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  • Conversational AI elevates customer service for PLAY Airlines

Conversational AI elevates customer service for PLAY Airlines

Last updated 22 February 2024

Iceland’s new challenger airline transformed customer service with a chat-first strategy. By replacing inbound telephone calls with a 24/7 virtual agent, customers can register a support case at their convenience and even outside of opening hours.

Air travel has gotten considerably more complicated in recent years. It’s never been more essential for passengers to be able to quickly get answers to their queries and to easily book, reschedule, or cancel flights. In today’s on-demand world, customers expect the companies they interact with to be available 24/7 with instant, helpful and personalized service, in the appropriate language - and rightly so. If you’re unable to offer a frictionless experience, you can be sure that your competitors will be waiting in the wings, happy to oblige. For airlines’ customer service teams, attention to detail is important along with the capacity to deal with many enquiries efficiently, and the ability to scale-up to manage an increase in customer support requests when necessary.

PLAY's results at a glance...

  • 100,000+ conversations in 12 months
  • 85% resolution rate

“Without a doubt, integrating a chatbot into our service strategy was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. It’s at the forefront of today’s technological features when it comes to servicing customers and it offers endless opportunities. Not to mention its cost efficiency, which is hugely important for a startup airline like ours. Our virtual agent, Playfin, ensures a 24/7 consistent service response level, while maintaining the personal and friendly touch we want to stand for.”

Hildur Haarde, PLAY Airlines Service Director, knew from the start that a superior customer service solution was a priority. She took on the responsibility to implement the service strategy for the new airline in September 2019: “I knew – based on my past experience both as a customer service representative and as a customer myself – that eliminating the traditional phone element was the right way to go,” she explains. “At the time, other people were quite skeptical but I reassured them that a new, digital approach to customer service was the right one.”

A fresh, conversational perspective

A few months later, Haarde was in talks with boost.ai and Advania, boost’s partner company in Iceland. “We were immediately in sync,” says Hildur Haarde. “Boost understood our strategy and our end goal, and we’ve had great cooperation throughout the whole process.”

“Integrating a chatbot into our service strategy was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.”

- Hildur Haarde, PLAY Airlines Service Director

The plan was to implement a no-phone, completely digital customer-service solution with an intelligent virtual agent that lives up to the airline’s name – a fun, playful, and innovative seabird, a puffin, called Playfin. And building Playfin was not as complex or daunting as someone without a technical background might fear: “Creating Playfin did not require us to understand programming. The boost.ai platform was amazing, guiding us through the process. Our team became AI trainers and it was easy for them to adapt to the solution. They then train it to understand questions and to respond in the way we want it to” says Haarde.

Goodbye to frustrating phone queues

Playfin was launched in May 2021 before PLAY even had any flights in the air, and it was warmly received from the start. “People were really open-minded and happy to try the platform,” says Haarde. “As soon as they tried it, they understood it.” Since its launch, Playfin has answered an incredible number of questions regarding bookings, baggage, special services, and basically any topic related to PLAY’s operations. Searching for a flight online and answering booking FAQs with the help of Playfin is a conversational experience.

Haarde and her team are very satisfied that the service solution is more efficient for both the customer and for the airline: customers get the answers they need quickly - no waiting in line on a phone call - and PLAY can handle many more support requests and bookings than they otherwise would have with the equivalent number of staff.

In little over a year, Playfin has handled over 100,000 conversations, with only 15% being transferred to a human agent

In the beginning, the most important functionality of Playfin was its ability to respond to FAQs. And it did this brilliantly, particularly in the time of Covid. In May 2021, the pandemic was causing huge disruption to travel. People wanted to know about issues such as restrictions regarding vaccination status and mask wearing. There was a massive amount of changing information. “We ensured that Playfin could direct customers to the right answers – quickly and accurately. We would not have been able to assist as many people if we’d had a phone service. The magnitude of issues that we were able to help people figure out – through Playfin – was astonishing,” explains Haarde.

The metrics back up this efficiency, too. In little over a year, Playfin has handled over 100 000 conversations, with only 15% being transferred to a human agent, indicating customers are getting the answers and help they need from the virtual agent. Since the beginning of 2022, Playfin has nearly quadrupled its traffic, reaching a peak in May with in excess of 15,000 conversations for the month. Roughly 5% of customers that do require human assistance want it outside of opening hours, and in this case, for fast and convenient service, customers can leave a message with the virtual agent, creating a ticket that is sent to PLAY's support team.

Importantly, this means PLAY Airlines has more time and resources to assist those customers who do require that extra human assistance. “Playfin’s ability to provide really valuable, warm and responsive service to a huge number of our customers also allows us to help those customers with non-standard or complex queries that do require a human agent,” explains Haarde. “And we can do this without anyone waiting endlessly in a phone queue.”

Signposting assistance

“Over time, Playfin has progressed,” explains Haarde. “He can now, for example, inform customers about a delayed flight and we are in the process of integrating him into our flight management system so he can update specific flight times. It’s a brilliant conversational flow of information between us and the customer that continues to be improved.”

By analyzing the conversations, PLAY airlines has gained unique access to data insights that has enabled it to better understand some of the common issues that people experience. It has had great success making Playfin signpost help at the top of the conversation, so passengers can quickly access answers about, for example, the baggage drop-off location or the online check-in process.

A digital strategy that’s taking you places

PLAY believes that the digital strategy works because it focuses on providing speedy, consistent, and end-to-end quality customer service, with efficient self-service solutions. The system can also easily handle expected and unexpected spikes in traffic, as Playfin can proactively relay information to customers without the need to onboard temporary staff at huge expense. This enables an increased inquiry handling volume, also leading to a higher FTE efficiency in customer services.

Playfin has been instrumental in the airlines’ ability to increase its number of destinations on offer and scale-up its operations. In May 2022, PLAY reported it had carried around 230 000 passengers since the previous July and 60 000 passengers in the first quarter of the year. By summer 2022, PLAY will serve 26 destinations on both sides of the Atlantic.

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