Travel website Roadtest – Customer journey

We assessed eight travel websites on navigation, design and online booking to discover which offered the best customer experience


ONE


One is a train operator providing services into Liverpool Street, London, and to the east of England. The franchise started in April 2004 and was created to provide an integrated and seamless service across the east of England. One states that it is committed to bringing a fresh approach to rail services for the region.


Booking process
One has its booking process organised – as users enter the first page they are greeted with a Book Online section. The process itself is very intuitive, taking the customer on a journey where they can easily see where they are in the booking process. In order to improve the customers’ overall experience, One would benefit from a more prominent ‘help’ tab within the booking process to encourage customers to go from looking to booking. Score: 19/25


Navigation
The navigation of the site is simple and helpful to the user. One has made the site consistent in look and feel and this is important when ensuring the customer has a positive experience. The site also has an Ask One virtual assistant that can respond to typed questions, although it finds some standard questions hard to understand.
Score: 18/25


Help
The site needs to offer help within each of its pages. As mentioned above this needs to be more prominent within the booking process. In order to increase satisfaction, the site should give the user the ability to self help through every interaction. The only area where we could find intuitive questions and answers was within the fares area, but these FAQ’s need to be relevant to the whole site. Also, on the contact page there is a list of phone numbers for various departments, some of which clients do not need to know about.
Score: 12/25


Customer areas
There is a customer area but this is hidden well within the booking process. This needs to be brought to the front of the site to give an air of exclusivity; this will then promote customer loyalty.
Score: 12/25


TOTAL: 61/100


One’s site offers a good customer experience. This could be developed by making the customer sign-in area more pronounced and having intuitive knowledge and help across the whole site.



Ryanair


Launched in 1985, Ryanair was Europe’s original no-frills airline and is still Europe’s largest low-fare carrier. This year Ryanair will carry more than 35 million passengers on 399 routes across 24 European countries.


Booking process
Ryanair’s online booking process is solid, with easy step-by-step navigation. But, there is no process assistance, so if the customer comes up against a problem they are more likely to abandon their online booking process and turn to the phones. A banner that allows the customer to see where they are in the booking process will encourage them to complete the sale process online. There isn’t context sensitive help on the booking page so if users have a question they loose their place in the booking. Transparency and guidance are important in persuading users to book online.
Score: 10/25


Navigation
The site is easy to navigate once users get accustomed to the overwhelming colours and logos. It is consistent in navigation routes throughout. It needs to have more context sensitive information and assistance related to each specific page.
Score: 13/25


Help
Ryanair should consider discarding its static FAQs. It is important to understand what types of questions its customers are asking. A self-learning knowledge base should be employed to enhance its current self-help capabilities. The online booking process would also be enhanced by providing an additional online support channel, online chat is an example. Also, stating that help will not be given in any other language other than English is not client friendly.
Score: 12/25


Customer areas
There is no apparent way for customers to look at their transactions online. This needs to be revisited by Ryanair as this would be a key differentiator between it and other low-costs.
Score: 12/25


TOTAL: 47/100


Although Ryanair is a low-cost airline it has missed an obvious trick to reduce call-centre costs further via operational savings. The online customer experience could be improved by increasing online support channels and enabling customers to self help.



Avis


Avis Rent-a-Car and its subsidiaries operate one of the world’s leading car-rental brands, providing business and leisure customers with a wide range of services at more than 2,000 locations in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Latin America and the Caribbean region.


Booking process
Avis offers an extremely easy process in order to book the car of the customer’s choice. It guides surfers into the booking process and supports every entry with help buttons for each area. This step-by-step assistance is important in providing a good customer experience. However, the car-rental company may want to consider different language options in order to broaden the site’s usage.
Score: 13/25


Navigation
Navigating this site is easy. Avis offers consistent information and support at every step on every page. However, it is missing a trick by not including a search button as this really helps customers navigate further.
Score: 13/25


Help
The FAQs on the site are within the Help and Support tab at the bottom and the top of every page. This is good with regards to the information being present throughout the journey. However, this is static information. In addition, if a customer wants to ask a question via e-mail or they click on the online assistant tab they have to wait three working days for a response – this is not exactly a good customer experience.
Score: 10/25


Customer areas
This is good if customers are an Avis Preferred Customer, otherwise it is not obvious that they can register. The customer area needs to be more prominent in order to promote customer loyalty.
Score: 14/25


TOTAL: 50/100


Overall, the customer experience within the site is excellent, but this could be developed further with a defined customer portal or travel manager. The FAQ’s should also been linked to a knowledge base that can identify the top questions asked.



Virgin Holidays


Following the creation of Virgin Atlantic Airways in 1984, Virgin Holidays was started in 1985. It now offers holidays to the US, Canada, the Caribbean, the Far East, South Africa, the Middle East, Indian Ocean, Mauritius, New Zealand and Australia, plus a well-established ski programme.


