Flying the Friendly Skies with Nuance’s Virtual Assistant

Making its foray into the travel industry, Nuance Communication’s Nina Web solution has been deployed by Jetstar as the airline’s virtual assistant, Ask Jess.

Nuance works with Jetstar in the IVR space and has leveraged the airline’s contact center’s information to create Ask Jess, explains Brett Beranek, senior principal solutions marketing manager at Nuance. With the virtual assistant, typical actions, such as booking seats and checking flight status, can be handled online without being escalated to the call center.

“We’re working with Jetstar on multiple fronts,” Beranek says. “We have quite a bit of insight as to why people call into their contact center. They typically ask for things that they can easily access on the Web site. It turns out that people start their journey online…don’t find the information they’re looking for, and then… call the 1-800 number. Now users have those humanlike interactions on the Web.”

“It’s clear that consumers want greater levels of service on the Web,” said Ian Watson, head of customer care at Jetstar, in a statement. “Jess has already been quite busy handling requests that would have otherwise gone straight to our contact center, and she’s doing great work. In fact, in just her first five days on the job, she has successfully answered over seventy-seven percent of all requests.”

According to recent surveys from Nuance, although many Web sites offer self-help tools to enable consumers to resolve their issues online, more than 58 percent of people are unable to do so. Nearly 50 percent of consumers ultimately give up and contact a live agent for assistance after spending 10 to more than 30 minutes unsuccessfully trying to find answers to a query. As many as 71 percent of consumers said that they would prefer a virtual assistant as part of the Web self-service experience.

“One of the paradoxes that we’ve uncovered is that there is a desire to get things done quickly and efficiently and the best way to do that is with self-service channels, but people prefer a conversational interaction that they have with a human agent,” Beranek says. “That’s where the virtual assistant comes in.”  

The Ask Jess virtual assistant is also fully integrated with the company’s existing live chat service, delivering a seamless handover to human support when required. It is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to customers on the Australian version of The service will be rolled out in New Zealand, Singapore, and all other English versions of the site early next year. Japanese and simplified Chinese versions of the service are also planned.

“We’re very bullish on virtual assistants,” Beranek says. “I think that in a couple of years down the road, the virtual assistant will be the de facto interface and that’s going to be very transformational.”

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Posted October 14, 2014