Since 2004, Qantas-owned Jetstar has used natural-language search technology from RightNow to handle common custom queries via its Web site, minimising the cost of having routine queries handled by a call centre. The system handles an estimated 1.25 million queries a month.
Later this year, Jetstar will expand its international operations, with flights planned to Japan, Indonesia, Honolulu, Thailand and Vietnam. Shortly after the sales launch for those routes, it plans to launch a Japanese-language of its main jetstar.com site, complete with a selection of translated questions from the current RightNow system.
Over time, the company plans to translate most questions in the system into a range of languages, Grant Swinbourne, Jetstar's manager of online channels, told ZDNet Australia: "The end goal is that everything needs to be effectively translated, but at this stage we're focusing on Japanese," he said.
"From a technical perspective, there are very few challenges. The product takes a lot of that headache away. It really comes down to that issue of translation. We've got to find native speakers or people with enough knowledge to read it. We use a professional translation service to get a lot of that right."
When Jetstar rolled out its Australian site implementation of the query database, it was surprised to discover that many of its own staff were using what had been intended largely as a customer-facing system. That model may now be adopted more formally.
"We're looking at an internal version of RightNow which may include slightly more detail and be skewed towards the internal user," Swinbourne said. It will have the same questions but also potentially additional information for people operating over the phone."
Currently, international customers account for just five percent of Jetstar's business, so predicting their query behaviour is difficult. However, Swinbourne said that most questions were likely to be on common aviation topics, such as airport locations and baggage allowances.
Global expansion also poses a challenge in handling multilingual queries in non-Web environments. "We are looking at resources to assist us with local sales and assist us with the customer relationship management side," Swinbourne said. "Rather than have dedicated Chinese or Japanese speakers in Melbourne, the intent is to utilise the sales resources on the ground to assist.
The main Jetstar site was recently merged with that of sister airline Jetstar Asia, in which Qantas holds a controlling stake. That could create another major translation project. "We're talking to them about utilising RightNow to handle traditional Chinese, and integrating their FAQs into our RightNow environment," Swinbourne said.