WestJet's Chatbot Is an Ongoing Project—Not a One-Time Execution

What the Canadian airline learned post-launch

An interview with:
Alfredo Tan
Chief Digital and Innovation Officer

The commercial airline industry has embraced chatbots powered by artificial intelligence (AI) to efficiently serve customers at all stages—especially as consumers become more reliant on digital and resistant to calling customer service. But every airline has its own strategy—and challenges—behind its chatbot. eMarketer's Paul Briggs spoke to Alfredo Tan, chief digital and innovation officer at WestJet, about how the Canadian airline created its new chatbot Juliet, what it learned and how it's measuring success early on.


How does WestJet approach AI?

Alfredo Tan:

Our AI conversations have been happening for the past two years. There are commercial and operational parts of our business that are working on proof of concepts—that includes working with big companies as well as startups that have specific expertise in testing AI to either improve business performance or create a virtual assistant, like Juliet. Our investigation into chatbots started 18 months ago, and the official development work started in late 2017.


Where did you look to get a sense of best practices?

Alfredo Tan:

We looked at some of the work airlines in Europe and Asia have been doing. We felt that we were in the infancy stage of this very long game of AI chatbots in our industry. We saw projects with different levels of sophistication, and airlines with different purposes for their chatbot. Implementations can be very different, too, whether it's presented as an app icon or a version of their logo. And some airlines use a human name, like what we did with Juliet, or a branded name.

Interview conducted on September 5, 2018

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