Consumer watchdog to release first online travel survey

The Institute of Customer Service this year will release its first ever consumer satisfaction survey, which will include consumers’ views of online travel companies.

This should probably worry some online firms which are consistently admonished for poor design and technical difficulties.

But if the latest news from the US is anything to by then the online travel sector as a whole is in for a beating.

According to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) released last week, which measures the online performance of various websites, the online travel sector is losing favour with consumers.

Overall, the e-commerce sector, which includes e-retail, online auctions, online brokerages, and online travel, improved for the second year in a row, scoring 80 out of a possible 100, less than a point off of its all-time high of 80.8 in 2003. 

Scoring top marks in the e-commerce sector were online retailers with a score of 88 and with 87 points. 

eBay dropped slightly to 80 points, but still leads online auction sites.  Online brokerage firms hit a new high at 78, up 2.6% from last year.  Charles Schwab leads the charge, up 8.1% to 80. 

The online travel industry, however, was one of the few sectors to lose ground this quarter, dropping 1% to 76.  Though there are only slight fluctuations among the main players – Orbitz, and Expedia – the decline is mostly due to smaller travel websites, which drop 4%.

ACSI did not elaborate on the reasons the online travel sector lagged this time around, but, according to a few mouthy bloggers and analysts, one reason is that the traditional online players are having trouble competing with the likes of search engines such as Kayak and have not differentiated themselves to win loyal customers.

The sour results come on the heels of another study of US consumers carried out by Harris Research, which found that almost one in five users had been “automatically kicked off” a page when trying to complete a booking, while 30% were unable to finish the booking process due to “endless loops” on the site.

The survey warned of the long-term effects on customer loyalty if such problems persisted.

A spokesman for the Institute of Customer Service told Travolution that the new consumer index would likely be released within the next few months, so stay tuned.

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