The level of customer service influences customers' decisions to buy airline tickets online more than it influences sales in any other retail category online.
A recent Jupiter Media Metrix consumer survey revealed that respondents ranked travel (49%) as the most important category in which customer service would influence whether they bought or not.
Some four in five (even more than that among those who had spent more than US$500 online in the previous six months) consumers said they would be less likely to buy airline tickets online a second time from a company with which they had a dissatisfying customer service experience. And about half of those said that the experience would adversely affect their future off-line relationship with that company
Lack of communication
Much of the problem seems to down to tardy communication. Over half of the respondents thought that airlines should improve the response time for e-mail enquiries. In fact, while 61% of travel Web sites tracked in a Jupiter WebTrack survey responded to a sample e-mail inquiry within 24 hours, 31% took three days or longer or did not respond at all. Six in ten respondents wanted airlines to keep them informed of delays using email or telephone. And, when asked which aspects of customer service would most affect their decision to make future airline ticket purchases from a web site, 67% said "efficiency of problem resolution" and 63% said "knowledgeable customer service representatives."
Reduce risk to brand
According to Jupiter analysts, the use of proactive consumer-alerting technology (such as e-mail or telephone), travel suppliers and providers can not only deepen customer relationships, but can also reduce customer service costs by a third. David Daniels, Jupiter senior analyst, says: "To stave off customer service enquiries and reduce the risks to branding and customer retention that dissatisfied customers affect, travel companies must implement new technologies that keep customers proactively informed of travel changes. Automatic consumer alerts-triggered by bad weather or extreme circumstances-transmitted via e-mail or phone would produce a 33 percent cost savings over using traditional staff."