AI’s Impact on Non-Linear Customer Service in Travel and Hospitality


By harnessing the power of AI, hospitality providers can meet customers at every stage of their journey, providing personalized assistance, seamless self-service options, and consistent support across channels

Travelers’ preferences have transformed in recent years, especially since the pandemic. Today, AI emerges as a new contender, with 75% of travelers trusting AI for trip planning. The travel and hospitality industry is catching on—66% of businesses are investing in digital technology and software to enhance customer service.

When travelers are ready to book their trip, an AI-enabled intelligent virtual agent (IVA) can assist by providing personalized travel recommendations or real-time travel updates. Some industry experts describe this personalized and always-on customer support as “non-linear.” Non-linear customer service breaks away from traditional models by meeting customers anywhere they are in their journey.

How Intelligent Virtual Agents Help

Below are three ways AI-enabled tools such as IVAs can support non-linear customer experiences for today’s travelers.

#1: Deliver Proactive Recommendations

Travel is a $1.2 trillion industry, with 63% of the market operating online. By harnessing technological advancements like IVAs, there are many opportunities to elevate the customer experience. For instance, IVAs can use conversational AI and machine learning (ML) to understand natural language and adapt the conversation to fit patrons’ needs. IVAs can leverage vast customer data to make personalized recommendations based on an individual’s preferences and previous interactions.

Let’s look at a couple of examples. Imagine a guest booking a hotel room for ten days. An IVA could review the guest’s previous booking history and see if they also played at the resort’s golf course. The IVA can proactively recommend securing their tee time while they book their stay. AI makes it easier for the hospitality industry to meet travelers where they are in their journey and reach out with meaningful and timely suggestions that improve guest engagement and satisfaction.

Another example is restaurants using AI technology to enhance employee efficiency and customer satisfaction. For the restaurant, the IVA operates behind the scenes to review the number of reservations and help managers streamline communications with staff regarding scheduling and shift changes.

IVAs can also support customers by allowing them to manage their reservations via text or phone. The IVA might offer personalized menu recommendations in the mobile app based on individual tastes and previous orders. IVAs can simplify the dining experience for the restaurant and its customers, fostering a deeper connection and sense of loyalty.

#2: Enable Self-Service and 24/7 Customer Support

In the past, travelers needed an agent to help them book a trip. Travelers would drive miles to a local agent’s brick-and-mortar and plan the vacation from start to finish – including the flight, car rentals, hotel, and even activities or restaurants.

Today, overseeing travel logistics is the primary responsibility of the individual. They can book, modify, and cancel plans right from their smartphones. When travelers run into issues, AI-powered self-service tools provide round-the-clock support. For instance, self-serve portals or automated FAQs allow travelers to find solutions independently, from looking up flight delays to changing hotel reservations. Individuals can get real-time help, regardless of whether human agents are online.

By offering 24/7 support, the hospitality industry can meet the needs of global customers. Take, for example, a traveler who reaches out in the early morning with a question about their flight delay. If it’s outside the airline’s call center operating hours, an IVA can immediately provide information regarding the person’s flight. Conversational AI-enabled IVAs can understand the caller’s preferences, find alternative flight information, and complete the booking process.

#3: Support Multichannel Customer Journeys

Travelers might recall when they had to call a business and endure extensive call menus and long wait times to reach a live agent. Those days are largely behind us. Today’s travelers can contact customer service in several ways: through social media, email, in-app support, text, and more.

However, all too often, customers experience disconnected journeys. According to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer Report, 56% of customers say they often have to repeat information to different agents, and 55% feel they’re talking to different companies rather than one company.

Creating a connected customer journey is central to non-linear customer service (though it might sound counterintuitive). Connecting communication channels with the help of IVAs can ensure that customers receive consistent support no matter when or where they interact with a brand. IVAs can help aggregate customers’ past interactions from any touchpoint, including third-party booking sites and online chats. A multichannel strategy caters to the modern traveler’s expectation for quick and seamless access to support. At the same time, multichannel communication enhances the overall customer experience by ensuring that help is always just a few clicks away.

See also: Cloud Computing Continues to Transform Hospitality

Don’t Forget Customer Feedback

When implementing a non-linear approach to customer service, it’s important to solicit and apply customer feedback. IVAs are a great way to request feedback from customers during interactions. For example, if a patron pays their bill via the restaurant’s app, an IVA could prompt them to complete a brief survey about their experience. The restaurant can then collect that feedback and determine areas for improvement.  

At the same time, since IVAs use ML to learn from every interaction, they can improve their accuracy, relevance, and effectiveness over time, providing customers with more personalized responses and prompts.

An Exciting Road Ahead

The shift towards non-linear customer service, characterized by proactive recommendations, 24/7 support, and multichannel interactions, marks a departure from traditional models. By harnessing the power of AI, hospitality providers can meet customers at every stage of their journey, providing personalized assistance, seamless self-service options, and consistent support across channels. As we navigate this dynamic landscape, it becomes clear that AI is not merely a technology but a catalyst for a more responsive, connected, and customer-centric future in the ever-evolving travel and hospitality industries.

Matt Whitmer

About Matt Whitmer

Matt Whitmer is the chief revenue officer and senior vice president of marketing at Mosaicx, the leading conversational AI provider. He has over 15 years of senior leadership experience focused on helping enterprise clients embrace and implement cloud-based engagement solutions.   

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