OTAs say customer service has come to the fore in post-Teletext era

A renewed focus on customer service and driving up conversion rates is helping independent OTAs prosper in the January peak period.

The decision by Teletext Holidays earlier this year to stop working with all but one of its suppliers – Truly Travel – left many firms concerned about lead generation.

However, Jason Dwyer, managing director of Bookable Holidays, echoed others in the sector who said the decision has prompted them to focus on their own customers.

“A lot of companies like us panicked a bit when Teletext announced they are going to ditch us, but I personally feel we have never had a better opportunity than we have at the moment in terms of getting our product out there with all different avenues and means of marketing.

“It’s forced us to work harder at what we are doing and we have surprised ourselves. Yes, we have taken less calls but conversions have been better than ever.

“Nurturing the customer works best. The product is what the product is, and people will pick and choose what they want to spend, but if you can deliver great customer service conversions will flow through.”

Although cost of acquisition may have gone up, the value of the potential customer has improved along with conversions.

Fellow Bookable director Craig Ashford said retargeting the firm’s database and better use of the information that the firm has both on consumers who have previously booked as well as those who have not is paying off.

“Everyone focuses on the consumer who has booked, but if you are converting one in four what about the other three? They are still potential customers,” he said.

Adam Pardini, managing director of Broadway Travel, said the firm was up 20% in terms of passenger numbers so far this year, and more than 20% in terms of profitability.

He said Broadway had been prepared for the ending of the Teletext relationship because it had decided not to retender when a process was begun on September last year.

“Teletext was driving lower value bookings for us. We are not starting from a deficit when the customer calls,” he said. Pardini said its unique product and digital marketing of its own websites was reaping rewards during the early part of 2014.

“Everyone I speak to says the market is stronger now and the outlook for the economy is stronger. All of us are making more money from the bookings. That’s down to unique product and customer service.”

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