Not a day goes by without a major new chatbot release around the globe. This week, Lufthansa and South African bank TymeBank are among those looking to broaden and improve their customer service platform.
Chatbots are a key part of most airlines customer service offering, with KLM’s BlueBot noted for leading the field. However, things are changing fast with the Lufthansa group launching not one but three English-language bots for the carrier and its partner airlines, Swiss and Austrian Airlines.
The move helps bring their customer service off the web page or app and into Facebook’s Messenger App – a product due for a big overhaul as FB revealed at its recent F8 event. The bots will provide support for passengers in the event of the usual flight delays, gate changes, booking and luggage queries. In a world first, the bots also enable rebooking if a passenger has missed a connection or a flight is cancelled.
Presumably, the bots all have the same core, but offer different personalities, with Lufthansa’s named Elisa (Lufthansa) although it shows up as the rather less charming Lufthansa Irregularity Bot, while Swiss’s version is called Nelly and AA get Maria, using the names of the first female flight attendants from each of the three airlines. Lufthansa is using the bots for quick answers to customer queries, and to free up call center agents to deal with more pressing matters or questions that the bots cannot answer.
The bots can help rebook flights if there’s a major issue and provide other information. Once users have accepted the terms and conditions and confirmed their age, users can choose to check bookings with a booking code or ticket number, or make other queries, such as baggage or flight queries. If the bot can’t help it directs you to live chat with an agent or list of likely FAQ questions that might provide an answer.
If a flight is cancelled or the flyer misses a connecting flight, they can use the chatbot to rebook on a later flight from a range of options. That’s pretty impressive, but for now the bots feel pretty simple, despite the technology behind them. But at least the developers are honest and the bots offer a human touch, with Elisa claiming “this is all new to me and I am still learning, so please be patient with me. But I will try my best.”
Lufthansa notes that “the bots are constantly being developed and will also be made available on other channels such as airline apps, airline websites or other messenger services such as Whatsapp. Self-services will play an increasingly important role in the future. In addition to automated solutions, Lufthansa, SWISS and Austrian Airlines will continue to be personally accessible to their customers via their service staff.”
Banking on a bot for business success
Over in South Africa, TymeBank is the latest to roll out a more advanced bot, with banking brands keen to push more adventurous feature sets than their airline cousins. Claiming to be South Africa’s first fully digital bank, it launched in February and has picked up 250,000 customers.
Max is their new conversational assistant helping customers learn to better manage their money using goal-based savings to help boost their credit score and money-smarts. Accessible via the TymeCoach Android and iOS apps and on Facebook Messenger, Max adds value to the banking experience and helps the bank keep its costs and staff down, it has around 120 staff compared to many bank’s tens of thousands.
TymeBank represents the new breed of challenger bank that can threaten traditional branch-based banks, or inspire them to modernise their services. As personal finance undergoes huge changes in the mobile era, and people get more used to swapped accounts and providers, expect more banks to be reliant on bots in the coming years, and for those bots to rapidly get smarter and more useful to help with every aspect of saving, investing and helping customers get the most from their money.
They will benefit more in the move to open banking that lets different banks and financial services share or swap data, allowing customers to always find the best deal or a better offer when it comes to their money.