In August, FCM Travel Solutions South Africa will be launching its chatbot, Sam, thereby spearheading the next-generation of technology in the business travel sector in South Africa. Sam is a highly interactive “Smart Assistant for Mobile” that supports users with all aspects of travel via a conversational interface to answer questions, make recommendations, and perform actions.
“The launch of Sam comes at a time when modern and tech-savvy corporate travellers increasingly demand to have more freedom within a framework to manage their trips on their own. The travel bot is the perfect technological answer to address these modern business travellers’ needs,” says Euan McNeil, FCM Travel Solutions South Africa GM.
Sam is FCM’s 24-hour travel assistant designed to simplify life for corporate travellers. The bot assists business travellers pre-, during and post trip, with everything from itinerary management, air and hotel bookings, flight updates, local city and country information, local weather and restaurant suggestions, to security notifications, ground transportation, driving directions, immigration advice and vaccination status.
“The conversational interface and relevance of the messages or questions that Sam exchanges with the user, gives travellers their own ‘personal assistant’ on the move. In fact, the more a traveller uses Sam, the more intelligent the chat bot becomes and the more capable of delivering personalised information,” says McNeil.
A basic version of Sam, which offers travellers a comprehensive overview of their travel itineraries, is currently already available for download in various app stores. However, if corporate travellers want to access the full capability of this highly interactive and travel-savvy chatbot, it needs to be integrated with the FCM Connect technology suite.
Once integrated with FCM Connect, all bookings made via FCM consultants will automatically appear in the traveller’s itinerary. It will also be configured in line with the corporate’s travel guidelines and will prompt the user to take actions that are within policy, thus improving compliance, controlling costs and supporting duty of care.
Sam blends artificial intelligence with the expertise of FCM consultants, delivering personalised, relevant information to business travellers’ mobile devices.
There will still be a clearly defined role for both the TMC and the Travel bot in the current corporate travel landscape. Travel bots will enable TMCs to combine human service with technology to create a more advanced level of customer service and to cut costs.
TMCs are uniquely positioned to assist with travel bots because they have intimate knowledge of the business traveller, both in institutional and anecdotal knowledge. Travel bots are incredibly well equipped to work within the framework of established travel policies and routine transactions. However, bots are not equipped to know when to make an exception. That’s a human’s job.
Business travel is about people and FCM’s approach will still be about blending the latest technology with personal service. Users of Sam can call or message their consultant at any time for live assistance on the go.