Improving online customer service hindered by budget airlines

Overall online satisfaction with travel websites is slowly rising, but poor customer service and after sales care continue to afflict many.

Forty eight out of 51 sites surveyed by digital market research firm eDigitalResearch are still providing telephone and email customer contact.

Laterooms.com topped the study with a good performance across all areas benchmarked, providing an “exceptional example” of industry best practice with a logical search process and responsive customer services.

Overall, hotel agents were the highest performing sector, with rival Booking.com coming a close second but let down by the site’s booking process and navigation, the research found.

Virgin Atlantic and British Airways achieved increases in satisfaction across all areas. But the airline sector saw overall results dragged down by budget carriers, with Ryanair, EasyJet and Bmiaby all failing to provide a strong brand message and adequate email and telephone contact.

Expedia has made the most dramatic improvement since the last set of results, jumping 29 places and into the top 5 after a 17% satisfaction increase with its email customer service.

Princess Cruises also made a similar improvement, moving up 24 places, largely due to its email contact service. The holiday camps and self catering sector entered the study for the first time, providing competition for other top websites.

Center Parcs, Hoseasons and Butlins all scored well, finishing in the top half of the table due to informative customer services. But domestic holiday companies still have “some way to go” to suitably rival their international counterparts online, according to the report.

Lloyd Viney, associate director at eDigitalResearch, said: “What sets apart sites that consistently perform well in our study time after time are those that not only provide consumers with a fantastic, user-friendly website, but reinforce this with excellent customer services.

“For most people, holidays are often the biggest expense each year, and our feedback shows that consumers expect a certain standard across the entire end to end customer journey, including after sales contact.

“It is important that travel companies invest in providing helpful customer services, and not just a great website and online experience.”

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