How AI is Helping TravelBird Remake its Customer Service

At the online travel agency, AI is being used with a twist – it aims to help humans do their jobs better – rather than replace them.

Todd Weiss

April 25, 2017

3 Min Read
How AI is Helping TravelBird Remake its Customer Service

Online travel agency TravelBird has been so swamped with business in recent months that it began looking for ways to free up time for its 100 travel advisors so they can continue to assist their customers while still finding time to answer a constant flood of incoming text chats and other social media inquiries.

It's all part of TravelBird's mission to work closely with its customers, helping them to carefully plan and research unique travel opportunities they likely would not have found on their own, Fiona Vanderbroeck-Vernooij, who heads travel service and care for the company, told ITPro.

The problem was that the company's travel agents had become so overloaded with incoming texts and other social media messages seeking information on flight changes, airport gates, rental cars and other topics that they were being taxed to keep up with the high level of service being sought by the company, she said.

To battle that trend, the company began looking at how technology could help. After a search, it found DigitalGenius, which offers its Human+AI Customer Service platform that works with either Salesforce or ZenDesk customer service products to automate many of the repetitive tasks customer service agents face every day. 

For Amsterdam-based TravelBird, that meant using the DigitalGenius platform with ZenDesk, which the company was already using for its customer service tickets.

"AI for us was interesting," said Vanderbroeck-Vernooij. The DigitalGenius application uses algorithms to evaluate and catalog TravelBird's existing customer service ticket records so the data can be used to automate responses to incoming social media queries from customers. By providing those automated responses, the latest customer questions can be answered through the reuse of past answers to similar frequently-asked-questions.

"It unlocks the time they have to really serve our customers and travelers," Vanderbroeck-Vernooij said of the company's travel advisors. "We are known for providing awesome service. That's why we want to invest in that technology. We want to be front-runners regarding not only customer service, but also our technology development."

By using DigitalGenius, TravelBird's travel advisors can focus on their work to help customers find their dream trips, rather than spending lots of time handling administrative tasks such as tagging incoming social media requests for future use, she said.

TravelBird just launched its DigitalGenius deployment earlier in April, so agents are still getting acquainted with the service. "They love the idea and they already see they don't have to add tags," giving them more time to directly serve customers, she added. "It serves up the best possible answer to the agent, who can then send it to a customer" via social media without having to take extra steps. "It saves time sand creates more time for personal, interesting interaction."

Mikhail Naumov, co-founder and chief strategy officer at DigitalGenius, told ITPro that that idea for the company's Human+AI customer service platform is to use AI to work beside human workers rather than replacing them with something like chatbots. The automated processes conducted by DigitalGenius can be done more accurately than by hand, while human workers can also recover as much time as possible to do their core jobs, he said. 

"You have these human agents who are getting paid money to be there and instead of helping customers, they are doing all these mundane tasks," said Naumov. "We let people do more meaningful things."

The DigitalGenius application learns from the data it is given, so it can continue to better serve customers as it gains more knowledge from past and future customer service interactions, he said. The application does not work for voice calls which are made to customer service agents.

TravelBird serves travelers in 11 countries and in 10 languages, and has helped about 5 million travelers so far since its start in 2010. It has about 500 employees, including 100 travel advisors.

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