Let’s Chat

Sabre Corporation has developed an AI-powered chatbot that leverages Microsoft Bot Framework and Microsoft Cognitive Services – a set of tools that organizations can use to add intelligent and conversational features to their applications.

Initially, Sabre will test the chatbot with two travel agencies and the travellers they serve.

Mark McSpadden, vice president – emerging technology and products of Sabre Corporation, points out that: “Travellers want technology to deliver a more seamless experience, especially when managing on-the-go changes and disruptions. Together with Microsoft and our agency partners, we are exploring how AI and chatbots can provide travelers with the self-service solutions they want for routine requests while helping travel agencies provide personal service for more complex needs.”

In developing the chatbot, Sabre is leveraging Microsoft Bot Framework and a selection of Microsoft Cognitive Services, including Language Understanding Intelligent Service (LUIS).

A Key Challenge

One of the key challenges in human-computer interactions is the ability of computers to understand what people want and find relevant information that connects to their intent.

Travel applications must recognize a plethora of unique terms and phrases, which adds complexity for industry applications. LUIS provides simple tools to build language models that allow any application or bot to understand commands and act accordingly.

Lili Cheng, corporate vice president, AI and Research at Microsoft, notes that: “Intelligent technologies, like chatbots, are augmenting the way companies are able to interact with their customers. Sabre’s chatbot is another great example of how AI can be applied to help extend business capabilities and improve satisfaction of travellers.”

Testing At Two Agencies

Two Sabre-connected travel agencies – Dallas-based Travel Solutions International USA and San Francisco-based Casto Travel – will test a white-label version of the chatbot with travellers, who will access the chatbot via Facebook Messenger.

Travellers will use the chatbot for common service and support requests, such as changing an existing flight reservation.

The chatbot will divert to a live travel agent if it is unable to fulfill a request.

Throughout the test, Sabre and its partner travel agencies will evaluate travellers’ preferences for how often and when they engage the chatbot and when they are likely to divert to a live agent.

The companies expect to gain a better understanding of the best way to engage travellers with chatbots and solve for some of the most common hurdles that many industries face when it comes to chatbots.

Not The First Time

For Sabre, this isn’t the first foray into chatbots.

Sabre Hospitality Solutions is building a chatbot prototype that would allow travellers to shop, book and engage with hoteliers through the most common messaging platforms, such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Twitter and SMS text messaging, as well as voice assistants, such as Amazon’s Echo (Alexa), Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google Home.

When ready, the company expects to test the prototype with some of its hotel customers.