- By Keith Kirkpatrick
- December 28, 2022
In November 2022, Dash Research highlighted low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines’ decision to eliminate all live agent, voice-based customer service options. Reaction to the piece on LinkedIn indicated a definite preference for technology to augment workers, rather than replace them, with doubts being raised as to whether this approach will benefit Frontier in the long term.
However, Frontier is not the only low-cost carrier to implement a shift to digital communications, and away from voice. Volaris Airlines, a carrier focused on the Mexican travel market, has successfully deployed a fully operational omnichannel customer experience operation that emphasizes WhatsApp and automation as primary communication channels. To compete in this market, Volaris Airlines knew it needed to strike a balance between cost efficiencies which it could pass on to customers in the form of low airfares, while maintaining high customer satisfaction.
Working with Conversocial, a Verint Company, Volaris undertook a digital transformation, ramping up its chatbot with Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp as its prime conversational platforms, two asynchronous messaging applications that allowed the company to proactively send communication to clients when warranted (weather, airport issues) offering self-service option to reschedule a flight, redeem a voucher, or other options, all without connecting via a live agent.
According to Conversocial, it took 18 months to fully implement the transformation, and Volaris was able to service 78% of clients without human intervention. The chatbot has improved from solving 70% of frequently asked questions (FAQs) without human intervention, to 84% today. Even more impressively, the 20-hour response time to handle routine issues has decreased to minutes, and CSAT scores increased to 79 in October 2022, up from 46 in October 2020.
Another key element of the strategy revolved around shifting interactions to non-voice channels. Volaris has taken a multi-pronged approach to drive people to WhatsApp, by removing phone numbers from the “contact us” page on their website, and by replacing call to action with a WhatsApp Click-to-Chat in flight notification emails.
To improve customer service response times and agent productivity, Volaris tested Messenger Customer Chat on its website with 50% of visitors via a six-month A/B split test. After six months, Volaris saw a 29% reduction in handling time because a single agent was now capable of managing five interactions simultaneously versus only one while using phone call or webchat. As a result of the successful test, Volaris has implemented Messenger’s solution to 100% of web visitors, with an anticipated 83% reduction in cost per resolution. According to Jason Valdina, Senior Director, GTM Strategy, Digital-First Engagement Channels at Verint, “In the case of Volaris Airlines, they initially invested in building service bots for Messenger as a proof of concept, and saw such compelling results in terms of cost efficiency and customer satisfaction, that they felt comfortable expanding that investment to WhatsApp.”
Like Facebook Messenger, WhatApp is an asynchronous messaging app that allows customers and agents to respond at their convenience, and does not rely on both parties to be “connected” at the same time to provide service. Further, Volaris is using AI to detect and prioritize travelers with disabilities, medication issues, children travelling alone, and those travelling in the next hour, which helps provide relevant content and support, from both live agents and the bots.
“Common inquiries can often be automatically resolved by bots, while conversations that are handed over to agents provide those agents with conversational history to better understand the context of the inquiry,” Valdina says. “We typically see conversations that were initially started with a bot get resolved 20-30% faster due to the context and additional information the agent has when the conversation is assigned to them.”
One of the key reasons Volaris continues to be successful in its omnichannel approach is the extension of its bot service to WhatsApp, which boasts more than 1.5 billion users. The number of messages sent every day is three times the peak global SMS volume. “WhatsApp is the most popular chat platform in LATAM; however, you can integrate bot solutions to all major platforms,” says Daniel Gelemovich, director of marketing and digital for Volaris. “In the case of Volaris [the bot] is also integrated to Facebook Messenger, since it is also a dominant player in the regions where we operate.”
Indeed, in the Latin American market, WhatsApp is especially prevalent across all demographic groups, much more so than in the United States. Further, WhatsApp offers complete encryption and security, increasing consumer trust. After rolling out the bot service to WhatsApp, 425,000 customers engaged with WhatsApp in the first 60 days, resulting in a projected annual cost savings of $192,000.
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