Online travel companies are failing to deliver as high a level of customer service as other sectors, according to a study by eDigitalResearch.
The agency used mystery shoppers to evaluate the end-to-end customer experience of 45 leading travel websites. Customer service was the lowest performing category in the study.
Low cost airlines were among the poorest performers, while cruise operators and cross channel ferries scored highly.
EDigitalResearch associate director Lloyd Viney said: “With online competition becoming more intense, those that will succeed will differentiate their service not necessarily on price, but on value, by providing quality customer support.
“Results of our study indicate that online travel organisations need to better engage with their customers in order to improve and match the performance of other sectors like the retail sector.”
Meanwhile, OTAs performed well in website performance, combining functionality with engaging content and using customer reviews to fuel customer confidence.
Monarch and Eutotunnel improved the most overall, both climbing 18 places in the study. Monarch has made major improvements to its customer service, with its telephone and email services rated 25% higher than the previous study.
Eurotunnel has invested more in the front-end with large improvements noted for first impressions and initial research.
Despite the overall improvements in website functionality, the online travel sector still has some way to go to catch the retail sector. While customer service is a key element that will help to close the gap, it said travel companies also need to better engage their customers.
Viney said: “Customer expectations are increasing all the time and given the increasing choice available online, consumers are now guiding and influencing the purchasing behaviour of others.”