Artificial intelligence. Machine learning. Bots. Automation. All this technology is becoming very useful in our industry, particularly in performing the ultra-tedious, repetitive tasks not many humans want to be doing day to day.
Take data entry work. Without AI, travel agents need to copy and paste many bits and pieces of information from emails and travel requests into the booking tools. Once complete, they then need to export the content back out into the communication channels, which, according to Marilyn Markham, global product director at American Express Global Business Travel (GBT), is an even more tedious process. But with AI technology, it can do this kind of mundane work on its own, which in turn frees up our agents’ time and empowers them to focus on more meaningful tasks that add value to the customer service experience.
We also are looking at how AI can improve our communications with travelers. Stay tuned for new developments coming soon to see how we’re implementing it in our messaging channels — and we already have begun using it to improve our interactions over the phone.
As Markham says, “Nobody enjoys the experience of hanging on the line, waiting to speak to a customer service representative.”
Business travelers don’t have the time and energy to waste on long phone calls that take them through too many complicated menu options before they can be served. Fortunately, with our intelligent call routing with a straightforward, easy-to-use navigation menu, travelers quickly will be guided to the right American Express GBT service platform.
By using bots to handle simpler customer service tasks, such as an account verification question or trip cancellation, we can reduce the number of calls going to our live agents. Since our counselors then won’t feel pressured to “move through the line,” they can be more present and attentive with travelers who do require live assistance and have more complicated requests.
“It should allow us to be highly responsive when there’s a high demand for the service and be able to more swiftly respond to travelers in need of urgent attention, such as those whose flights have been cancelled vs. the traveler calling to book a trip in three weeks,” Markham says.
On top of this, we also have introduced know-me caller recognition technology in which travelers automatically are identified by the number they dial in from as long as they have their contact details listed in their profile. This allows us not only to greet travelers by name but because our counselors are able to pull up itinerary and profile details before answering the call, they can offer truly personalized assistance without delay.
But wait, more is coming! Markham says AI can help agents to provide more relevant, specific advice to travelers about the destinations where they’re heading.
“Our travel agents are very tenured and have many years with the company doing business travel internationally, so they know stuff. But it’s impossible for one person to know the local details of every place we send our travelers,” she explains.
“This is where AI as well as really good data sources can come in and help every agent to give contextually relevant advice about where you’re going, even if they personally have never been there before.”
To achieve that, American Express GBT is looking at how to crowdsource destination-specific information. But instead of gathering content from general travel sites — which wouldn’t be very helpful in a business travel context — we’re looking at how to crowdsource the most relevant tips from our extensive community of experienced agents from around the world.
“If we are able to bring that network of knowledge together using the power of data analytics to deliver the answer that you need when you’re conversing with someone, that is super powerful,” Markham says. “We then can make sure you get the right answer every time, regardless of who you speak to.”
And the best part? It’ll all be with the personal care and compassion that only comes from talking to a real live human being!