In today's world, your website is often the first point of contact for many new customers, it stands to reason therefore that shop window must be the best it can be. Yeoh Siew Hoon wonders why then that just isn't so.
A friend of mine has decided to spoil himself to a once-in-a-lifetime holiday in Asia with his family before returning home to his next gig.
He's booked himself a one-month holiday in India which includes a sun and sea stop in Lakshadweep, a group of coral islands in the Arabian Sea off the south-western coast of India.
To get there, you have to fly with Kingfisher Airlines and the flight costs a whopping US$850 return each. And when you land, you have to take a boat to another island and you stay in the most basic of accommodation which can cost up to US$600 for a night.
Anyway, it's taken my friends months of planning to book this trip and he's spent a lot of it online. "I have spent hours and hours online putting this together," he told me. For him, this had to be a DIY (Do It Yourself) thing because I suppose he felt no travel consultant would have been able to put together such a complicated and personalised itinerary.
A lot of time was spent on airline websites, of course, and his experiences were varied. He found with one airline, a website that worked like a breeze and was fun to use and another, that did not and was clunky to navigate.
Then he asked, "Do you think it's a sign of how progressive an airline is when their website is easy to use and book, and has all the latest features?"
It's a valid question in today's world where often the first experience a customer has with an airline he has never flown with is on its website.
A friend who works in a travel distribution company answered, "It depends on whether that company is investing in direct distribution."
Well, if it isn't, it ought to, I reckon.
Forget brand value and emotional connection – if your first point of sale to the biggest potential number of customers does not work and does not offer interactivity and engagement, then you've got a problem.
other than the simple booking features, there's a feature asking for feedback on customer experience and there's a photo of founder Vijay Mallya saying, "I am taking things personally".
There's also King Mobile, allowing King Club customers to book tickets and get flight information with their mobile. You can also follow the Fly Kingfisher tweet which to date has 20 following and 446 followers. Most of the tweets are from customers raving about their service and features and there's always a response from the airline.
One customer said, "Kingfisher, you knocked spots off Virgin Upper Class. UTO was incredible, you've spoiled me for life ..."
Could there be a more direct co-relation between consumer perception of your brand and website than this?Yeoh Siew Hoon, one of Asia's most respected travel editors and commentators, writes a regular column on news, trends and issues in the hospitality industry for 4Hoteliers.com.
Siew Hoon, who has covered the tourism industry in Asia/Pacific for the past 20 years, runs SHY Ventures Pte Ltd. Her other writings can be found at www.thetransitcafe.com Get your weekly cuppa of news, gossip, humour and opinion at the cafe for travel insiders. 4Hoteliers is the "Official Daily News" of WIT09
www.webintravel.com - October 20-23, 2009 Suntec Convention Centre, Singapore