Published 07 December 2017

by Danilo Nóbrega da Cunha
Expert in travel technology

Service minded chatbots, voice agents and other game changers in travel tech

You might wonder what a Brazilian computer engineer who grew up in Singapore and lived in France for 10 years is doing in Sweden, encouraging customers to try crazy new things like robots and HoloLens? 

Well, it’s a simple answer: I thrive on diversity – exploring new places and cultures, and developing new technology – and Scandinavia is one of the most exciting regions when it comes to experimenting with new solutions. When Scandinavians really believe in something, they go for it and often implement things in weeks and months rather than years like in some other markets.  

As head of Presales for Amadeus Scandinavia, my job is to match customers’ needs with our core technology and innovations from different innovation programs such as the Amadeus Ventures’ portfolio of start-ups. It’s very exciting to see how we can tweak our products and innovations to add more value to our customers’ business.

A great and daunting time to be alive

Today, every single one of us is experiencing a digital revolution as technology (AI, Blockchain, AR, VR, robots, etc…) and business models accelerate around us. Business, legislation, even us individuals are struggling to keep up with all the changes. It is mind-boggling and I believe one of the greatest times to be alive.

It’s also quite daunting, sometimes … implementing new technology and changing the way you have been working for years means big investments in terms of time and money. And, it’s not something you can do alone – it requires plenty of cross-functional teamwork and partnerships. For us, at Amadeus, it means stepping outside our internal bubble, and trying out new proof of concepts with our customers through collaboration projects. 

Chatbots are booming

I can’t give away any trade secrets but I can share a taste of what we are working on in Scandinavia.

One big area is automation – how can we automate those boring repetitive tasks to free up more time for travel agents to interact with customers? Besides our traditional products that automate offers, ticket exchanges, refunds, queue management, ticketing and schedule changes, we have been experimenting with conversational platforms in the forms of text (chatbots) and voice.  Chatbots have boomed since Facebook Messenger opened up their API. Because messaging has become such a popular communication channel, our customers are quite interested in this technology.  

Personally, I much prefer to chat online using a messaging app than waste my time holding on a phone line listening to boring repetitive music. Since becoming a father, I use Facebook Messenger to ask airlines and car rental companies simple questions and to get information that is not easy to find online – about infant car seats, baggage allowance for babies etc.

We’re not ready for fully automated chatbots

It usually takes several hours for a travel brand to reply, mainly because they answer the questions with their existing manual communication processes. However, any travel brand has the potential to reply instantly if they combine our APIs in combination with Natural Language Processing and Artificial Intelligence, more precisely machine learning. This would enable quick automated replies to simple questions about flight status or aircraft type, baggage allowance and fare conditions, for example. Other more complex questions still need to be answered manually. At this stage, a mixed solution combining artificial intelligence and automation with human interaction is recommended.

We have been discussing chatbot opportunities with customers and have designed a proof of concept with a travel agency in Scandinavia. Asia, especially China with Wechat, have been ahead in this space, but the West is catching up.

Voice is the new frontier

We have now started to experiment with voice using Amazon Alexa, but that’s something we can share in a next post.

Sometimes, it all feels like we are part of a real-life sci-fi movie but the technology we experimented with in 2016 is now becoming a reality in every industry with more than 100,000 bots out there. The opportunities are endless …where will we be in 10 years’ time??? :)

 

About the author

Name: Danilo Nóbrega da Cunha
Job title: Head of Presales, Amadeus Scandinavia
Education: BA in Computer engineering from UNICAMP (Campinas, Brazil); M.Sc in Engineering & Management of Information Systems from KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Stockholm, Sweden)
Languages:
Portuguese, English, French, some Spanish and very basic Swedish 
Favourite place: “I have no favourite place. Everywhere has its pros and cons. Like with music and food, it depends on my mood.”

Connect with Danilo on Linkedin!