Booking process
This site certainly has the stamp of Virgin, with its classic red colour, but it is far too busy. The stages of the booking process are clear, help exists on each page, but these are static questions and answers. Virgin and its clients would benefit from an intuitive FAQ area that is linked into a self-learning knowledge base. This would provide Virgin with more visibility into its customers needs. Navigating through the error process is not difficult, although it does bring up a number to phone. Virgin should expend some energy analysing this process to increase its ability to resolve errors online.
Score: 12/25


Navigation
The overall navigation of the site is good. However, the search engine is not intuitive so, for example, when searching for luggage, all the categories are returned at the bottom and are off the screen.
Score: 13/25


Help
This is complicated as there isn’t a side bar with the navigation steps to take users back wherever they need to go, so this isn’t offering the best customer experience. As above, FAQ’s are all static so this needs to be linked to an intuitive knowledge base that can self-learn from customers’ questions.
Score: 11/25


Customer areas
The idea of a Holiday Shortlist is great, although it is hard to find out how to register. The area for managing a booking is also handy but it doesn’t really rival those such as the BA.com site where customers have their own areas. BA.com has different areas for the different levels of customer membership.
Score: 13/25


TOTAL: 49/100


Although the navigation and the booking process offer a good customer experience, gaining intelligence from each customer interaction by adding strategic enhancements would enable Virgin to provide superior experience.



MyTravel


MyTravel provides holidays, city breaks, flights and cruises. Launched in November 2000 it claims to understand that customers need so much more than just a great choice of travel options, resorts and accommodation.


Booking process
This is good in that it takes into account a location within the site. For example, if users are searching for a ‘sun holiday’ then all the special offers pop up on the left-hand side of the page while users are searching for a holiday and pre-fills the category. When users select travel dates, alternatives are shown for convenience. The booking itinerary is displayed on the right-hand side of the screen, which is extremely helpful. However, the help is not sensitive to the journey that the customer is taking. Having context sensitive help will improve the site’s overall effectiveness.
Score: 14/25


Navigation
Navigation is quite simple but the site does not offer users any obvious signposting. This should be considered when offering a seamless customer experience.
Score: 11/25


Help
The help is not sensitive to the customer journey. To increase customer satisfaction the site should offer assistance related to the area that the customer is in. For example, when buying tickets the site should be ready to answer questions regarding security of credit-card information or the actual payment process.
Score: 10/25


Customer areas
There isn’t a login area for an individual customer. Surfers are also unable to save their itinerary prior to booking. MyTravel.com needs to provide its customers with a more personal service. The benefits of being a member of MyTravel.com aren’t clear.
Score: 14/25


TOTAL: 49/100


A good site overall but more development is needed to provide enhanced customer experience. MyTravel.com should consider increased personalisation and additional support options such as an online chat solution to provide increased levels of service.  Efforts in this area may lead to increased web bookings and reduced online booking abandonment.



FlyMonarch


Monarch is one of the UK’s major providers of low-cost scheduled flights. It has been flying people to various destinations for more than 18 years from bases at Gatwick, Luton, Manchester, Birmingham and Malaga.


Booking process
The booking area was extremely efficient and easy to find. The step-by-step navigation allows users to understand where they are in the process. It is refreshing that passengers can actually assign their seats on this budget airline. There is help within the booking process, however it doesn’t link the customer to the FAQs. It takes them to a number that charges 50p per minute and is not 24 hours per day. The booking process would be made more streamline if the customer was provided with the tools to continue the booking themselves. Again, intuitive FAQ’s would be helpful here.
Score: 12/25


Navigation
The side-bar and top navigation are present wherever users go to in the site. The customers’ journey throughout the Fares and Booking area is transparent as a section at the top of the page shows where the customer is at all times.
Score: 15/25


Help
The customer help area is very hard to find on this site, in fact it is within the Contact Us area. Once the customer has come to the stage where they are trying to find a phone number or e-mail address, it is usually because they have lost all patience.
Score: 14/25


Customer areas
FlyMonarch.com does offer a customer area but the navigation and feature set could be improved. It isn’t obvious when they are in the area nor is it obvious the benefit achieved by being there.
Score: 10/25


TOTAL: 51/100


This site has strong navigation facilities but does not provide an excellent customer experience when they have a question. Increasing personalisation, as well as adding online chat or and/or an online knowledgebase, will increase overall service to FlyMonarch.com’s customers by providing more relevant online content and more options to solve online travel issues.



Kuoni


Kuoni has grown into one of the leading travel organisations in the world since its beginnings in 1906. Since 1966, Kuoni has led the UK’s long-haul tour operation market and has consistently been this country’s most successful specialist tour operator.


