The AirlineReporter.com Interviews Alaska Airlines “Virtual Jenn”

Burning Time: Interview with Alaska Airlines Virtual Jenn

By David Parker Brown, AirlineReporter.com

I am starting to see these virtual helpers more and more on company websites. I have seen Jenn on Alaska Airline’s site for a while now, but never took the time to get to know her. Recently, I couldn’t sleep and got bored and decided to see how she was doing.

Jenn is not a real person, but she was programmed by real people, who obviously have a sense of humor. These are all real questions and real answers I got from Jenn:

You Asked: Hello Jenn!
Jenn: Hello.

You Asked: How are you today?
Jenn: I’m fine thanks.

You Asked: What’s your job?
Jenn: I’m not human, but rather a virtual assistant, here to help you navigate our Web site.

You Asked: How much do you get paid?
Jenn: No one has to pay me to provide genuine and caring service to our valued customers!

You Asked: How old are you?
Jenn: I am rather young, or as we say in the virtual world – new. But I like to think I have the experience of someone much older. How can I help you?

For the entire interview click here www.airlinereporter.com

Chat with Virtual Jenn yourself at www.alaskaair.com

Virtual Jenn was introduced in 2008 (see below). For more info go to www.nextit.com :

ALASKA AIRLINES, HORIZON AIR INTRODUCE VIRTUAL ASSISTANT AT ALASKAAIR.COM

“Jenn” Uses Own Voice, Personality To Answer Questions, Book Travel

Seattle, Wa. (February 7, 2008) – Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air today introduced a virtual assistant named “Jenn” at alaskaair.com. With her own voice and personality, Jenn answers hundreds of common questions and helps customers book travel.

The virtual assistant is accessed by clicking the “Ask Jenn” link on alaskaair.com’s main toolbar. When customers type questions in Jenn’s chat window, she responds verbally, asks follow-up questions when needed, provides a written response and related Web links, and displays the site’s most relevant page. To reveal her personality, Jenn also answers many personal questions on topics such as pets and favorite foods.

“With nearly half of our tickets purchased at alaskaair.com, our Web site has become the single most popular way customers interact with us before traveling,” said Ann Ardizzone, Alaska’s managing director of customer experience. “Jenn offers customers a more personalized, engaging experience online, while quickly connecting them with the site’s most relevant information.”

Jenn is the first virtual assistant introduced by a U.S. airline. Alaska and Horizon also were the first North American carriers to sell tickets online in 1995 and the first airlines worldwide to offer Web check-in in 1999.

Jenn was created using ActiveAgent™ technology from Spokane, Wash.-based technology company Next IT. The software allows Web sites to interact with users using a natural-language interface, often called an agent, that can retrieve information across databases, answer questions and clarify users’ intents by asking follow-up questions. ActiveAgent™ software also was used to create the SGT. STAR virtual assistant at goarmy.com.

“Next IT’s conversational agent provides a new, enhanced way for Web users to interact with companies online,” said Fred Brown, Next IT’s president and chief executive officer. “Alaska and Horizon had the vision to see how this technology could improve service to their customers online, and now they’re raising the bar for the travel industry.”