Published on : Thursday, July 13, 2017
Sabre Corporation, a leading technology provider to the global travel industry, announced the development of an AI-powered chatbot that leverages Microsoft Bot Framework and Microsoft Cognitive Services, a set of tools that organizations can use to add intelligent and conversational features to their applications. Sabre will initially test the chatbot with two travel agencies and the travelers they serve.
“Travelers want technology to deliver a more seamless experience, especially when managing on-the-go changes and disruptions,” said Mark McSpadden, vice president – emerging technology and products of Sabre Corporation. “Together with Microsoft and our agency partners, we are exploring how AI and chatbots can provide travelers with the self-service solutions they want for routine requests while helping travel agencies provide personal service for more complex needs.”
In developing the chatbot, Sabre is leveraging Microsoft Bot Framework and a selection of Microsoft Cognitive Services, including Language Understanding Intelligent Service (LUIS).
One of the key challenges in human-computer interactions is the ability of computers to understand what people want and find relevant information that connects to their intent. Travel applications must recognize a plethora of unique terms and phrases, which adds complexity for industry applications. LUIS provides simple tools to build language models that allow any application or bot to understand commands and act accordingly.
“Intelligent technologies, like chatbots, are augmenting the way companies are able to interact with their customers,” said Lili Cheng, corporate vice president, AI and Research at Microsoft. “Sabre’s chatbot is another great example of how AI can be applied to help extend business capabilities and improve satisfaction of travelers.”
Two Sabre-connected travel agencies – Dallas-based Travel Solutions International USA and San Francisco-based Casto Travel – will test a white-label version of the chatbot with travelers, who will access the chatbot via Facebook Messenger. Travelers will use the chatbot for common service and support requests, such as changing an existing flight reservation. The chatbot will divert to a live travel agent if it is unable to fulfill a request.
“Travelers are eager to find ways to save time when handling travel logistics,” noted Claire LeBuhn, vice president, support services at TSI USA. “TSI is committed to evaluating new touchpoints and communication channels to better serve our corporate customers and their busy employees. We are also interested to explore emerging technologies that can help us improve the efficiency and satisfaction of our travel agents. By handling frequently-asked basic support requests, the bot will free up our agents to focus on more complex, value-added interactions with travelers. We look forward to testing the chatbot and gaining a better understanding of how it can drive value for our corporate customers and for TSI.”
Throughout the test, Sabre and its partner travel agencies will evaluate travelers’ preferences for how often and when they engage the chatbot and when they are likely to divert to a live agent. The companies expect to gain a better understanding of the best way to engage travelers with chatbots and solve for some of the most common hurdles that many industries face when it comes to chatbots.
This is not Sabre’s first foray into chatbots. Sabre Hospitality Solutions is building a chatbot prototype that would allow travelers to shop, book and engage with hoteliers through the most common messaging platforms, such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Twitter and SMS text messaging, as well as voice assistants, such as Amazon’s Echo (Alexa), Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google Home. When ready, the company expects to test the prototype with some of its hotel customers.