Booking process
Kuoni’s booking area is very easy to find on the first page but the actual booking process is quite tricky. It asks for references and then takes users to another area on the site. Rather frustratingly it also doesn’t tell the customer where they are in the booking process so they do not know if there is just one page to go or 15 until the booking is finally made. It certainly tests the patience of any customer who wishes to book a holiday on its website.
Score: 11/25


Navigation
The navigation on the site is good from the first page but loses continuity on the other pages within the site. In order to go anywhere on the website customers must navigate back to Home. This makes it particularly frustrating and promotes site abandonment.
Score: 8/25


Help
Only static FAQs exist on the site, which are not available at all points in the customer’s journey. The Contact Us page is very confusing, offering all kinds of contact information for areas that are not of interest to all customers or may just be confusing to the user.
Score: 10/25


Customer areas
For a brand positioning itself as exclusive and luxurious, it is surprising to note that there is not an obvious customer area. It seems to be just catering for the casual browser, missing the ability to promote loyalty via a customer portal.
Score: 9/25


TOTAL: 38/100


Although Kuoni’s website starts off being refreshingly clear, it really does not live up to the expectation of the brand. The customer experience offered on the site should be, and could be, superb.



Saga Holidays


Saga has been arranging holidays for more than 50 years. The company offers a wide choice of holidays with various styles, themes and destinations for the over 50’s.


Booking process
It is easy for surfers to find the booking area on the first page. However, once browsers are inside the booking process it is difficult to get support. The operator would benefit from intuitive help on these pages to provide a better customer experience. Customers cannot book all of the holidays online. This impacts the customer experience due to lack of consistent capabilities.
Score: 14/25


Navigation
It appears that partners or different business units control various areas of the site. Therefore the navigation experience is not seamless. Rather than design its travel site around its business organisation, Saga should create a design based upon the experience it wants its customers to have when booking travel.
Score: 16/25


Help
The help section is extremely hard to find – users can only really go to the Contact Us area where they are given an e-mail address and 38 phone numbers for various departments, which appear off the screen.
Score: 14/25


Customer areas
Saga should be catering to its audience. The demographic for the website and the layout and design of the experience are incongruous. There are no obvious customer areas; this needs to be reviewed as this will enable the operator to gain knowledge about its customers.
Score: 10/25


TOTAL: 54/100


Overall, the site is fairly easy to use but Saga needs to remember the audience that it is catering for; these are people that may not be familiar with using a computer, never mind booking their holiday. The site would benefit from help wizards, intuitive FAQ’s and the ability to choose the size of text in order to make it stickier.



The reviewer:


Jason Hanson is RightNow director of professional services for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Having started his career at RightNow in 2003 at its Montana headquarters, Jason transferred to the UK in July to head up a growing, multi-country team of business process and technical professionals and is tasked with ensuring the effective delivery of the RightNow solution.


Jason began his career at Accenture in the communications and high tech market unit, focusing on increasing efficiencies within his clients’ business operations.


RightNow has worked with numerous high-profile airlines and travel websites worldwide to help them design and deliver customer experiences that make sites ‘stickier’ and thus help drive up bookings, while keeping an eye on maintaining or reducing operational costs.



Criteria:


BOOKING PROCESS = How easy is it to move around the site, seeking information to help make a decision and how much help is provided to answer queries and prevent transaction abandonment?  How easy is it to actually make a booking?


NAVIGATION = How much emphasis is placed on providing ‘context sensitive help’ – help and support that matches the web page I’m visiting so I don’t have to navigate away from the page to find answers and information. Is the homepage clean with information and links to other pages I actually want?


HELP AND SUPPORT = Is this easy to find, does every web page have a link to it? Is it multi-channel, can I call if I want to? Is the information provided on the site up-to-date? Can I ask a question?


CUSTOMER AREA = As a customer who has purchased before, is there an area where I can see all the booking data, e-tickets and any exchanges that may have taken place? Can I opt-in and out of offers, see any destination alerts and latest news? Do I feel empowered to ensure my holiday is on track?



What it means:


Travel websites are now so much a part of our travel psyche that we don’t even think twice about using them to book holidays. But as consumers are we getting the experience we expect?


Travel firms have a lot to learn when it comes to providing excellent customer experience online. By understanding and executing the steps outlined below, each site will be able to improve the way in which it interacts with customers.


* Understand your customer demographic. This can be achieved through surveys, customer studies or marketing analysis.


* Design the experience. Spend time designing your customer experience. If you want to make sure clients take full advantage of the services you provide, design the experience to exploit those services.


* Implement. Put together a cross-department team to implement the customer experience and enable them to create positive change.


* Monitor. Measuring the effectiveness of the site and the experiences had by your customers is essential. Constant evaluation of industry best practices will ensure your organisation is delivering superior service.

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