We’re suspicious when research shows this or that airline, web site or hotel was voted the best, because we know people and statistics don’t tell the truth.
On the other hand, when results jive with what we have experienced and researched on our own, we believe.
Then there’s the all-important method the researchers use to get their results.
Keynote Competitive Research, which bills itself as “the internet’s performance authority,” conducted online interviews with 2,000 air travelers… as they actually used, interacted, with 10 air travel web sites.
The group is part of Keynote Systems which in turn says it’s “the global leader in Internet and cloud monitoring.”
Keynote Competitive divided the 2,000 participants in 10 groups of 200 customers, and each group interacted with the 10 sites: American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Airlines, Expedia, JetBlue, Orbitz, Southwest Airlines, Travelocity, United Airlines and US Airways.
They watched the interactions of each customer as he or she searched for a flight, began the booking process and utilized the site’s customer support features.
• Southwest Airlines and Travelocity were the winners, as measured by customer satisfaction and conversions i.e. turning “lookers into bookers”.
• Orbitz was thought to be “helpful” and “reliable” more than any other site in the study.
• Travelocity ranked in the top tier of sites for 4 out of 7 qualities: price satisfaction, design and organization.
• Southwest ranked in the top tier of all sites, and was determined to perform significantly better than all others in ease of booking.
Keynote concluded that “price satisfaction is now the most important aspect of the overall customer experience, predicting brand perception and conversion.”
We questioned this because in our minds, ease of use and a site’s ability to flex with a customers options and needs mattered more.
Chris Musto, Keynote’s manager of financial services and research agreed saying that while price satisfaction is the leading predictor, it’s not the majority predictor. He said it only slightly outpaces Design & Organization in predicting outcomes. “If we sum up Design and Organization and Ease of Booking,” he said, “together they predict more of brand impact and conversion than does price satisfaction alone.”
How about other non-legacy sites like Kayak or Hippmunk?.
Musto noted while he respects the innovation both sites bring to the table, both sites send customers to other sites to complete the booking process…although Kayak has taken a giant step by allowing hotel bookings directly from their site.
Would I take these results as absolute? Not for a moment. But until the next survey, they’ll do.