How Intelligent Virtual Agents Help Airlines Mitigate Contact Center Turbulence


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The pandemic, staffing shortages and increased fuel prices have contributed to a phenomenon coined “flightmare.” This occurrence is defined by major disruptions across global airlines of canceled and delayed flights. Naturally, this shift has led to more travelers reaching out to airlines seeking assistance and clarity regarding their travel disruptions.

To mitigate the impact of “flightmare,” airlines need modern, AI-enabled, contact center technologies that provide the capabilities to better manage the ongoing flood of inbound customer support requests. There are a variety of contact automation tools that can help airlines automate common requests and alleviate some of the burdens on their employees and contact center agents.

Intelligent virtual agents, known as IVAs, are a communication tool that facilitate personalized responses to customers. In contact center settings, IVAs answer calls, respond to messages, enable self-service, and streamline support to aid human agents and improve customers’ experiences. IVAs allow airline contact centers to answer calls simultaneously or set up call-back features to eliminate long wait times and dropped calls for customers. IVAs also enable live agents to manage more complex tasks to increase productivity and efficiency for agents and travelers.

As airlines evaluate how to move forward in this time of flightmares and contact center struggles, many can look to contact center automation through IVAs as the answer. Below, we’ll dive into three critical ways IVAs help airlines mitigate contact center turbulence to improve customer satisfaction and recoup lost revenue.

Supplement Staff with IVAs

IVAs help mitigate the staffing shortages contact centers face today. These staffing challenges and flood of incoming calls have resulted in incredibly long wait times for customers seeking assistance. One traveler was expected to wait 704 minutes (nearly 12 hours) to reach a Delta customer service representative.

The leading way IVAs mitigate staffing challenges is through simple task automation that allows skilled and talented airline support employees to manage more complex customer issues. These systems are designed to complement human agents, not replace them.

Contact center automation tools offer 24/7 availability and personalized customer experiences that make self-service resolution easy to navigate. The virtual agent handles inquiries without a live agent so that contact centers can strategically staff shifts to provide continuous customer service.

Airline contact centers can tailor the AI to address customer needs and deliver human-like customer service experiences through conversational design. A high level of customer satisfaction depends on contact center AI solutions that are competent, intelligent, and intuitive. Although IVAs are not human, their capability to interact with callers in a natural manner fosters familiarity and helps the customer feel heard and understood.

Manage High Call Volumes with IVAs

As discussed above, staffing shortages and the ongoing impacts of the pandemic are causing unusually high call volumes for airlines.

This increase in traffic has made it nearly impossible for contact centers to manage customer inquiries solely with existing agents. IVAs supplement human agents, reduce wait times, increase first-touch resolutions, and provide quick and thorough answers when call volumes are high. Specifically, contact center automation solutions reduce average call length by 15-40%, resulting in faster resolutions. With IVAs, contact centers can provide round-the-clock customer service by answering calls instantly and simultaneously, which eliminates long wait times.

AI-enabled technologies facilitate initial help and route callers to agents as needed. When answering a call or message, the IVA asks customers what they need help with and then responds with open-ended prompts using natural language processing (NLP). Virtual agents use NLP to recognize keywords and phrases to guide the customer to the next phase of their journey. Depending on the customer’s needs, the IVA will service a customer’s inquiry from start to finish, or, if the issue is more complex, will transfer the customer to a human agent.

In addition, IVAs allow customers to self-serve whenever they prefer. This way, the customer can choose which method is most convenient for them and receive help that is tailored entirely to their preferences.

Managing call volumes and reducing wait times will go a long way for airlines seeking to gain back lost revenue.

Transform Alongside Shifting Work Models with IVAs

Alongside the current travel complications, some major airlines have updated their work environments to provide better experiences for their employees and customers. For example, Southwest Airlines had announced it temporarily closed its reservations centers in order to go fully remote.

For contact centers moving to cloud-based or hybrid work models, quick deployment is essential. The only thing worse than being understaffed and struggling to manage high call volumes of already frustrated customers is your contact center being entirely offline and unreachable. No access to customer service is a surefire way to amplify “flightmare.”

When implementing contact center automation technology, utilizing an IVA that offers channel flexibility is key. IVAs provide exceptional support through a number of channels, allowing customers to choose which medium of communication works best for them. Once an IVA is implemented, it tracks and reports customer data during a conversation. In a remote or hybrid work setting, this contextual information allows your company to keep track easily of varying customer preferences and needs, which improves the customer experience over time.

As airlines strive to improve customer service and minimize the impact of travel disruptions, they must strengthen their customer service contact centers. By deploying IVAs, businesses can efficiently handle common pain points and mitigate “flightmare,” providing a positive customer experience and ensuring your customers get the help they need with ease. By implementing an IVA, airline contact centers can manage fluctuating call patterns while improving both customer and agent experiences.


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