United Airlines carried more passenger traffic than any other airline in the world in 2012 and operates more than 5,472 flights a day to 381 destinations on six continents from their hubs in Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Guam, Houston, Los Angeles, New York/Newark Liberty, San Francisco, Tokyo and Washington, D.C. United is a member of Star Alliance, which provides service to 194 countries via 27 member airlines. United’s more than 85,000 employees reside in every U.S. state and in many countries around the world.
In early 2009, this highly-rated airline's website offered an impressive array of features, giving customers online-access to flight information and tools to complete transactions such as booking flights and changing seats.
The site offered so many useful features that customers were having trouble locating the one they needed. So in keeping with its goal of offering the best customer experience possible, the airline sought a way to make its site easier
To truly understand the needs of the airline customers, Next IT completed a comprehensive study of Continental.com (which later merged with United.com), mapping the information and services offered and the steps necessary to complete transactions. The airline's subject-matter experts were interviewed. An airline-specific language model was constructed that effectively matched questions asked in natural language to the corresponding information on the airline's website. Then, using the Alme platform, Next IT created an intelligent virtual assistant named Alex.
The results have been impressive. Alex is able to determine the context in which questions are asked and the customer's true intent. She guides them directly to the relevant section of the airline's website. If necessary, she can even ask clarifying questions to ensure the right solution is offered.
On an average day, Alex responds to over 75,000 customer inquiries. During the recent Icelandic volcano eruption that disrupted air travel worldwide, Alex responded to more than 100,692 questions per day without missing a beat. And as of her first birthday (July 28, 2010), Alex had answered well over 8 million questions.
Going beyond direct interaction with customers, Alex is also an incredibly useful tool for the airline's customer service representatives, allowing them to offer faster, more consistent answers to callers.
United and Next IT continue to refine Alex's knowledge and language model, continually improving the customer experience she provides.