Archive for April, 2009

If you wouldn’t do it for ‘real’ then don’t do it online.

April 20, 2009

Businesses really must think about matching the online customer experience to the offline world.

Real life scenario

Imagine that you went to your local travel agent to book your summer holiday.

You told the travel agent the holiday you wanted and paid a deposit. The Agent then gave you a booking reference and told you when to pay the outstanding amount.

You return to the same travel agent to pay the outstanding amount on the due date. However, the agent tells you that because you have booked a sun holiday, you can’t pay for the outstanding amount there; you need to call this number or go to our other shop in the town.

I chose to go to the other shop in town and enquired how I get to the other shop. The agent gives a me a map of France, which is a little pointless because I’m in the South East of England. When I complain that the map is incorrect, The agent tells me “In this instance you will need to call reservations”.

No travel agent would allow this to happen in one of their shops, so why do they allow it to happen on their website? Apart from being completely frustrating, this is exceptionally bad customer service and would put me off going back next year to book my holiday.

How to make it better

Just three simple changes would make me a happy customer who would think about going back.

1. Allow me to make a final payment online. After all, I could make the deposit payment or I could have paid in full first time, so why can’t I pay the rest online while other types of holiday makers can?

As far as I could see from the web form, the booking reference was in a different format to the one allowed. If the issue is just as cosmetic as it seems, then this is really bad.

If it is database rules, then these too are easily changed. When I did eventually find my local shop to pay, the agent just entered my booking reference in to the system gave me the chip and pin device and it was done. It took all of 2 minutes (except the 20 minute walk to the shop).

2. Fix the map functionality online, just in case I do want to go in store

3. And finally, when I point out that the map isn’t working, don’t tell me to call reservations, it has nothing to do with reservations – I just want to use your map.

Business benefits

From this example there are a couple of clear business benefits:

1. Happy customers mean possible repeat business (who can afford to let their customers go to the competition?)

2. Reduced process costs – Was it really necessary for the shop staff and website customer service to be involved as well as the telephone reservation team to be on standby for one simple payment?