By routing customer service through messaging, airlines are meeting passengers on their preferred communication platforms. Messaging can also help airlines cut costs and boost ancillary revenue.
Volaris anticipates that its move toward using messaging for customer service inquiries will result in an 83 percent reduction in cost per resolution, according to a report by Conversocial, which counts Volaris as a customer. In 2018, 69 percent of the Mexican low-cost airline’s inbound customer service volume came through messaging — up from 20 per cent in 2016. That’s because in its tests, Volaris saw a 29 percent reduction in handling time over messaging: one agent could manage up to five interactions at a time versus the one-to-one ratio for phone or live-chat support.
“In many cases, we’re seeing that [low-cost carriers] are faster to adopt these systems and offer a deeper level of support,” said Ido Bornstein-HaCohen, CEO of Conversocial, a platform that allows companies to use messaging channels like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp Business and Apple Business Chat to handle customer queries.
According to Conversocial, the messaging audience is more than 86 percent of the global population. “Messaging has been the fastest growing communication paradigm for brands and consumers over the past year and this trend will only strengthen as the year progresses,” the report reads.
Unlike email and live-chat, messaging is both timely and asynchronous. Hop on Facebook Messenger to change your flight or book a seat and you’re automatically connected to an agent (or chatbot). Get distracted or cut off from Messenger, and you can simply pick up your conversation at a more convenient time without having to re-hash the details.
Chatbots powered by artificial intelligence are an important part of the messaging equation. “Automation is almost like a supporting tool for the agent,” Bornstein-HaCohen explained. If you’re frustrated due to a missed connection, Conversocial’s technology would understand the sentiment gap and opt to connect you with an actual person, whereas simple tasks like baggage tracking, seat selection and payment processing can easily be handled by a bot.
74 percent would purchase ancillary products when prompted by their messaging app.
Rather just a reactive tool, Bornstein-HaCohen sees messaging as a proactive way to offer better customer service. At the time of booking, passengers can opt-in to receive notifications via messaging. Airlines can then send them key communications throughout the customer journey. Imagine not knowing you have to pay for a carry-on bag before arriving at the airport, where baggage fees tend to be higher than when purchased in advanced. Chances are, you’ll be disappointed. Airlines can approach customers within the messaging channel before they fly to solve key issues that come up again and again, thereby better managing expectations.
Beyond the customer service aspect, messaging channels can also be an effective way to boost an airline’s ancillary revenue. A Conversocial survey of 200 travellers in the United Kingdom and United States found that 74 percent would purchase ancillary products like priority boarding, seat selection and additional luggage, when prompted by their messaging app.
Ultimately, for Bornstein-HaCohen, messaging works for airlines and passengers because it simplifies communications on both ends. But in order for it to be effective, he says that airlines must go all in. “If you put in limited support over messaging and in the end, you’re sent right back to a traditional customer service channel, the next time you need something, you’ll go straight to the agent.”