Cross-channel ferry operator P&O is one of the most usable travel websites in the UK, according to a study of 18 leading sites, while the wooden spoon goes to Eurotunnel.
The eDigital Research Travel Benchmark report (registration required) surveyed mystery shoppers to provide ratings for first impressions, search, the booking process, and customer service.
Some highlights from the report:
P&O most usable travel site
P&O scored 86% in the study, with its clear booking process coming in for praise from customers:
Different steps in the process are clearly labelled so that customers know how many steps they have to go through, going back to previous stages and mking alterations is easy to do, while security policies and other key information is provided throughout.
Also, a visible contact number provides an option for any customers having problems with their booking.
Eurotunnel not so good
With a score of just 68%, Eurotunnel came bottom by some distance, and looking at the website, it's not too hard to see why. Links are too small, the layout is confusing, and, while the get quote /book call to action button should leap out at visitors, it blends into the rest of the page and is easily missed.
The booking process is pretty poor too, with a very confusing layout, while forms are unnecessarily difficult to fill in, something which could be avoided by pre-populating certain fields and asking fewer questions:
I also encountered this error page a couple of times when looking at the booking process, which doesn't inspire confidence:
When customers are spending large sums of money on booking journeys, it seems reasonable enough that companies should provide contact details that are easy to find, the option to call is provided, but some travel websites seem to go out of their way to avoid customer contact.
Telephone customer services
The bottom three for providing customer service by telephone were Ryanair, Cunard and EasyJet. Cunard doesn't want you to call them, and though there is a line for bookings, I couldn't find a customer service contact number.
We've covered Ryanair before, it's easier to find a fax number than a phone number, and naturally you will be charged 10p per minute to call them when you do eventually find the number.
EasyJet is the biggest culprit here though, because it doesn't have a contact number at all and instead routes customers searching for contact details through its FAQs section.
If customers require assistance or reassurance about the travel product they are about to buy, providing a clear contact number, as done by P&O, can be enough to convince customers to book the cruise.
Email contact options
If the query is less urgent, then some customers may prefer to email for information, but many of the sites failed to sent an email confirming that the query is being dealt with, and were slow to respond with assistance.
The bottom three, bmibaby, Ryanair, and Britanny Ferries, don't even provide email contact options.
While Britanny Ferries at least provides a standard rate contact number, bmibaby customers are forced to call an 0905 number which costs at least 65p per minute, which is pretty poor when you are wanting to spend money on a flight.
For more information on how to improve customer experience on travel websites, and examples of best practice in the industry, see our Travel Website Benchmarks report.