationships as well as business relationships. There should be an open flow of communication throughout the entire life cycle.
  • Transparency is key as you must always be honest with a client. If you are honest they will work with you instead of you feeling like you work for them.
  • Availability in the sense that the client knows they have someone they can always talk to. The experience of working with a “real” person should never be underestimated.

Tell me a fun fact about yourself.

Just one? I have an identical twin brother, my family owns a pizzeria restaurant, I have a JD (law) degree from Touro University, and I am an avid sports fan (specifically the Jets, Nets, Yankees, and Rangers).

Do you want to learn more about Voice AI? Check out our blog.