Modern customers are smarter and more demanding than ever. They expect a great end-to-end customer experience while availing a service or product. Falling short in one area, such as the last mile experience, can lead to customers reporting about their bad experience. The power and reach of social media gives them voice to reach out to brands and express their views directly. This also gives brands, an outlet to gather genuine grievances and work to improve the experience.
Salil Chatrath, Senior Product Manager at Goibibo, noticed that even though travellers were happy with the flight booking experience on Goibibo, their inability to get their desired seats made the experience 'sour' and ended up affecting Goibibo's net promoter score (NPS). Salil wrote in a blogpost,
We wondered, all OTAs have seat selection flows for some time now, then why?
Approaching the problem from a product and design perspective helped the Goibibo team figure out and engineer a solution.
The product and design solution
The Goibibo team realised that post a flight booking, very few users really entered the multi-step process and funnel that involved going to 'My Bookings', seeing and reserving seats. Through GIA (in-house intelligent conversational bot) and “Whatsapp for Business” integration , Goibibo already catered to post bookings queries, e-ticket delivery, hotel reviews. So, they decided to go the conversational way:
Goibibo's thought process was — "What if a customer got a simple WhatsApp message,
Your preferred seats are filling fast, reserve yours now?
The Goibibo team now had a conversational design challenge to overcome, because of the limitations that WhatsApp imposes. Salil noted that there were four major problems/limitations they had to solve:
1. Show the entire layout on screen without any redirections.
2. Demarcate the different categories of paid seats.
3. Limit the number of user inputs (to as low as single word reply for free seat.)
4. Make a scalable design (A320 vs A380?)
Here is how Goibibo approached and solved the challenge.
Step 1- Leverage WhatsApp for business to confirm bookings
Give customers their ticket confirmations and a PDF copy of their tickets. In late 2017, WhatsApp had opened up their platform to let businesses engage with customers and provide after sales support. BookMyShow was also one of the early adopters and partners with WhatsApp.
Related read from September 2017- BookMyShow's product team 'decrypts' how WhatsApp for Business works
Step 2- Leverage heart emojis to show seat layouts
In the post, Salil explained that the team used heart emojis because they were the only ones with six colour options, to take care of the variety of possibilities.
Step 3- Let customers reply with their desired seat number
In case of a free seat, customers can just reply with their desired seat number and Goibibo books and confirms that seat for them. In case, a customers upgrades to a premium seat, a payment link is sent to them and the seat is confirmed after the payment is processed.
The end result? Increased seat bookings and better NPS
Salil noted that seat bookings increased 5X in the first few days of this feature going live. The feature is currently live for Indigo bookings and the team is working to make the integration live across all major domestic and international airlines live soon.
This is an interesting and much needed use case, but it will be interesting to see how the platform will handle seat reservations when volumes increase drastically. Static heart emojis may not be the best solution to show live inventory of seats for flights that are getting filled up quickly. Maybe multiple WhatsApp messages every 30 seconds or so, with up-to-date inventory, could be the solution for this scenario?