Expedia dials up virtual agent to assist with customer service

You may have already encountered Jenn, the friendly virtual travel agent who answers questions about everything from mileage plans to flight reservations on Alaska Airlines’ Web site. Now, that same technology — developed by a small startup in Spokane — will be coming to the pages of Expedia this fall.

“The virtual agent will be an extension of the Expedia brand by providing an intuitive, conversational tool that will help our millions of travelers plan and book travel,” said Tim MacDonald, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Expedia, in a release.

The company behind the virtual employees, Next IT, says that its Human Emulation Software is designed to emulate the absolute best qualities of customer service representatives. Here’s more from the company’s Web site:

Your ActiveAgent Virtual Expert never strays from your messaging or branding, always has the most current and accurate information, and is at work for you 24/7. ActiveAgent embodies all of the best characteristics of your highest performing representatives, allowing users to ask natural language questions and receive relevant, content-specific answers with unrivalled accuracy.

Alaska Air already has laid claim to Jenn, while Continental Airlines’ virtual assistant goes by the name of Alex? Virtual assistants from Next IT also are used by the U.S. Army (Sgt. Star) and Gonzaga University (Spike).

So, what should Expedia call their virtual assistant? How about Earl? Or, since it seems that female virtual agents are the preference, Edna?

I imagine the naming brainstorms are already going on inside the Bellevue headquarters of Expedia.

John Cook is co-founder of GeekWire. Follow on Twitter: @geekwirenews and Facebook.

  • Guest

    This is a company that when I recently called customer service after having a flight canceled and explained that I was standing in the Seattle airport repeatedly asked “what time zone are you in.” No amount of explaining that I hadn’t left yet and therefore was in the same time zone I’d been in before, the same time zone that was printed on my ticket, and the same time zone reflected in their booking system, could get through to this person. Of course they couldn’t help and I ended up dealing with the airline directly. When Delta Airlines is more helpful you know there’s a problem.
     
    This of course was followed by the obligatory “important survey” that comes from some VP that of course has hidden their contact info As if I have all the time in the world available to fill out annoying surveys.
     
     

    • Travelstar

      eh? It sounds like your experience wasn’t with the virtual assistant, Jenn!