AI Virtual Assistant Prepares Skier Experience at Snowbird

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At major US ski resorts like Snowbird, few sites are more welcome to a struggling skier than an avalanche rescue dog.

Snowbird has decided to make its beloved avalanche, or “avy,” rescue dogs the faces of its new digital customer experience platform – an AI-powered virtual assistant that automatically answers customer questions and issues. clients.

Although it’s spring, the chatbot’s customer service capabilities are still in action. With a bounty of over 7 feet of snow still on the slopes, the resort expects to remain open for skiing and snowboarding through May, for the longest season of any ski area in the Wasatch Mountain Range. from Utah.

Build ‘Dog Cat’

To create the “Dog Chat” AI virtual assistant, Snowbird and its parent company – Powdr Corp., based in Park City, Utah – chose Satisfi Labs, a 2014 startup conversational AI provider headquartered in At New York. The provider specializes in creating applications for large shopping centers and outdoor recreation, such as professional sports stadiums, zoos and, in recent years, around 15 ski areas.

Snowbird and Powdr’s digital marketing teams chose Satisfi for Snowbird and several other Powdr ski resorts, including Killington, Vermont, because they were impressed with the AI ​​virtual assistants the vendor built for a shopping mall in Las Vegas and more than a dozen Major League Baseball teams, Kolton said. Smith, Head of Digital Marketing at Snowbird.

“They really brought a lot of brand voice to these discussions,” Smith said. “We were going to have a virtual assistant, but how do we get there to be some Snowbird personality in this thing? How do we make it fun?”

They really brought a lot of brand voices into these discussions. We were going to have a virtual assistant, but how were we going to make sure there was a Snowbird personality in this thing?

Kolton SmithDigital Marketing Manager, Snowbird

One concern was that customers would get frustrated interacting with a bot rather than a human, Smith explained.

“Looking at some of Satisfi’s examples, we were inspired by what they were doing,” he said.

Virtual customer support for leads

Snowbirds customers want to know all sorts of things – from ticket prices and restaurant hours at the base lodge to when certain ski runs are open and avalanche danger.

Before Snowbird first launched the Avy Dog virtual assistant for the 2020-2021 ski season, the resort’s social media teams answered around 100 questions a day on Facebook or email. The information was mostly available on the station’s website, but people couldn’t find it.

The AI ​​virtual assistant saves employees a lot of time, Smith said. That and the improved customer experience are the main benefits for Snowbird, more so than a specific ROI or other revenue effect, according to Smith. He didn’t provide pricing information, but said the company benefits “a lot because we work with them across the entire Powdr portfolio.”

Satisfi has built its core product, an AI-based response engine, to focus on hyperlocal search, said Don White, CEO and co-founder of the provider, who has a background in financial trading technology from Wall Street. .

Conversational AI

Rather than focusing on keyword research like many customer experience technology providers do, Satisfi has built its conversational AI engine to understand questions such as “How much does the ticket cost for a child ?” or “What’s the difference between a family plan and an individual plan?”

The Snowbirds ski resort AI virtual assistant.

“We looked at a lot of larger systems and couldn’t figure out why they didn’t account for that kind of specificity. The short answer is because it’s hard,” White said. “It requires a lot of data mining and a lot of data tagging.”

White and co-founder and CTO Randy Newman both worked on Wall Street in the early 2000s creating hyperspecific exchange trading algorithms. With Satisfi, they fused the hyperlocal approach with natural language processing and conversational technology.

“We just brought it to natural language, and that’s why I think we were successful,” he said.

Satisfi began hosting exclusively on Amazon, but is transitioning its chatbots to a multi-cloud system including Google Cloud Platform.

After seven rounds of seed and venture funding from investors including Google Assistant Investments and Major League Baseball, as well as debt, Satisfi has grown to about 35 employees.

Building an AI Workforce

Satisfi takes pride not only in its AI technology, but also in serving its users by customizing the chatbot’s virtual assistants to suit their needs, such as answering new types of questions or solving new problems, whether in the ski industry or in other settings, White said.

And this work does not always require developers. Satisfi’s operations team is able to quickly respond to chatbot change requests through its configuration dashboard.

“The AI ​​workforce is what we’re focused on. Making conversational AI hireable,” White said. “I want Powdr Corp. to be able to ask us, ‘So, do you have a lift ticket assistant to help people with lift tickets or after purchase?’

“I just want this job to be handled by an AI, and the human is the supervisor,” he added. “So the human, say, has a staff of three. Well, now your staff is 10 because you have seven AIs [bots] running around, doing certain tasks for you.”

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