Survey: Booking online up, satisfaction down

New competitive intelligence shows Expedia leading and Travelocity gaining ground in the competition for online bookings,While at the same time consumers are less satisfied generally with the experience provided by hotel and lodging sites.

In its fourth annual examination of the online travel and lodging industry, Keynote noted significant backsliding in overall customer satisfaction levels in the online travel and hotel industry.

The Keynote Rankings for Lodging Web Sites study is an examination of the customer experience and service levels on leading online travel agency and hotel Web sites. The study is based on an examination of the online experience of 2,000 prospective customers as they interacted with leading online travel and hotel Web sites; and an examination of the technical performance on these sites including overall site responsiveness and reliability. The studies were conducted during late January and early February 2006.

The Expedia, Hilton, Hotels.com, Hyatt, Lodging.com, Marriott, Orbitz, Priceline, Sheraton, Travelocity, and Wyndham, Web sites were evaluated for the studies.

Consumers Grumpy, Wary of Some Recent Site Changes

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In its annual examination of the online lodging industry, Keynote reports that customer satisfaction rates are down sharply—and frustration levels are climbing—across the online travel and hotel industry. Keynote notes that satisfaction levels dropped during a period when many leading online travel agency and hotel sites completed site makeovers. One leading travel agency site saw its customer satisfaction rates drop from 73% last year to just 62% this year. Another leading hotel site saw site saw its high satisfaction rate drop from 66% down to 55% over the same period.

“Consumers appear to be a bit grumpy with the online travel agencies and hotel sites,” said Dr. Bonny Brown, Director of Research and Public Services with Keynote Systems. “It appears the changes and makeovers many leading sites made to their Web sites, and specifically to their homepages, may have negatively affected customer satisfaction. The questions we are examining are whether these are short term down swings caused by general consumer aversion to change, or whether there is clear dissatisfaction with specific site changes.”

Expedia, Travelocity and Hotels.com Provide the Best Online Experience

Expedia edged out Travelocity in the Keynote Customer Experience Rankings, an overall measure of customer experience and site success across the more than 250+ metrics measured during the study. Expedia outpaced the competition based on its continued strong performance across all areas of site performance and its clear leadership in consumer perceptions about the quality and value of the available hotel accommodations on its site.

However, Travelocity, bucked the industry-wide trend in falling customer satisfaction ratings and actually registered improvements in its overall customer satisfaction and customer experience rates, placing second overall in the Keynote Customer Experience Rankings. Travelocity was boosted by its customer support and travel guarantees which resonated well with consumers. The site also was rated as having the best online booking process.

 
    Keynote Customer Experience Rankings
          Lodging Web Sites
    (Overall customer satisfaction and
            experience)

  1 Expedia

  2 Travelocity

  3 Hotels.com

 
Hotels.com was one of the only sites to actually see improvements in customer experience ratings based on changes made to its site. Hotels.com streamlined its online booking reducing the process to a simpler three-step format. The site climbed from the cellar of the online travel industry in terms of booking process satisfaction to the second-ranked site in the category after Travelocity. In 2005, just slightly more than half of visitors to Hotels.com said the site’s booking process was easy to use, as compared to 78% who stated that in the most recent study.

Online Agencies Continue to Best Hotel Sites

The online travel agencies continue to best hotel sites in terms of convincing consumers to book lodging online through their sites with approximately 46% of prospective customer visiting the Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity sites indicating they were very likely or extremely likely to book a hotel accommodation on the site in the future as compared to just 31% of the visitors to the three leading hotel sites. Keynote also noted that it continues to see a direct correlation between success in providing a superior online customer experience and success in converting prospects into customers.

 

   
      Keynote Customer Acquisition Rankings
            Lodging Sites
(Indicator of success in attracting customers)

  1 Expedia

  2 Orbitz

  3 Travelocity

 
Marriott, Sheraton Register Industry’s Best Service Levels

The Keynote Service Level Rankings for Lodging Web Sites found the Marriott, Priceline and Sheraton sites have the industry’s best reliability, indicating those sites were highly available and experienced little or no downtime. Marriott and Sheraton, joined by Expedia, were also the industry’s best in terms of site responsiveness, an indication of how fast the sites were in downloading pages and executing transactions.

 


  Keynote Service Level Rankings—Site Reliability
  (Indicator of being highly available, low downtime)

  1 Marriott

  2 Priceline

  3 Sheraton


Keynote Service Level Rankings—Site Responsiveness
  (How quickly pages loaded, transactions completed)

  1 Marriott

  2 Sheraton

  3 Expedia

 
Overall, the online travel and lodging industry had one of the lowest reliability ratings on the Web as compared to the other industries Keynote studies. Only 2 of the 10 sites studied were available better than 99% of the time, which is the threshold reliability rate recommended by Keynote for most industries. The online travel industry had an average closer to 97% reliability, meaning that an average of 3 out of 100 visitors experience significant site problems or failure. Overall, the hotel sites had greater reliability and responsiveness than did the online travel agency sites, and some leading online travel agency sites were the slowest of all hotel and online travel sites.

“The online travel and lodging industry clearly needs to improve its reliability. Simply put, when your site is unavailable to consumers you lose business,” said Ben Rushlo, manager of service level management (SLM) professional services with Keynote. “Marriott sets the standard for site reliability and responsiveness in the lodging industry. It is very rare for one site to top our rankings in both these areas, so clearly Marriott is the site to model after from a technical standpoint.”
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