July 27, 2010 (Newswire.com) - Newly published research from eDigitalResearch -- a leading provider of digital market research for businesses in a variety of industries, the travel industry included -- shows that when it comes to booking travel, customer service is one of the most important aspects of the experience to consumers.
According to the research (which is available online, link below): "43 out of the 47 websites reviewed have been affected by 'satisfactory,' 'poor' or 'very poor' customer service scores." This research is the latest evidence in the ongoing "customer service vs. customer self-service" debate in numerous industries.
In the travel industry, much of the debate boils down to a single question: Is it better to book online, or to book with a travel agent?
Proponents of customer self-service state that online booking offers a certain level of immediacy and convenience, but as Lloyd Viney, associate director of eDigitalResearch states, "However, as holidays are the single biggest annual purchase for many, people tend to rely on customer service contact to give them confidence in their purchase."
When websites that offered online booking engines emerged, only slightly more than a decade ago, some postulated that it would be the end of traditional travel agencies. But while online booking has certainly added another level of competition into the travel industry, travel agents are still a major part of the industry. Some are even now postulating that travel agents pose a significant threat to online booking engines: Last August, the New York Times featured an article with the headline, "Worst Part of a Trip May Be Booking It on the Web" The article featured a photograph of two customers planning a trip at a Liberty Travel office in Manhattan.
Liberty Travel, one of the largest travel agencies in the U.S., favors the traditional travel agency model, where customers book trips at store locations and receive one-to-one customer service with travel agents. Liberty Travel dubs their agents "Vacation Experts." All undergo training, take FAM trips, and utilize a variety of educational materials to provide their customers with added knowledge and information during the booking process, with the goal of providing travelers with a better experience.
While Liberty Travel favors the traditional approach to booking, the travel agency does not shy away from technology. The travel agency has a strong presence in the digital realm, connecting with customers through social media interfaces like facebook and twitter, mobile technology, e-newsletters, and their webpage, libertytravel.com, which is frequently updated with new travel deals and promotions.