CRG's Roger Fairchild
It’s no secret that business travelers are
going online to hunt down discount hotel rooms and cheap airfares.
But a recent study shows that travelers have begun discovering
something else on the web: disappointing service.
After analyzing a mix of 36 airline, hotel and leisure
websites, the Bellevue, Wash.-based research and consulting firm
Customer Respect Group identified two recurring problems:
responsiveness and data privacy.
When the CRG submitted customer-service inquiries online, for
example, 29 percent of the websites took more than two days to
respond, while 9 percent failed to reply altogether.
“Site visitors expect quick responses and will start looking
around if companies fail to get back within a few hours,” said CRG
president Roger Fairchild.
Hotels.com and WorldTravel BTI earned some of the poorest
response scores. The research firm said inquires sent via those
companies’ websites went unanswered. Southwest Airlines also
received a low score, since it does not offer customers the option
of e-mailing questions through the carrier’s website.
For their part, both WorldTravel BTI and Hotels.com strongly
refuted CRG’s findings and said they were looking into the matter
at press time. A spokesperson with Southwest Airlines said the
company has no plans to offer its customers the option of online
e-mail, since the carrier prefers relying on personalized phone
calls over the use of electronic form letters.
The CRG also faulted companies for mishandling customer
information. According to the study, 25 percent of those surveyed
shared customer data without seeking permission, and several
Can poor response time and loose handling of data threaten the
growing tide of online booking? That’s unlikely, according to
experts. For example, the marketing firm of Yesawich, Pepperdine,
Brown & Russell, based in Orlando, recently estimated that 51
percent of business travelers log on to the Internet in order to
book travel services a number they fully expect to increase over