Problematic online bookings.
By Vijay Dandapani
Tuesday, 18th September 2007
A very useful article in the Chicago Tribune gives pointers to customers who have problems with their online bookings - 

As everyone knows, using a telephone to call customer service in the US today (regardless of the industry) is a daunting challenge, demanding saintly patience and yogic control.

It seems only banks & financial products provide the kind of prompt-resolve-done in 2 mins tel customer service that makes calling more efficient than emailing or chatting.

The Internet has made phone service a "luxury" that customers should avoid having to use. How often have you heard "the wait time for the next customer representative is 15 mins!! "

Occasionally, a sleepy, confused voice greets you - We are currently closed. Can you call back during business hours?!

The article highlights the customer service policies of major travel companies and is actually a handy reckoner for frequent travelers (print out and keep!)

Problem resolution is an essential part of a great website experience. A traveler who's had a good booking experience but a lousy hotel stay or flight experience is unlikely to return.

Travel sites using email and chat (and shying away from phone service) should set standards for response time - all queries answered in less than 24 hours 7 days a week. Do you offer telephone customer service?

Keep wait times to 5 mins or less; hire customer reps who are speedy and enthusiastic over the phone and ensure efficient follow-up.

Too much to ask? If you offer telephone customer service, it had better be outstanding! Take a tip from the banks!

Vijay is Chief Operating Officer and part-founder of Apple Core Hotels- a chain of 5 midtown Manhattan hotels offering value and comfort in the heart of the city.Member of the board of Directors - Hotel Association of New York.

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