Chet Patel, Head of Propositions and Portfolio

How tomorrow’s tech will transform airline contact centres.

By Chet Patel, President, Global Portfolio and Marketing, BT.

Providing a great customer experience is vital for airlines trying to attract passengers. Here’s how the technology of tomorrow will help them do just that.

Revolutionising air travel.

Working for a global organisation, I often have to travel to meet customers or attend events. Whilst many of those physical meetings have been replaced by virtual ones, sometimes it’s still necessary to get on a plane.

Travel used to be a frustrating task, but competition between the airlines together with the increasing demands of customers are revolutionising the industry. And I think what we see today is just the start.

Changing the contact-centre experience.

Just take the contact centre environment.

Often a customer’s first interaction with the airline, calls could be about anything from confirming a reservation to complex travel bookings. And increasingly, it’s not just calls a contact centre has to deal with.

Today’s customers are demanding. They expect rich interactions and consistent experience with the companies they choose to shop with, no matter how or when they choose to get in touch.

So whereas in the past I may have called a contact centre, I may now choose to do some tasks online, others by web chat or others through social media. But I expect that airline to know me, my issue and my experience to date at every contact.

Turning to the tech of tomorrow.

We’ve seen many airlines turn to cloud based contact centres as a way of managing that omni-channel interaction. Not only is it more efficient to run as an organisation, but it means customers can be given the information they want, in the language they want, when they need it.

But that’s all using technology that’s available now. What does the future hold? Well, artificial intelligence (AI) is already making inroads into the contact centre, helping humans and machines work better together.

For example, AI can support contact centre agents in not only responding to the issue the customer is facing now, but it can also help suggest what they might need to do next or common pitfalls to avoid, cutting follow up calls. AI can also help airlines to cross sell other services, for example by suggesting trips or hotels at the destination.

The rise of the helpful robots.

Chat bots are another area frequently mentioned as the next big thing in the contact centre. Used already to help remind us of appointments or tell us when parcels are due to be delivered, they’re increasingly being used to take mundane enquiries off the hands of the agents by ‘learning’ answers to routine questions, freeing up human agents to handle the more complex interactions.

Robots are also helping free up the humans, and are already being used for car parking and baggage handling, as well as acting as customer service agents.

Personalising the passenger experience.

Video is another area on the rise, especially following the success of Amazon’s Mayday service. Whilst there are still challenges to overcome, video can improve trust, deliver better engagement and convenient channel. Personalised video has been shown to enhance the opportunity to sell more to a customer and visual IVR helps customers navigate through menus quicker.

Augmented and virtual reality may also push video one step further, with everything from virtual tours of possible destinations to wayfinding and inflight entertainment.

Securing the future of flying.

What about security? ‘What’s your mother’s maiden name?’ is being replace by voice biometrics, increasing the ease for customers (no more remembering the fourth and seventh numbers of yet another passcode) but also improving security and trust for organisations.

And the greatest potential of all — the Internet of Things. The ability to collect data, turn it into insight and deliver a predictive service to customers will herald a new world of customer experience.

I’m almost looking forward to contacting my airline in the future. Whether I speak to a human or a machine, I’m confident the experience will put me in control.

Find out more about the airline technology of tomorrow.