Marvel not over Marvie

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SINGAPORE, 1 August 2018:  Scoot has introduced a transactional chatbot, named Marvie that is supposed to have us in awe.

It doesn’t by its own account if you take its pick-up rate on customer performance since its first week of electronic chatter in early July.

Chatbot Marvie is short for the wordy title “Most Awesome and Resourceful Virtual Intern Ever.” The latest creation to take the people factor out of the customer care process, Marvie was launched during the first year anniversary to mark Tiger Air’s merger with Scoot.

The low-cost airline claims it’s the first to introduce a chatbot. Ultimately, chatbot fans believe it could replace an army of customer service agents over time.

Actually, Scoot and most other low-cost airlines are not overloaded with ‘live’ staff waiting to deal with your enquiries. They have long since been replaced by apps and now chatbots that tell us what we already know and what we don’t know they are not programmed to assist.

The soft launch version of Scoot’s Marvie landed, 2 July, to handle simple queries from customers, but just in English.

In its latest incarnation the service will extend to assist customers to “search for flights, display the same fares and availability as reflected on Scoot’s website and mobile app, make flight bookings and allow payment by credit card – essentially a full transaction flow.”

Now for the sad statistics the chatbot serves 50 users a day, which sounds pathetically low.  Ask a customer service agent how many enquiries they deal with in day? I would wager it is more than 50.

What’s more Marvie’s success rate for resolving issues is a tardy 37.5%. Back to school Marvie.

Most of the queries come through Facebook and the airline says the resolution rate should rise. Unfortunately it depends on Marvie’s learning curve hence the description “intern”.

The most commonly asked queries pertain to baggage, like the frustrated “where is it” that prompts the bland computer English ascent to respond “what luggage”.

Sorry I am not buying the chatbot thing for now. If I needed to call customer service I would expect to have a real chat not a virtual apology that tells me that they are not yet programmed to answer my question.

We are already expected to check out fares, flights, make a booking, assign a seat, book a luggage allowance, order a meal, take out insurance, check in and print out a boarding pass all online. What more can we do short of flying the plane?

Then when there is a hitch and we feel the need to chat to someone behind the faceless low-cost airline we end up chatting to a bot.  Well it has a name Marvie, but we are not marvelling over its customer service skills for now.

It’s not all bad news for chatbots. I noticed that most airlines in Bangkok hardly ever pick up the phone these days and when they do you are queued until you tire and hang up or the system drops you.

Once the learning curve progresses I might agree with Scoot and say Marvie is a marvel.

But Scoot is optimistic that its chabot conversational commerce is the way to go.

“ We have invested in initiatives to improve our digital capabilities and the customer experience. M.A.R.V.I.E. is one of the first of Scoot’s efforts towards this goal; instead of having our customers come to us, we are committed to meeting them where they are, when it’s convenient for them,” said Scoot’s chief commercial officer, Vinod Kannan.

In the future, Marvie will be able to accept promo codes, assist customers to manage and make changes to their bookings, purchase ancillary products such as

preferred seats and travel insurance, make interline bookings involving flights by partner airlines, and accept more payment modes. There are also plans to make it available in more languages and on more platforms, including Scoot’s website.