How a traditional mode of transport disrupted the industry with AI
Stena Line is one of the world’s leading ferry operators. Across Northern Europe, it operates 21 ferry routes and employs more than 5,000 people. In 2017 alone, 7.4 million passengers travelled with Stena Line and 2.1 million freight units used its routes.
As such a big company with so many customers, Stena Line is always looking to improve its customer service, and identified an opportunity to open another channel for their customer to get instant responses to questions that can be answered by an AI assistant.
Artificial intelligence made real sense
Already rulers of the seas, Stena Line wanted to also lead the way when it came to artificial intelligence. Disrupting the industry with new digital tools would give them a competitive advantage over competitors by giving travellers unbeatable customer service. Not to mention more time to breathe for their support team.
So, Stena Line set themselves a challenge: run the whole business using artificial intelligence technology by 2021. That means integrated everything from transactions to account management, and loyalty to boarding.
Meet Stina, the travel industry’s most helpful AI assistant
After several briefing sessions getting to know Stena Line’s requirements and business traits, we developed a 12-month development road map for Stina.
Version 1.0 of their first AI assistant – Stina – concentrated on customer problems that can be handled by an AI assistant, but demand lots of time and energy from Stena Line’s customer service team. By using data from their FAQs, call centre logs and website search, we taught their new AI assistant the basics of helping customers solve their issues. Stina’s first set of functions included greetings, ferry times, route information, document information, and luggage or item restrictions. Once the AI assistant was developed to a good standard, Stina was used as an assistant in the call centre, helping with real customer queries. This helped train Stina further, with new data coming in from the customers who talked to it. In 2017, Stina was launched on Facebook Messenger, and subsequently added to the Stena Line mobile Travelmate app.
Then, we started integrating new functions with Stena Line’s business systems so Stina could give people a more personal experience. For example, we trained the AI assistant to use data like booking references and loyalty history information to get reduce the number of qualifying questions for the customer to answer and improve the customer experience. For example, Stina will already know if someone is travelling by foot or in a vehicle when they ask about taking their pet on board.
Stina is a fast learner
Stina is now fully operational. You can talk to it on Facebook Messenger and Stena Line’s mobile app, Travelmate. Already, Stina can handle 55 different types of enquiry, which means thousands of different questions, give live updates, help plan trips and buy tickets, and generally support customers.
Stina is always updating based on her interactions with real users, so she emojis, colloquialisms or entire languages as they’re needed. Stina currently speaks English, Swedish and German.
Already, Stena Line has been awarded a Gala CIO Award for Digital Project of the Year in Sweden for their aspiration to become fully assisted by AI in 2021. The judging panel said:
“The future is approaching faster and faster – what was science fiction yesterday is a strategic reality today. The Digital Project of the Year is a leading example of the fact that the latest technology can be a leverage that transforms everything from processes to business. A wholehearted venture on AI assistants and smart algorithms is the foundation of the digital transformation, which will take the ferry company to the next level. This year’s Digital Project is Stena Line’s AI initiative.”