When Geoff Gabites first started operating Cook Connection, the company received customer questions via phone and email, and due to time differences between New Zealand and Cook Connection’s international customers, phone calls outside office hours were common.
Geoff was worried about slow response times and the small customer service team was getting buried responding to incoming enquiries. Their work-life balance was decidedly unbalanced due to phone enquiries taking up a lot of time outside normal office hours.
“What was particularly frustrating was that the answers to most questions were readily available on our website,” explains Geoff.
“We even had the website translated into Mandarin, but it seemed that people simply didn’t read the information.”
"We’re really pleased with the engagement and success non-English speakers get from the chatbot.” -James Donald, Yonder
This is a common experience, explains Yonder co-founder Letitia Stevenson.
“People no longer want to wade through information on a website to find what they’re looking for. Website visits are getting shorter, as are attention spans. You have to address needs quickly, otherwise visitors will bounce off your website.
“Because of their ability to handle routine questions with ease, and their ability to answer when you can’t, AI chatbots have the potential to drive significant ROI with minimal effort, and that’s exactly what Cook Connections has seen,” says Letitia.
During the busy summer period, the chatbot saves the lean Cook Connection customer service team close to a day a month by answering routine questions about timetable, pick-up and drop-off locations, availability and directions, with its automated responses.
“Yonder has taken away our pain point,” Geoff Gabites, Cook Connection
During summer, the Yonder AI chatbot resolves 75 percent of conversations instantly, and facilitates around 20 bookings each month, freeing up staff to focus on more complex enquiries or other matters.
Even during the off-season (May to September), Yonder is earning its keep, facilitating nine or ten bookings each month and facilitating between 20-40 conversations.
“Yonder has taken away our pain point,” says Geoff.
“It has reduced phone calls, and helped our international clients get answers in what is the middle of the night in New Zealand,” explains Shelley Gabites who is responsible for customer service.
In fact, Geoff was so happy with the results that he rolled Yonder out to another of his businesses - Paparoa Shuttles.
“It’s another tool or line of communication for customers. The chatbot is responsive 24-7 for clients and more manageable for us than phone calls at all hours, so it’s a win win,” says Geoff.
Many Cook Connection customers are Mandarin speakers, and initial results were mixed as the chatbot learnt more about the way customers asked questions.
Yonder co-founder, James Donald, says that the chatbot is now pretty robust to poor spelling or unusual syntax that is common among those who have English as a second language.
“For non-English speakers, we believe the chatbot is easier than calling or writing long form paragraphs in an email. With just a few words, they can navigate to the information they need and use buttons to find out more.
“We’re really pleased with the engagement and success non-English speakers get from the chatbot.”
One of Shelley’s favourite Yonder features is the ability to see a visitor’s journey through the website, and whether they moved on to book.
“Having the side panel on the right showing where a visitor was when they engaged with the chatbot, where they clicked and their journey through pages on the website helps to get a handle on what they may actually have been trying to find out.
“It also confirms if they got an okay answer as you can see they went into our booking process without further help,” says Shelley.
The Cook Connection runs a summer bus service to and from New Zealand’s Aoraki Mt Cook which each year helps thousands of travellers enjoy the spectacular views, hiking, climbing, paddling amongst icebergs or any of the other activities for which the Mackenzie Basin is known. The bus service runs daily between Tekapo and Twizel to Mt Cook and back.