From The FieldArtificial intelligence will mean many things to many industries. In travel management, it already helps to personalize booking experiences for travelers. Moving forward, it also will streamline workflows, minimize risk and generally alter service delivery. AirPlus International executive director of marketing Yael Klein discusses the potential as society feels its way through the early days of self-learning systems.

A while ago I read that in 2020 each of us will carry an average of five connected mini computers around. I have four devices with me at all times already: two mobile phones, an iPad and a Smartwatch. However, I don’t have Alexa at home (yet), perhaps because I am influenced a little by the fact that the country I live in, Germany, is reluctant and has not joined in the global euphoria when it comes to artificial intelligence.

Lots of people fear machines that can act and think – machines that one day may take over their jobs or even replace them completely.

Let’s Focus On The Benefits

While there are many criticisms and concerns about artificial intelligence, I suggest we focus on its benefits. Artificial intelligence can simplify our lives significantly. Let me give you an example: Recently I had a late-night discussion with a Mimeo chatbot about why I couldn’t upload my photos into a digital photobook. The chatbot was very friendly and helped solve my problem. This experience showed me that artificial intelligence has the potential to result in major changes to the service model as we know it.

Yael Klein, AirPlus
AirPlus International executive director of marketing Yael Klein

Intelligent voice systems already are part of the lives of people in China, the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries, especially for providing answers to frequently asked questions. Smart computers have learned to cater to individual needs and save customers a lot of time and energy. Gone are the days when I had to shout “Agent, agent!” into the telephone because the Interactive Voice Response didn’t understand what I needed.

Chatbots understand connections quickly and respond to individual needs because they have learned how it is done. Of course, that does not mean we will live in a machine-dominated world in the near future. We still will have to feed data and information to the new technologies to enable them to complement us in our everyday lives, compensate our weak points and, ideally, help us get rid of boring tasks.

Artificial Intelligence Will Improve Customers’ Experiences

Self-learning systems are much better and faster than we are at processing and analyzing transmitted customer data. I believe this is where the financial and business travel industries can tap the greatest potential. For example, artificial intelligence can help us optimize business travel management and enhance customer experiences continuously. Business travel provider Carlson Wagonlit Travel recently launched an intelligent tool for data analysis, reporting, and visualization. It is said to work in the same way as a personal search engine and to know everything about each customer’s individual travel program.

In turn, these new features help foster the customer journey. The more high-quality information we have about our customers, the better we can tailor our offerings to fulfill their requirements and, at the same time, simplify services and reduce complexity. Also, this may give us the ability to modify our relationships with customers over the long term. We will be able to address them at a much more personal level because we will know more about them.

We Are Only Scratching The Surface

Artificial intelligence evaluates data and learns from experiences. For us, this means we will be better able to assess and control risk and make decisions based on our findings. At AirPlus, among other things, we are working to develop algorithms to help us improve our assessment of credit risk.

Even though many providers of financial or business travel services have delved into these topics, we only are scratching the surface of what artificial intelligence actually is capable of. I am certain that we have exciting times ahead – once we have cast our fear of contact aside and start to tap the full potential of these digital opportunities.

We will think increasingly about ways to employ self-learning systems to enhance our workflows and processes. Artificial intelligence may make some jobs redundant as well, but mainly in segments where it makes sense. On the other hand, artificial intelligence also will offer us new job opportunities.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates recently wrote that in 10 years artificial intelligence would be a fixed part of our lives. I am ready.

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