AirAsia shutters call centres to go all-in on chatbot and voice AI

The future of customer service is messaging and voice-based artificial intelligence, according to the airline.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

AirAsia has closed its voice call centres in a move the company's chief customer happiness officer Adam Geneave said was "controversial", but embraces the future.

Speaking at Salesforce's annual Dreamforce conference recently, Geneave said the future of customer experience is messaging and voice-based artificial intelligence (AI).

SEE: 5G: What it means for IoT (ZDNet/TechRepublic special feature) | Download the free PDF version (TechRepublic)

In preparing for this future, AirAsia has gone all-in with its chatbot, Ava.

"We're so proud of Ava … she's done some amazing work for our guests," he said.

"We weren't the first airline or the first business to launch a chatbot but … we really believe we've launched one of the best in market and through Ava you can book a flight, you can add things to your booking, you can change details, she can answer hundreds of questions."

Ava integrates into the organisation's Salesforce platform and when the bot cannot answer something, the conversation is handed over to Salesforce live chat.

"Before [Salesforce] we had nine different call centres, we had different systems managing our call centres and our live chat and our social media, and we've been able to bring all those things together into that omni-channel environment," he explained.

"As a result of that we've been able to do something really controversial … which is close our voice call centre, because what we've learned is nobody wants to sit on hold to a voice call centre anymore. Life is about messaging,"

Screenshot: Asha Barbaschow

Watch this: Digital transformation and the airline industry

With 64 billion messages a day on WhatsApp and 1.2 billion WeChat active users, Geneave said the way that people are talking is changing.

He believes there are a couple of "big innovations" coming in customer experience, with the first being how customers communicate.

"People communicate really, really differently now and the way that some people communicate today … it's very different to the way people communicated before, and if businesses aren't already in those messaging platforms, then they're already behind," Geneave said.

The second, according to Geneave, is voice AI.

"Alexa and Siri, they've really brought out the voice AI … and it's very clear that voice AI is the way of the future as well. I think that's a really emerging market."

Offering advice for other organisations heading down the chatbot or messaging route as a means of improving customer service, Geneave said people need to be put first.

"If your people are engaged and your people are happy at work, then I think the business performance and the customer satisfaction comes with that," he said.

"You've got to listen to your customers. a lot of the work we do at AirAsia is taking not just the insights we get through systems like Salesforce, but it's getting out there and speaking to our customers.

"I think if you understand your customers and you understand your people, then your business will naturally grow, and develop and be very successful."


Editorial standards