Booking last minute breaks – exploring the travel customer experience
With summer approaching (and another bank holiday imminent), getting away from it all is becoming uppermost in many people’s thoughts. And that means turning to the internet, which has radically changed the structure of the travel industry now that the majority of transactions happen online. Whether it is holidaymakers creating their own tailored trip or consumers comparing holiday companies and packages, delivering a strong online customer experience is central to winning business, from both last minute or more prepared travellers.
So, how good are travel firms at digital customer service? As part of the Eptica Multichannel Customer Experience Study, we surveyed ten major travel companies, including both operators and airlines. We looked at their ability to provide answers to routine questions via the web, email, Twitter and web chat. Unfortunately for those looking to bag a last minute holiday, there were vast differences in performance between companies and channels:
Web performance up On a positive note, web performance improved, with an average of 68% of questions being answered via company websites (up from 63% previously). However, this masked a range of response rates. For example, when answering questions successfully, one company scored 9 out of 10, but another only managed 3.
Hitting delete on the email channel As with many other sectors surveyed, email performance has deteriorated. Only 40% of companies enable non-customers to email them, down from 80% in our previous survey. Of these, just 20% of questions received a successful answer. One company took over 121 hours (16 working days) to respond – hardly ideal if you are looking for a last minute break. Another company answered the same question within 15 minutes, showing that the query wasn’t unreasonable. Others actively seemed to deflect email enquiries, with one airline bluntly stating that if the answer to a question could be found on its website, it simply wouldn’t respond to an email message.
Growth in Twitter More encouragingly, travel companies have embraced Twitter. 70% had a Twitter presence and 60% successfully answered a tweeted question. They also responded much faster than to emails, although performance ranged from 8 minutes to 8 hours 34 minutes.
Pick your channels to get an answer Holidaymakers face a shrinking choice of channels to communicate with travel companies. 40% of companies had switched off email since last year, cutting down the options for travellers. Just 50% offered two channels (from chat, Twitter and email), alongside the web and telephone channels. Consistency was also an issue – only one company provided the same answer on more than one channel. This is far from a joined-up multichannel experience and an inefficiency that is likely to increase costs.
The results of the Eptica Multichannel Customer Experience Study show that, when it comes to travel, a customer’s service experience can still vary wildly. So, for those still looking to book a last minute bank holiday break, you’d better start planning now.
See more about the full Eptica Multichannel Customer Experience Study in this infographic or download the full report, which covers 100 companies in 10 sectors here.