Recently, I tried to book air line ticket using IVR from one of the leading private air line operators in India. The ticket booking process was not on IVR, only the payment part using credit card was on IVR actually. The process went like this:
1. I called up the IVR number. It gave me options to choose from menus like booking, check ticket status etc.
2. I selected Ticket booking, it asked for domestic or international and I choose domestic.
3. The IVR transferred my call to an human agent. So I asked the human agent, how the booking would be done. She explained that, she would block the ticket for me after getting my details like name, departure city to arrival city etc., and the call would be transferred to IVR payment gateway where I would have to enter my credit card details. As soon as payment is processed successfully, the IVR will transfer the call to human agent again who would provide ticket number ( PNR) and would email the ticket.
So, the whole ticketing was not completely automated by IVR, but human assisted. I could think of one main reason why it is not possible to make the ticket booking process completely automated system. How to put a name on the ticket! Most probably, this problem might not be solved in near future until every person has one unique ID.
But, this problem of entering a name could be solved by sending one SMS ( Short Messaging Service ) to register to the airline before making call to book the ticket. IVR application can verify this registration details along with caller ID and use the name from there. This can work as good as ( even better and faster ) collecting these data by human agent.
Apart from this, there are other ticketing where entering name (or identity proof) is not as important as in air line ticketing, like cinema ticketing, bus ticketing, IVR could be fully automated. Also, with advent of ASR ( Automatic Speech Recognition), entering name might be possible, but still it may not perform satisfactorily.
IVR ticket booking can offer few benefits:-
1. IVR is accessible on telephone from anywhere. The same may not be true for internet, availability of PC etc.
2. IVR could be much faster process of booking a ticket if the person is a registered frequent flier of the air lines or registered member with personal details. One would be able to book a flight by just entering the flight number and date of journey!
3. IVR may even use ‘already stored credit’ card details for faster processing. Credit details could be collected during initial registration process either through website or manually.
4. IVR will offer more security if registered member is mapped with his phone number.
Though, in the present circumstances, the human assisted ticket booking looks like best option, still benefits of faster ticket booking could be provided to its registered member of frequent flier programs. The same way, IVR could be used for booking tickets where members can register themselves using website and filling up their personal details and book tickets on the move!
It may take some time design a complete automated ticket booking system using IVR where personal details are required. I would like to learn if some one has developed completely automated ticket booking system using IVR!