Competition between online and brick and mortar retail travel agencies is fierce. This is why it’s important for the latter to make their stores exciting, attractive, and fun. Delivering personal service and a unique customer experience is at the core of their value proposition. Can technologies using artificial intelligence and voice recognition support them in achieving their goals?
In early 2017, Amadeus and TUI Germany, launched an experimental and innovative project centered on a humanoid robot. Together, we sought explore the value a robot could bring to retail travel agencies. We worked closely with TUI to discuss their needs and business challenges and how a robot could help them address these issues. After much hard work, we prototyped a set of applications to test some use cases running on the humanoid robot Pepper from Softbank Robotics.
Fast forward to December 2017, where a first experimental prototype was successfully tested in the World of TUI flagship store in Berlin. Customers were beckoned by a waving Pepper and when they entered the robot graciously engaged with them: Can I help you find a destination for your trip? Would you like to take a picture with me? May I send the picture to you by email?”
From an office in the back, a project team observed every interaction, trying to capture even spontaneous and unconscious reactions to the robot’s behavior. How open are people to interacting with the robot? Did they enjoy the interaction? Apparently they did. Though not every customer was willing to talk to Pepper, those who did showed every sign of having a positive experience thanks to its almost human qualities.
From developing the concept to building and testing the prototype, the co-creation process with TUI Germany brought us both valuable insights. With these results, we will further develop this project with the goal being to find out if humanoid robots can bring new business opportunities to both sides, help generate revenue, and improve the in-store experience for retail agencies.
We are only just beginning to understand what humanoid robots and artificial intelligence can offer travelers and travel agencies. But this project has been quite encouraging so far and we are excited to continue on this innovative journey.