Headquartered in Czechia, Kiwi.com is a travel search engine that receives over 100 million search queries each day. The site enables users find and book cheap flights, trains, and buses by comparing prices across multiple carriers. The company employs over 2900 people and manages an average of 10,000 bookings a day.
Recently, Kiwi.com partnered with Interactions, a conversational AI company that provides intelligent virtual assistants (IVAs) to leading brands such as Hyatt, LifeLock, and Constant Contact, all of whom have a strong focus on delivering top-notch customer experience.
ClickZ spoke with Eliška Dočkalová, Director of Customer Experience at Kiwi.com, about how Interactions’ conversational AI is helping Kiwi.com improve their customers’ experience while traveling, including managing travel disruptions and crises, while reducing the pressure on their customer service team.
Kiwi.com receives about 2400 calls per day, on average. Approximately 40% of these calls are contained within their automated system, meaning that customers’ issues are resolved without the need to be redirected to a customer support specialist.
When Kiwi.com wanted to improve containment for calls, particularly during times of travel disruption, they began researching interactive voice response systems (IVRs) but found them limited. IVRs use voice or touch prompts to route users to the appropriate information or operator (e.g., “Press 1 to check on the status of your flight.”)
“We were looking for automation from an IVR, but IVRs don’t provide the spectrum of options that are available with an AI-powered virtual assistant,” explains Dočkalová. “A virtual assistant is much easier for passengers to navigate and people often think they’re dealing with a real person, which is an added value.”
The complaint ratio based on bookings and interactions with the AI technology is very small, just a few cases within the thousands of interactions that Kiwi.com receives.
Says Dočkalová, “If we do get a complaint, it’s usually not related to the VA itself, but due to other travel-related issues. The frustration doesn’t come from the VA.”
Kiwi.com went live with the conversational AI system in June 2018. The core learning piece, setting up, and refining of the software took about ten months. Interactions worked closely with Kiwi.com to onboard the tool, which facilitated fast progress from integration to launch.
“We no longer work with Interactions on a day-to-day basis, though this was the case when we were going live and needed to refine the tool,” says Dočkalová. “We still work with them very closely because we are continuously deploying new functionalities and making necessary amendments as crisis scenarios occur.”
The Interactions VA can fully contain some queries while others are only partially contained, so Kiwi.com works with Interactions to improve the system in an ongoing way, with the goal of increasing containment.
“We’d like to automate some agent-focused flows in the future such as the payment verification process,” says Dočkalová. “That would increase our containment rate by about 8%, which is a significant increase. Thus, the cooperation with Integrations is ongoing to make the VA perform even better.”
Currently, the fully automated flows are related to luggage transactions, flight cancellations, addition of passport details, and transactions related to invoices. Partially automated transactions (those that are handled by both the AI and a live agent) are related to flight details, boarding passes, adding meals, adding pets, and seat upgrades.
Kiwi.com previously had an Engineering team connected to a Customer Support team which they’d called “Customer Support (CS) innovations.” Together, these teams worked with Interactions to manage the technical solutions as well as testing and deployment.
They have since formed a tribe called CS systems, an engineering team, which merges people from the CS Innovations team, business process and IT teams. The CS systems team employs a dedicated Product Manager to work with Interactions which is a testament to how important this technology is for Kiwi.com.
“The core of my work revolves around how happy our customers are,” says Dočkalová. “We use the VA for crisis management which is something that’s proven to be extremely efficient.”
Kiwi.com worked with Interactions to set up a specific emergency prompt which they can implement within a matter of hours. When a new crisis arises, they just need to adjust certain aspects of the prompt (e.g., the name of the airline).
The recent Thomas Cook collapse is just the latest incident to plague both airlines and travelers this year—including the British Airways strike, the widespread grounding of Boeing planes, and the WOW Air bankruptcy. In each case, thousands of passengers found themselves stranded, with no way to reach their destination or get in touch with airlines that struggled to manage both the crisis and the influx of calls.
“We’ve seen a couple of airlines go out of business this year, so we needed to update the prompts to ensure they were accurate,” explains Dočkalová. “Interactions is very responsive in making the required changes. We need them to be available 24/7 because we can’t wait until morning to respond to a crisis.”
The partnership with Interactions has helped Kiwi.com manage their inbound calls even during an emergency. Within the first six months of implementation, the IVA system deflected about 40% of inbound calls per day on the English line.
The IVA supports interactions from over 120 countries including 30% of countries that don’t have English as their official language and is able to serve customers with strong accents or direct them to live agents, as necessary.
Per the case study, “Interactions’ partnership with Kiwi.com will continue to grow and evolve as Kiwi.com’s business does. They plan to add more transactions types to further increase the containment rate, which has already been increased to 22% with the IVA.”
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