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Skyscanner on chatbots: It’s taking big steps to becoming mature, but…

Skyscanner vice president of growth Yara Paoli fully recognises the opportunities provided by chatbots.

Skyscanner_Yara Paoli_c

The travel search platform launched their first chat-bot on Facebook Messenger in 2016, and since then, the chat-bot function is “working quite well” in places including Asia, reaching nearly the same conversion that can be achieved on desktop. Paoli explained to Marketing that the numbers are fairly balanced across searches for long-haul and short-haul flights.

The most valuable aspect of the technology, she said, is the ability to drill down data in real-time, and improve the quality of answers given to travellers, in terms of relevant advice like where to go, when to go, when is the best time to visit a destination, etc.

Yet she admitted there are challenges they need to address before the feature becomes “mature and structured”.

“I think chatbot is taking big steps to becoming mature, but…” as she went on, “But it goes with experimentation and natural language processing.”

According to her experiences, Paoli has witnessed that inquiries are very often less structured than the bot anticipates. “The challenge there is to understand and drill down the complexity of an inquiry, turn it to a simple question, and match it with the right answer. Sometimes people want to be inspired, so they want to have the chance of being suggested a destination when they are flexible.”

The challenge there is to understand and drill down the complexity of an inquiry, turn it to a simple question, and match it with the right answer.

And you need data to accomplish this, she added. “There is technical improvement for that, but we are still analysing and experimenting with the [chat-bot] prototype, on how we can eventually offer the best answers.”

There is technical improvement for that, but we are still analysing and experimenting with the [chat-bot] prototype, on how we can eventually offer the best answers.

The platform has started exploring voice application technology, mainly in English, with Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana to expand features of the chat-bot. Paoli said the start of such integration can help them understand how people would react to improve the quality of interactions, which eventually, would help them uncover opportunities to localise the feature in markets.

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