If You Aren’t Satisfied With Travel Experiences Chances Are You Aren’t Satisfied With Your Travel Shopping & Buying Experiences Either
This or may not count as actual news given the low regard that many travelers have for airlines, but the big conventional U.S. airlines, the ones sometimes called “Legacy Airlines,” are trailing lots of other industries in customer satisfaction. But what is news that is that it’s not customers’ satisfaction with only the actual experience of flying that’s failing to satisfy conventional carriers’ customers.
Nope. In this case it’s the quality of customer experience that the big conventional airlines provide to customers who shop for and buy tickets using either carriers’ mobile apps or their websites.
For that matter, ALL travel industry websites – including those of online travel agencies, hotels, and rental car companies – scored much lower in customer satisfaction than the websites of companies participating in other business segments like, notably, the websites of most big credit cards and the banks that issue them. Even so-called “digital native” companies like Uber, Lyft, Airbnb and those airlines and hotel companies that were launched in the digital age, whose websites and/or apps tend to be in tune with and more pleasing to consumers than the legacy carriers’ sites, still scored much lower in customer satisfaction than the websites and apps of companies competing in entirely different business categories.
Michael Taylor, Travel Intelligence Lead at J.D. Power, says travel apps and websites these days serve as primary channels through which consumers not only shop and buy but actually “experience” travel. J.D. Power’s initial customer satisfaction ratings of travel industry websites and apps were published last week. In other words, the process of searching for a hotel, booking a rental car and getting real-time flight status updates has become as much a part of consumers’ experience of travel as sitting in a plane seat, staying in a hotel room or driving a rental card.
But, Taylor said, “Given the crucial role they play, many travel apps and websites are still too complex for consumers to navigate and do not offer the most helpful information at the right time.
“One hotel website, for example, requires 29 separate actions across five different pages to make a reservation,” Taylor explained. “That’s not good enough when customers are experiencing simple, elegant, seamless experiences in their banking and credit card apps and websites.”
The data quoted by J.D. Power comes from two parallel studies done in August and September of this year: The 2019 U.S. Travel Website Satisfaction Study and the 2019 U.S. Travel App Satisfaction Study. Both sought to evaluate satisfaction with travel apps and websites, respectively, across four segments: airline; hotel; online travel agencies (or OTAs, such as Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity and others); and rental car. Both studies explored the key variables that influence customer choice, satisfaction and loyalty based on five factors: clarity of information provided; ease of navigation; overall appearance, speed of screens/pages loading; and range of services/activities. The 2019 Travel App Satisfaction Study collected 12,410 evaluations from users; the 2019 Travel Website Satisfaction Study collected 13,424 user evaluations.
Some of the most notable revelations from those studies include:
- Customer satisfaction with rental car companies’ websites was the lowest among all travel companies’ websites. Their average overall satisfaction score was 827 on J.D. Power’s 1,000-point scale compared with a average satisfaction score of 863 for credit card websites
- Airline apps had an average score of 854 vs. credit card apps’ average satisfaction score of 872
- Speed and simplicity matter. Customer satisfaction with travel websites substantially increases when customers said the process of making a reservation was quicker than expected. But many travel websites contain multi-step processes and fewer than 20% of customers report a quicker-than-expected reservation experience
- Helpfulness of notifications varies considerably. Helpful notifications provided by a travel app can add as many 92 additional points to an individual company’s overall app satisfaction, but the challenge comes with the execution of those notifications. For example, including concise accompanying text such as “tap to view boarding pass” can be much more effective than simply sending an electronic boarding pass with no descriptive text
- Digital leaders deliver consistent website and app experiences. While digital native OTA brands tend to deliver the most satisfying website experiences and rental car brands tend to perform better in mobile apps, some top-performing airline, hotel and rental car companies have cracked the code on cross-platform digital satisfaction, delivering strong user experiences and high levels of customer satisfaction across both web and app channels
Notable results from the study of customer satisfaction with travel apps include:
- JetBlue ranked highest in overall satisfaction among airline apps with a score of 872. Delta (865) came in second and Southwest (864) ranked third
- IHG ranked highest in overall customer satisfaction among hotel apps with a score of 870. Hilton (866) was second and Hyatt (865) third
- Orbitz ranked highest in overall customer satisfaction among OTA apps with a score of 870. Travelocity (867) was second; Expedia (856) third
- Avis ranks highest in overall customer satisfaction among rental car apps with a score of 873. National (863) place second and Enterprise (859) third
Notable results from the study of customer satisfaction with travel website include:
- Southwest Airlines ranked tops among airline websites with a score of 849. Alaska Airlines (831) ranked second and JetBlue Airways (829) ranked third
- Choice Hotels was best among hotel websites with a score of 841. Best Western and Hyatt tied for second with scores of 840
- Booking.com led the OTA websites in customer satisfaction with a score of 847, followed closely by Priceline and Travelocity, which tied with matching scores of 846
- National topped the overall customer satisfaction rankings among rental car websites with a score of 841. Enterprise (836) placed second and Budget (827) came in third