Among the many use cases for chatbots, travel seems to be popular. So, naturally, it shouldn’t come as a shock to know that there are many travel chatbots in the market.
These chatbots vary a lot when it comes to inherent capabilities. Some can do a lot, while others stick to the basics. In fact, some of them can also help with aspects such as onboarding. For example, there are bots that already have the “link account” feature to provide the user with post-booking notifications.
Some bots can make sense of complex text, while others need data to be entered one piece at a time. The latter type can frustrate users and drastically limit their experience.
How does Skyscanner’s bot really stand up, when everybody else is struggling to provide an optimal user experience? Well, let’s take a look.
To being with, Skyscanner’s chatbot, like a lot of other bots, is limited to the Facebook Messenger environment. It follows a conversational question and answer approach; again, not unlike many of the other chatbots out there.
Though it is available globally, there are no foreign language options. So, you’ll have to make do with English for now.
Typical functionality allows users to enter destination names and go through a list of ticket prices. But, the destination recommendation feature is definitely welcome, if you’re one of those “just pack and go” kind of travellers.
This particular feature kicks in when the user enters “anywhere” or “unsure”. The response is a list of suggestions that the user might be interested in. Once the user makes the selection, the bot redirects him/her to the Skyscanner site to complete the rest of the process.
According to Filip Filipov, a Director at Skyscanner, conversational searches and the messaging economy are significant areas for the travel industry. This aspect is believed to have motivated the company into creating a bot that could leverage these aspects.
Skyscanner makes it clear that they want to make travel as accessible as possible and this objective is what drove them into creating the chatbot.
Now, when we asses travel chatbots, or any chatbot for that matter, we need to focus on a few key questions. This includes what the chatbot can do, how it introduces itself, how it offers help to the user, how the interaction takes place (conversational or predefined queries) and how the results are presented.
Natural language understanding is another feature that is often assessed. This looks at the bot’s ability to decipher natural user input. To put it simply, the bot must serve users in the same way travel agents do.
So, does Skyscanner meet all these requirements? Well, here is a breakdown to help you form an opinion of your own.
- Key Features: Flight search according to location and travel date, along with suggestions on best options for weekends or weekdays.
- Onboarding: Simple introduction with a contact option at the bottom in the form of a link. The link leads to the customer support web page. Another similar link pops up after first input.
- Help: There are buttons such as “Customer Support” and “Talk to a Human”. Other than that, basic information is provided within the messenger.
- Results: Card like displays for pricing, site link and 10 results.
- Natural Language Understanding: Limited to terms such as today or next week. But, fails to provide detailed information unless search terms are more specific.
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