Posted February 22, 2008 by Zak Patten
With the phenomenon of Second Life and other virtual worlds now mainstream, it was only a matter of time before an airline created an online avatar of its own.
Enter Jenn, Alaska Airlines' virtual assistant, the first of her kind (species?) to "live" on a U.S. airline's website. I checked in with Jenn to see if she was, you know, cool. I feared she might be stiff and robotic (not to mention criminally unhelpful) like my electric company's virtual phone assistant.
The big difference between the two of them is that Jenn's the only "person" you'll find on Alaska's website, while Electric Company Lady is a gatekeeper for the live humans who might actually be helpful to people like me. Given this reality, I'll take Jenn any day. She may not be animated, but her face is pleasant enough, if immobile. And she seems like she genuinely wants to help. I typed in several sample questions and she instantly typed back responses, and followed up by reading them to me in her always perky voice.
Oh, and Jenn always maintains her professional demeanor, even when you throw her a curveball like, "Where do you live?" Her reply: "Right now, it appears I live with you…but don't worry, I won't overstay my welcome! How can I help you?"
I'm not sure she's ready to mix it up with the residents of Second Life, but if Jenn represents the future of airline customer service, we're in good hands.
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