“Do you have a sister?”
“Can I bring my puppy home?”
These are just some of the unusual questions the nation’s most popular airline “employee” has been asked by Australians.
We’re talking about Jess, Jetstar’s virtual assistant. The unlikely airline star has been credited with transforming the company by fielding questions on their website, ultimately freeing up the call centre for more complex queries and slashing wait times. That means happier customers.
Having held over one million online conversations with passengers since beginning her role last November, she’s pretty much heard it all.
Jess first caught our attention when a flyer took to Twitter to express their frustration at being unable to snag a date with her:
Intrigued, news.com.au spoke to Ian Watson, Head of Customer Care, the team who are the brains behind Jess, to find out what her (virtual) life is really like. And one thing’s for sure, it’s never dull.
“We do get some strange questions,” Mr Watson told news.com.au. “We get some people who mistake her for being a real person. Others send in cranky letters because they don’t think she’s done a good job.”
Case in point:
“It’s fascinating. There are also some people who find it very funny, and have very long conversations with her. People are definitely more confident when they’re talking on the internet than face to face.”
So what kind of things do they ask? Here are some unusual questions, and her cheeky responses:
• Will you marry me?
I’m a virtual agent, not a person. Also, we only just met 😉
• Who is your favourite actor?
Ryan Gosling and George Clooney are my favourites, but I’m not here to talk about them (even though I could talk about them all day).
• Are you on Tinder?
But I’m a virtual agent. Also, I’m here online 24-7, so I can’t really go out anywhere.
And then there are the random comments she receives, such as: “I like your pixels!”
Mr Watson said Jess has improved customer satisfaction immensely.
“(The Ask Jess program) has really gone way beyond our expectations … About a year-and-a-half ago we had real problems where customers could be waiting 45 minutes to an hour to get through to our call centre, now most of the time we have an average answer time of a couple of minutes.
“There’s also been a real benefit to customers at the airport who need immediate assistance, for example when their flight has been cancelled due to weather and they’re trying to rebook. Now we’ve got Jess there customers can get straight through.”
Jess is helping to improve the passenger experience.
Over time Jess has become more knowledgeable. That’s because a Jetstar staff (humans) monitor Jess’s interactions every day and they find she’s struggling with a question they tailor the responses.
When launched last year, Jess engaged in around 100,000 conversations a month, now it’s 140,000. The airline says Jess resolves 80 per cent of guest queries upon first contact.
So what’s next for Jess?
“We’ll look to see how we can introduce her on social media, then we’ll develop new languages,” Mr Watson said.