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Charting the future of customer service with GenAI


A couple smiles as they stand outside on a sunny day while onboard a cruise ship.

At a glance

We partnered with Virgin Voyages, a luxury cruise line, to develop Vivi, one of the first generative AI-powered digital humans built on Salesforce. Through empathetic and knowledgeable responses, Vivi reshaped the typical chatbot experience and set a new standard for online customer service.

Impact

With the launch of Vivi, Virgin Voyages elevated its customer experience, alleviated management costs, and reduced call center escalations by more than 20% over the existing Einstein bot.  


Key Services

Strategy icon
Strategy
Experience strategy & design icon
Experience strategy & design
Artificial intelligence icon
Artificial intelligence


Industry

Travel  & hospitality


Key Technologies / Platforms

  • Salesforce


In a sea of competition, experiences are everything. 

When Virgin Voyages launched at the end of 2021, the luxury cruise line set out to disrupt the status quo and reinvent the cruise ship experience. Offering exclusively adult sailings to over 100 destinations, Virgin Voyages challenges industry norms to deliver epic vacations to its sailors.

Yet, entering the market after the height of COVID-19 was daunting for any new company, especially a cruise line. Before its fleets could set sail, it was essential for Virgin Voyages to drive brand awareness, cultivate a strong customer base, and build excitement for cruising again.

“We needed people to choose us versus other established cruise lines,” explains Gabriel Mendez, director of digital experience at Virgin Voyages. “We pride ourselves on offering an elevated service experience and we want that to start before you get on the ship.”

To differentiate its brand at the onset, Virgin Voyages engaged Slalom to redesign its website navigation and content based on what resonated with cruisers post-pandemic. Through user testing and human-centric design innovation, Slalom developed a new website for the cruise line that fueled engagement and increased visitor site depth by 30%.  

“The results were amazing,” recalls Mendez. “People were interacting and engaging more with our website. So, when it came time to elevate our customer experience, Slalom was a natural choice for us to partner with again.”


Navigating a new era of growth 

The website redesign project was only the beginning of Virgin Voyages’ transformative journey with Slalom. After its website went live, the cruise line had to prepare its Sailor Services call center for an influx of customer inquiries and bookings. 

“We’re in a unique situation as a cruise line because you can’t buy something, trial it, and return it if you don’t like it,” notes Mendez. Once someone lands on the website, it can take days or weeks of research before a decision is made—and during that time, customers typically have a lot of questions. Virgin Voyages needed a solution that could ease the booking process for customers while alleviating calls to Sailor Services. 

The cruise line had tried to launch a chatbot with Slalom before, but the technology capabilities were limited at the time. Responses were prescriptive and had to be mapped manually, which increased workloads for internal teams. Additionally, while the bot could answer basic FAQs, it couldn’t handle complex inquiries, which only left customers frustrated. 

Virgin Voyages had considered removing the chatbot from its website altogether—until the advent of generative AI. 

“We started to think about how we can use AI to better our processes and better our customer experience,” says Mendez. “Slalom was one of the first vendors to show us a working generative AI solution that could easily be implemented with our existing chatbot.” 


Trusted content for nearly 120 years

From risotto recipes in Allrecipes to newborn sleep strategies in PARENTS, Meredith has brought essential, inspiring, and trusted content to Americans for nearly 120 years. Meredith’s National Media Group reaches more than 190 million American consumers and 95% of all US women.

With over 40 sites across entertainment, parenting, food and beverage, style and beauty, health and wellness, home, and travel, Meredith has an unparalleled amount of first-party data on US women.

Since 2015, Slalom has been a trusted adviser and implementation partner on Meredith’s data journey.

“Meredith brought us in to help develop a framework for analyzing and structuring its first-party data—a framework to bring all the data together where they could gain the most insight from it,” says Pallavi Tyagi, a Senior Principal consultant at Slalom.

“Slalom has this huge reservoir of talent, so we were able to pull in Slalom consultants who could help out with very specific types of data analyses that we just couldn’t do internally,” says Corbin de Rubertis, Meredith’s Head of Innovation.

Slalom helped Meredith build a modern culture of data by:

  • centralizing its data sources—giving executives direct access to metrics;
  • analyzing billions of data points across data sources to identify and predict trends and patterns in consumer behavior;
  • providing ML-driven insights to influence advertiser marketing, targeting, creative, and product development;
  • developing a consumer-decision framework that understands consumer actions from the lens of their key daily decisions to optimize media spend and placement; and
  • leveraging capabilities of underlying AWS and Snowflake platforms.

     


The inside of a cabin on a Virgin Voyages cruise ship.
The Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady cruise ship sails through smooth waters on a sunny day.

Virgin Voyages offers its sailors a unique luxury cruise experience, with world-class amenities. We partnered to help elevate that experience from the very beginning of the customer journey.


Bringing generative AI to life 

As excitement around generative AI grew worldwide, Slalom’s team began to strategize how the technology could be used to overcome Virgin Voyages’ challenges. “We had a willingness to experiment,” says Allen Mann, a director at Slalom. “Nobody had answers in this space and there wasn’t a playbook we could follow. But Virgin Voyages was willing to jump in and run these experiments with us.”

In just six weeks, this experimentation proved successful, laying the groundwork for a revolutionary new chatbot. Together, Slalom and Virgin Voyages developed Vivi, one of the first generative AI-powered digital humans built on Salesforce. 

Vivi leverages Salesforce Einstein and Slalom’s generative AI framework to derive information from Virgin Voyages’ internal database. Using semantic knowledge retrieval and model training, Vivi can then respond naturally to customer queries. 

In fact, customers can talk to Vivi like they talk to a human being. Vivi answers multi-faceted, complex questions knowledgeably and empathetically, mirroring Virgin Voyages’ tone and language to create a more realistic customer service chat experience. 

Internally, since response mapping is no longer needed, Vivi also optimizes efficiency and minimizes management costs. Additionally, because Vivi only retrieves information from a private knowledge base, rather than scanning the web, Virgin Voyages can ensure privacy, reduce inaccuracies, and eliminate intellectual property concerns associated with other generative AI technologies.


Our team brought a willingness to experiment. Nobody had answers in this space and there wasn’t a playbook we could follow. But Virgin Voyages was willing to jump in and run these experiments with us.

Allen Mann

Director, Slalom


Employing a digital human to enable real people

“It was amazing to partner with Slalom,” says Mendez. “Their team is always ready to adapt and go on whatever journey needed to obtain the best results.”

After the launch of Vivi, Virgin Voyages experienced an immediate 20% reduction in call center escalations. By deflecting unnecessary and repetitive calls to Sailor Services, agents can accomplish more productive, meaningful work. In turn, this has allowed Virgin Voyages to increase team morale, reduce burnout, and begin transforming Sailor Services into a revenue generator that’s focused on driving bookings. 

As the first cruise line to launch a generative AI-powered digital human, Vivi has enabled Virgin Voyages to redefine customer satisfaction in its industry and demonstrate the true power that generative AI can give back to people.


It’s amazing to partner with Slalom. Their team is always ready to adapt and go on whatever journey needed to obtain the best results.

Gabriel Mendez
Director of Digital Experience, Virgin Voyages 






Let’s solve together.