Thomson trials virtual assistant tool for holiday bookings
Leading holiday brand Thomson is offering its customers an innovative way to find inspiration for their holidays by trialling a travel search tool leveraging IBM’s Watson technology.
In an industry first, customers will be able to interact via a simple chat interface to get responses in real-time, resulting in helpful suggestions of great holiday destinations or exciting holiday experiences.
Thomson is trialling the new tool with customers following recent research showing 77 per cent of people thought a virtual agent would be useful when searching for a holiday.
The experimental service is in beta and will continue to be developed using machine learning and customer feedback to improve responses.
The tool enables a simple and personalised search using natural language, a very different way of finding the ideal holiday when compared to the usual checkbox and filtering of e-commerce sites.
The conversation tool, with added personality, is designed to make the search experience more enjoyable and easier for customers.
The Watson technology behind it is designed to learn from every customer interaction, to become smarter over time and provide ever more accurate responses.
Jeremy Osborne, director of strategic innovation, TUI UK&I said: “We wanted to test whether a conversational search experience would resonate with our customers as a new, fun and easy way to find their ideal holiday.
“By leveraging IBM’s Watson technology, we are raising the bar in the travel industry. We are delivering an interactive service experiment to our customers that offers holiday inspiration ideas and personalised search results based on customer interests.
“We are excited to learn how customers react and interact, what they get out of the experience and how it compares to the current way of shortlisting holiday options.”
The news comes as Thomson announced earlier in the year plans to revolutionise the way they inspire customers to book holidays in store and online.
By 2020 the holiday brand plans to phase out brochures, to provide a digital experience at every customer touch point and will be investing in more personalised, inspirational content for customers.