How are travel companies turning off online users?
Tuesday 2, November 2010
In this ultra competitive, connected online travel world, there are so many ways to lose and alienate a potential travel consumer and you can do it as quickly as it takes to type a 140-character tweet.
Accentuating on the same, Sydney, Australia-based aoom (Art of Online Marketing) consultancy has shared how travel companies are turning off users:
A poor online presentation
A website is the online presentation of the travel company to its online users. Given that the website is likely to be the first interaction point with a potential travel customer, website functionality and usability is absolutely critical. I could point out different usability mistakes (but that’s deserves a different, more detailed article) but a sure way to lose customers is a website that loads slowly, difficult to navigate and lacks information to make travel purchase decision.
A lack of response to online traveller comments & feedback
Growth of social media sites as well as travel and hotel review websites like Facebook and Tripadvisor means every traveller can publish their thoughts, opinions and grievances.
Travellers who publish their thoughts go online to be heard. Other travellers will hear them. It’s as simple as that.
A travel company that offers silence to negative negative comments are perceived in 2 ways – they are guilty or they don’t care enough to respond. Both are not images travel companies want to embody.
Responding to online comments & responding poorly
There is only one thing a hotel, airline or online travel agency (OTA) can do that is worse than not responding to online travel comments and reviews. That is to respond to the comments and to respond poorly – be it emotionally, subjectively or defensively. A poor dialogue can add fuel to fire. The rule of thumb is respond early and objectively. Remember be sympathetic, diplomatic and fair goes a long way.
Online advertisements that mislead
Ever responded to an advertisement that promises hotel prices from a low rate of $25, clicked on it and failed to find it because there was only 1 room type (which has long sold out) with that price?
We’ve all been there as consumers and the result is normally one of disappointment …and a developed cynicism that will prohibit us from responding to said company’s future promotions. Don’t coach your potential customers to stop responding to your ads. Make sure you can deliver what your ads promised. If the room type or flight is sold out, remove the ad or replace the message.
Hidden surprises in a form of taxes or fees charges
Travel fees and taxes are confusing to even the most well-travelled of consumers. The amounts are never fixed and differ by website, by country and even by state. There is nothing nastier than hidden taxes and fees showed to customers in their last step of the online booking path after they have made up their mind. It is actually intentionally deceitful - the primary reason why companies hide their travel fees and taxes is because they hope that consumers won’t notice.
Well, deceit is not a good way to build a relationship with consumers.
Not rewarding loyalty
While we are on the subject of forming relationships with customers, another way to lose online travellers is not rewarding them for their loyalty. I use loyalty not in the traditional, purest “I love apple product” sense but in a continuing to “visit and patronise the site” , building customer relationship management type of way. Every travel company and marketer knows that it is more cost effective to retain a consumer than to win a new customer. Recognise and reward users who come back to your travel or hotel website over and over. It can be a rewards program where you pass your savings to them or even as simple as personalising a greeting when the customer next visit your website.
Poorly written content & text
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) may be to blame for this. These days, many travel websites take SEO to the extreme and write content focused on search engines and not people. In a similar token, internationalisation also contributes to the issue where sites are translated into multiple languages in a poor fashion. Frequent typos, grammatical errors, sentences that don’t make sense will impact a customer’s perception of the quality of your website and service.
Spamming customers with generic travel offers
Airlines, hotels and travel websites all have good reasons for requesting a consumer’s contact details. This is a way to communicate to consumer about his/her hotel or air booking. And frequently, if the consumer elects to opt in ( or in many cases, forgets to opt out) the company’s mailing list, the customer is set to receive all types of non-targeted travel promotion. It’s not wrong to build a marketing database. The folly here is to assume all customers are the same and send them the same offers. In this age of analytics, it’s not an unreasonable request to send a targeted, personalise offer to a user.
Failing to communicate instantly
In an age of tweets and real time search, instant gratification is everything and not responding in time is a carnal sin. If a customer sends an email query, ensure he/she gets responded to promptly or set a clear expectation on when they will receive a response. Better yet, utilise tools such as “live chats” or provide a telephone number. This will satisfy customers needing immediate attention.
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