You and I can relate with the sickening moment when an important work flight is canceled at the last minute. A feeling in your gut that not much can be done.

But imagine if someone direct-messaged to personally let you know, then proceeded to quickly book you on another flight without any hassle?

Bartosz Hernas Ahoy CTO Layer Customer

That’s the kind of miracle Ahoy is offering businesses and teams. They’re a flight booking and travel support service for businesses that running on the same kind of messaging we’re all using.

This week I had a chat with Bartosz Hernas (Bart, pictured right), Ahoy Co-Founder and CTO about real-time customer engagement and why Layer is the only platform for them.

“Real-time engagement gives our customers the feeling of a phone conversation, while not requiring full focus. This makes our customers feel fully taken care of but doesn’t distract them from other, more important, tasks. It’s the best medium for customer support: not so formal and not too distracting.”

Ahoy was co-founded by Sylvia Brune, who had traveled for business for 4 straight years. Her worst frustrations were inefficient communication and organization with booking flights for teams and guests. Sylvia decided to start her own flight booking service for businesses, looking after friends and acquaintances first.

From Spreadsheets and WhatsApp to Frictionless Communication

Q: How did you and Sylvia start Ahoy?

A: Sylvia spent 7 months managing everything using just WhatsApp and spreadsheets. In that time she validated her market, working out their wants and needs. That’s when she found me and my brother Mike Hernas. Sylvia wanted us to implement a solution that would provide the quality of WhatsApp with the aggregation and data customization she had with her spreadsheets. People want this ‘live feeling’. We realized this feeling comes from the statuses—the delivered, the read, the idea that someone’s typing. All of this is part of how chat feels as you’re talking with someone.

Q: What was the main challenge for you?

A: We knew the market wanted the same chat experience they normally get. So we needed to integrate our innovation with the messaging quality users expect. But we struggled to find anything that would let us design and own the engaging experience we envisioned.

Creating an Effortless Customer Experience

In a world of ritzy technology where your phone recognizes your face, consumers are accustomed to the forefront of innovation. That raises the bar on the basics, even before you add a new solution. And in the disgruntling environment travel often breeds, things that aren’t seamless are all the more obvious. Catering to an already frustrated market meant Ahoy’s customer experience had to be effortless.

Q: What made you choose Layer?

A: We tested Zendesk chat support, Smooch.io and many, many others, but they were not enough for us. Other solutions were imperfect because we couldn’t integrate our custom features. When we started looking for messaging as a service and a platform, we found Layer and we knew it was exactly what we were looking for. We knew Layer would allow us to marry quality messaging with our own solution. Key features for us are the response time, offline mode and the high-quality chat experience.

Q: How are you using Layer right now?

A: With Layer, we’ve been able to completely customize and integrate our solution. We have a seamless experience for the agent and the user. It’s easy to book the flights, connect with email and respond quickly to customers. We’ve also included UI for payment so users can forward the cost on to be expensed by the company.

Building Out the Booking Experience

With Ahoy, it’s possible to book or rebook a flight 30 minutes before departure via a Layer-powered message with an agent. Bart says a well-known Silicon Valley travel company has been using Ahoy since March and prefers it over in-house solutions.

Q: What’s next for Ahoy and Layer?

A: We’d like to build out a seamless agent experience for Web, iOS, and Android. We’ll keep integrating payments, emails and flight bookings in an aggregated message.

I’ll be checking back in with Ahoy early 2018 to hear about progress. If you would like to know more about how Layer can transform frustrating experiences, get in touch! And remember to check back for our next customer success story next week.