USAToday reported that online travel companies “lag behind e-commerce retailers…in delivering a positive consumer experience.”
No surprise here.
For anyone who has tried booking travel that involves a flight more complicated than flying from Point A to Point B, the explanation is obvious. And it’s obvious even for those who travel only from Point A to Point B.
Using one of the many flight-finding, online travel agents or tools, is a horrific process. Nothing seems to work simply.
Posted prices and availability are too complex and frustrating.
Customers’ needs for specific, helpful answers are nonexistent.
Laura Bly, writing for USAToday, referred to a Customer Satisfaction Survey that said customer satisfaction with the online booking process fell 2.6% to 76, the steepest decline of all measured categories.
A score of 80 is considered “solid,” and while the decline may not be dramatic, it’s the trend that’s troublesome to the sector.
In a recent New Media Travel article (The Travel Agent is Dead; Long Live the Travel Agent), we reported a Reuters story that said bookings from old-fashioned travel agents were up an impressive 12%, the implication being that the pendulum may be swinging away from online travel agents. And, we hear, a consortium of travel agents has actually financed a low-cost airlines, believing that doing so will increase their own profits.
Travel agent activism?
The reasoning is that travel is an emotional experience that goes far beyond renting a car or booking a flight. And online travel agents and engines simply do not do a good job in meeting those needs.
New technologies and innovative upstarts may.
Forsee, a company that measures customer experience, said that the average customer doesn’t really distinguish between online travel companies line Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline, Travelocity.
But, NBC says, for example, that Google continues its foray into satisfying travel-specific search results.
American Airlines has a new fare system that stresses bundling of services based on personal preferences. And Pintrips is a new technology that allows travelers to save searches and do side-by-side comparisons.
The new online travel technologies are designed to help, not hinder the travel planning experience. If Amazon and others can personalize the online buying experience, online travel agencies can, and should.