"The consequences of poor customer service are especially high for travel companies right now," said David Daniels, Jupiter senior analyst. "As the industry works to rebuild customers' trust, technology will undoubtedly play an important role in managing customers' expectations while complying with inevitably more stringent FAA regulations.
Additionally, 85 percent of consumers who have spent $500 or more online in the past six months would also be less likely to return and 54 percent of this group even said that the experience would adversely affect their future offline relationship with that company. Sixty-two percent of respondents want airline companies to keep them informed of delays by either e-mail or phone; 56 percent said companies should provide 24-hour toll-free access to customer service representatives and 54 percent said they should improve the response time of e-mail inquiries.
While 61 percent of travel Web sites tracked in a Jupiter WebTrack survey responded to a sample e-mail inquiry within 24 hours, 31 percent took three days or longer or did not respond at all. Moreover, when consumers were asked to select the aspects of customer service that would most affect their decision to make future airline ticket purchases from a Web site, 67 percent said "efficiency of problem resolution" and 63 percent said "knowledgeable customer service representatives."
"To stave off customer service inquiries and reduce the risks to branding and customer retention that dissatisfied customers affect, travel companies must implement new technologies that keep customers proactively informed of travel changes. Automatic consumer alerts triggered by bad weather or extreme circumstances transmitted via e-mail or phone would produce a 33 percent cost savings over using traditional staff," Daniels said.
Proactive customer service efforts would satisfy the 62 percent who want airline companies to keep them informed of delays by either e-mail or phone. Fifty-six percent said companies should provide 24-hour toll-free access to customer service representatives and 54 percent said they should improve the response time of e-mail inquiries.
To compound the importance of online customer service in the travel industry, "Online Corporate Travel 2001-2003: Market Share, Strategy, Forecasts and Commentary" by research firm PhoCusWright Inc. indicates that one in five corporate travel transactions will be booked via the Internet by 2003.
Critical factors in driving travel reservations and purchases to the Web include enhanced online booking tools such as faster response and processing times, improved system stability, increased and targeted information and easy-to-use interface. Customer relationship management (CRM) solutions will be instrumental in driving online adoption of corporate travel booking tools in the next two years.