The 'Jewel' waterfall at Changi International Airport. Source: AFP.

The ‘Jewel’ waterfall at Changi International Airport. Source: AFP.

Changi Airport’s virtual assistant seeks to make air travel stress-free

Singapore’s Changi Airport Group (CAG) is constantly pushing the envelope when it comes to enhancing its customer experience, but a new partnership with Accenture takes things up another notch

Its new project, DIVA – an acronym for digital, innovation, ventures and analytics – is a digital ‘factory’ to leverage emerging technologies in tackling the various challenges Changi faces. And as the world’s seventh busiest airport for international traffic, the challenges are definitely many.

According to Fabio Vacirca, a market group lead for Accenture, DIVA is like a “startup where employees think about what the customer wants and work backward in developing digital solutions.”

One of the more recent solutions developed by DIVA is MAX, Changi’s own virtual assistant. The AI-powered chatbot is designed to provide real-time assistance to passengers and help them explore airport grounds.

The concept of the chatbot was conceived when the team realized that they could help customers better on virtual platforms. Melvin Leong, Senior Manager of Corporate & Marketing Communications of CAG, said that they first noticed passengers were very responsive and adept in using messaging platforms.

“Noticing this, we decided to create a virtual assistant that can offer round-the-clock, on-demand assistance conveniently to passengers.”

Keeping the customer in mind, the DIVA team first looked at the three main channels passengers and visitors approach for information – social media, contact center, and information counters – to source for common questions passengers ask when at the airport.

Information was also sourced from interviews and surveys that were conducted on-ground with travelers, airport staff and various stakeholders. From the data gathered, the core functions of MAX were narrowed down to flight information and alerts, things to do around Changi Airport, and Lost and Found.

To innovate and create something of value, one have to ask the right questions, and search for answers at the right places. MAX, for example, was conceived when DIVA saw that the answer to their question of how best to reach customers was through mobile platforms.

Secondly, with the right people in the right environment, innovation can be fostered. Experimentation is at DIVA’s core, and is staffed with professionals that have the right skills to do so.

Finally, when it comes to enhancing customer experience, always think like the customer. It is only by putting one’s self into the customer’s shoes that one can identify gaps and areas of improvement.