AI-powered virtual travel assistant: a wake-up to the new norm for travel service experience

In the past decade, brands have invested heavily in digital and mobile experiences that reduce friction and let customers use services on their own terms, wherever they are. The explosion in recent years of mobile devices, especially powerful smartphones and cloud-based computing, has resulted in new user expectations and needs.

Brands need to respond to these increased expectations and be available within any related context of need - whether it is up-to-the-minute travel information or making planning easier through instant communications. Customers have the growing desire of ubiquitous availability to support their everyday needs.

Consumers interacting less and less with traditional airline, hotel, and even online travel agency brands in favour of smart speakers. If travel companies are paying attention, such voice-enabled devices could provide brands with a new front door to the customer, as AI-powered virtual assistants are becoming synonymous with the customer service experience.


The opportunity

From project management to health care, assisted services and intelligent assistants will effortlessly guide us through complicated processes that previously could only be done by a person or digital touch points. While it’s [currently] doubtful that AIs and chat-bots will replace humans entirely, it is predicted that in 3-5 years they will work seamlessly with human customer support agents and even facilitate more personal human-to-human interactions.

However, brands cannot stand still and need to explore this new customer service channel opportunity to ensure first market advantage to generate uptake and increase loyalty, as a result.

A leading global car rental company asked Prospect to create an evidenced business case to explore the relevance of AI-powered virtual assistants to provide 24 hour assisted services and automated help to their broad audience base.

Prospect conducted market research and in close collaboration with the client stakeholders, co-developed user journeys, use cases, proto-personas, and voice dialogue to help prioritise the business case focus.

“At 84% accuracy, Google provides, by far, the most accurate voice search experience, meaning you can invest in voice search with confidence that the outcome will be useful, not a gimmick”

Prospect created a vocal prototype for Google Home’s platform to validate the overall service, conversation style, and dialogue design. The use cases opportunities were broad - from conducting an entire booking process to adding ‘extras’ to an existing booking, provide alternative mobility options, provide location-based data to value add services, provide a platform for customer feedback to manage booking and invoicing queries.

Through the process, the dialog structure was updated, and was able to recognise variations of intent and understand if the user provides more than one information point. The prototype also provided contextual navigation to web and ancillary services to aid usability and a holistic service offering.

Validated business case


“An NPR-Edison Research study found that 18% of adults in the United States (43m people), now own a smart speaker. Worldwide ownership exceeds 100 million and is projected to reach 225 million by 2020”

Focused one2one user research suggested that business and leisure travelers have a variety of needs when considering, comparing, booking and managing car rental. Customers expect to be able to update a booking or even conduct an entire booking process - any time, any place, any usage scenario, as part of their daily lives. Powered by the nature of increasingly smarter delivery devices (in your pocket, on wrist, in ear, at home or whilst driving, biking, walking down the street), AI-powered virtual assistants are becoming accepted and a natural interaction format. The research validated positive consumer appetite and readiness for different use cases.

This is supported by virtual personal assistants like Google home and Alexa rapidly moving from nifty gadgets for techies to service platforms ingrained in everyday life. The adoption of smart speakers is outpacing smartphones a decade ago.



The voice research and prototype helped validate investment into the rapidly emerging AI-powered virtual assistant space. Predictions are that these emerging interaction models could become synonymous with car rental customer service experience in the near future.