All Aboard! AI & Voice Assistants: Virgin Uses Alexa to Sell Train Tickets
Inspiration from Virgin Train's voice strategy
Voice technology is more innovative today than it’s ever been. Both consumers and businesses alike are beginning to discover a world where they can answer questions, get information, and deliver excellent customer experiences, without ever having to type anything.
The fact that we can now speak to objects and devices just as easily as we would talk to a customer service agent has opened up a brand-new avenue of communication for companies around the world. Five months ago, Virgin Trains became the very first travel company capable of selling tickets through Amazon Echo devices. Today, Virgin says that sales have exceeded their expectations to such a degree that they’re even thinking of expanding their voice strategy even further.
The Virgin Trains “Alexa Skill” Service
The Alexa Skill service from Virgin Trains first came to the market in May, allowing passengers to book any single ticket through their Alexa enabled devices. Customers could also pay for their ticket using a pre-established Amazon account. According to Virgin Trains, the sheer size of Amazon’s customer base (320 million customers), and the number of Alexa units present in the UK (2.8 million) gave them a considerable marketplace to tap into.
Although Virgin Trains obviously took some risks being the first company to offer the intelligent booking option, they also managed to deliver an exceptional result. In fact, they brought their average booking time online down from 7 minutes to only 2 minutes using Alexa Skill.
Additionally, Virgin Trains recently revealed that they get thousands of people using the service every week to ask questions about tickets, make bookings and more. The results have been so positive that Virgin Trains are currently looking at how they can give potential passengers more ticket options to choose from with the Skill system. According to the train company, they plan on expanding the service within the next 3 months.
Opening New Doors for Customer Experience
With more ticket options available to choose from, Virgin will be able to unlock more useful information about customer preferences and buyer journeys. This demonstrates the potential of things like voice assistants for opening a new generation of customer experience (CX).
According to GeoMarketing.com, 65% of the people who own a device like the Amazon Echo simply can’t imagine going back to the days before they had the speaker. Not only do customers like the idea of being able to ask for what they want instead of having to type their queries into a computer, but they can access better, more personalised journeys thanks to the data businesses collect from voice assistants.
After all, smart speakers are enabled by AI technology. Both Amazon Alexa and Google can recognise individual voices, bring context to a conversation and help to deliver a more personalised result for customers. Additionally, as more people explore the voice options available to them, companies can learn more about how their clients prefer to use things like voice assistants, instead of interacting with the typical service agent.
Simplifying Self Service
Virtual assistant solutions like the service offered by Virgin Trains and Amazon Alexa Skill also mean that customers have the option to choose “self-service” over conversations with an employee. Today, many consumers prefer the self-service method, as they consider it to be more efficient and a faster way to complete transactions.
As voice assistants become a more natural part of the consumer landscape, they provide everyday people with a simple and comfortable way to unlock next-level self-service, without having to worry about logging onto a computer or calling up an IVR that doesn’t understand what they’re saying.
Ultimately, voice assistants have opened a virtual door to a new method of communication. The discussion for transactions today is no longer between a customer and a company, but between a client, a brand, and the various devices and artificial intelligence algorithms that come in between. The good news is that these robotic middlemen aren’t making the customer conversation more complex. Instead, they’re allowing businesses to learn more about their audience, and deliver the innovative experiences that set them apart in the current competitive environment.
Whether it’s letting people book train tickets, giving people access to FAQs through a voice assistant, or something else entirely, we’re all moving towards a world empowered by voice.
Have you used this service – what did you think of it? Would you like to give it a go? Let us know in the comments below.