Why online booking systems aren’t enough

Phone calls are annoying. They’re time-consuming, they don’t provide useful metrics in the same way online booking does, and you need someone at the other and of the line to answer them. Nevertheless, customers in some industries still insist on using the phone to make orders. There’s a good article on eConsultancy today which looks at why some of that is.

What we’ve found when looking at call tracking is that there are some purchases that people just want to feel reassured about, or check the small print on, and for that they will always try to talk to another human being.

Travel is an area that often falls into this category. Travel is expensive, if it is a holiday it might be the most expensive single purchase people make all year. Many people will want some reassurance that what they are getting is what they think they are getting, and they find that comfort in talking to another human being. This isn’t customers being difficult, it’s them trying to buy your product in the way that’s most comfortable for them.

It’s also why travel agents still exist. Does anyone not know a relative who will happily do all of the research for a piece of travel online, but always goes into a travel agent to book the holiday, usually clutching the printout of the offer they found online?

And that’s where call tracking comes in. In an industry where people would rather talk to someone when making a purchase, we can treat that call, in many ways, like an online booking. Rather than it being an anomaly in the data you have about how someone found your site, with call tracking data, granular down to the keyword level, it can complement your existing data, giving you more information about how what you are doing online is driving sales made through all channels.

Last week, Ryanair redoubled its efforts to stop travel agents offering their flights. They want to drive customers through their online booking system, so that they can sell ancillary purchases to the flight. To drive people that way, they are hoping to stop them booking through travel agents. It’s a bold move, and one we’ll be interested to see the results of.

Because what Ryanair might find is that their customers don’t want to book online. It might not be that travel agents are poaching Ryanair’s business, but rather that Ryanair isn’t offering the kind of sales mechanisms that its customers want.

People like to talk to other people when they’re booking holidays. Perhaps rather than seeing that as something that needs fixing, Ryanair should try to accommodate the way its customers want to buy its products.

And maybe call tracking can help them do that.


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