Together with Transavia we developed the flight finder service for Google Home. A new way to find flights that suit your needs best.
When Apple integrated Siri into iOS, for the first time voice became accessible to the mainstream market. Since then, things have been moving fast. The most recent development being the introduction of a Dutch version of Google Home. This offers opportunities for Dutch companies. So we asked Transavia to start experimenting with Google Home; a logical step after our collaborations on the development of voice technology.
Four years ago, we ordered an Amazon Alexa out of curiosity. What we took out the package was not so much a new revolutionary device as it was a possibility to create new applications as an extension of mobile. We built various prototypes to understand the possibilities this touchpoint can offer our clients. The first conversational interface we developed for Transavia was a chatbot operating on Facebook Messenger. This service was launched in 2016 on the Dutch market. Now that there is a variety of smart speakers available on the market, voice is naturally the next step in creating experiences with conversational interfaces.
Research has shown that the majority of the people who are searching for a flight, don’t have a set destination and travel dates. A good option constitutes a synergy between destination, travel date and price. Starting from this, we created a standard booking flow as well as the possibility to find flights based on budget, travel interests and the period in which you want to travel.
The service offers suggestions as to where you should fly. Evidently, you can then book the flight of your choice. Via a conversation, a traveler would be guided to a final proposal step-by-step, or the traveler can submit a ‘power query’, such as “OK Google, ask Transavia for a beach destination under 150 euros in December.” After which we can filter out a handful of proposals based on those parameters.
Read the Transavia Case.
The fact that this process happens all by the use of your voice feels very natural, but also comes with some challenges. When the voice assistant sums up three proposals for a flight, you are likely to forget the first before you’ve heard the third. We resolved this issue by implementing a ‘hand-over’ moment in the Transavia application. When you tell Google Home, “Google, send to phone”, the chatbot will take over the conversation on a smartphone. Also, content such as a video about a proposed destination, can be streamed to a traveler’s television through Chromecast. This is however, not yet a standard functionality.
Voice as a sales channel
Voice assistants have yet to become an omnipresent household product, which makes it hard for us to determine where the technology is going. It’s improbable that lots of people will start to buy tickets through Google Home tomorrow. But to Transavia, being present in people’s living rooms is for now a great starting point to provide services and apply cross- and upselling. With voice, answering questions and selling additional services like seat reservations, access to the lounge, extra leg space and so forth is, after all, effortlessly done.
Vanja Mlaco, coach Digital Team at Transavia, confirms this, saying: “To us, voice is the evidence of the fact that thanks to the API-first strategy we can quickly start working on new technologies.” We want to make Transavia as approachable as possible for people. Voice is an interesting way to enrich the digital journey from both a service point of view as from a sales perspective. Mobile remains the center of the digital ecosystem, but voice is an interesting complementary channel.
Do’s & don’ts
Transavia’s interface has only just gone live, so we haven’t been able to collect data on the actual use of the interface in practice. We do have interesting findings from the development process to share.
Firstly: take into account the mental model of the user. In other words: how complex can or do you want to make the interaction? Right now, you are forced to give a limited amount of possibilities, navigate in very clear steps and ensure seamless hand-overs to other touchpoints. Voice is not a standalone application. The added value comes with a hybrid model through which you can connect to other systems, like mobile. On the other side, you must also figure out how to support power queries in a way that people who are already well acquainted with the service, don’t have to go through a needless dialogue.
Secondly: realize that the options for the Dutch language are limited on the various platforms. English on the other hand is widely supported, but even in English the intent of the user is still sometimes misunderstood. The ‘acceptation’ stands or falls with a small margin of error, so that the use of voice becomes effortless. But even though we are headed this direction, we’re not there yet. The service still needs training. The system for example often still pronounces the French destination of Nice as ‘Naaais’. So if you ask for a flight to ‘Nice’, the system won’t accept your query.
And thirdly: think very carefully about things like idiom and the dialogue design. These two elements are crucial to the creation of the experience. As stated earlier, voice provides a natural and fluent experience so you’ll have to make sure that the conversations match your brand’s identity.
The next few months Vanja is set out to collect data and feedback from clients about the new service. “Mirabeau has set up the capabilities and skills and handed them over to my team. From now on, we will be continuing development. For example, we want to find out how we can trigger people to use the Transavia application on Google Home. Must customers do so on the device itself or via mobile? Also, we want to connect external data sources so we can let people know if it’s busy at Schiphol’s security or what the weather is like at their destination for example. But foremost, we want for voice to fit neatly into the customer journey. In every phase, the customer picks his or her favorite touchpoint. It’s our job to ensure that we’re present on all desired channels and that the conversation keeps on going regardless of that touchpoint, so that customers don’t have to repeat their story over and over. And that’s our biggest challenge for the coming time.
This article was originally published on Emerce, February 2018.