Travel Purchases Most Affected By Customer Service: Jupiter

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Customer service sways consumers' decisions to purchase airline tickets online more than any other retail category, analyst firm Jupiter Media Metrix reported yesterday.

In a recent Jupiter survey, 49 percent of respondents ranked travel the top retail category where customer service is the most important factor in their decision to buy.

However, by offering e-mail or telephone alerts to inform customers of delays, travel suppliers and providers could deepen customer relationships and reduce customer service costs by 33 percent, the New York analyst firm said.

"The consequences of poor customer service are especially high for travel companies right now," said David Daniels, Jupiter senior analyst in a statement."As the industry works to rebuild customer trust, technology will undoubtedly play an important role in managing customer expectations while complying with inevitably more stringent FAA regulations."

According to Jupiter, 79 percent of consumers said they would be less likely to buy airline tickets online a second time from a company with which they had a dissatisfying customer service experience.

Also, 85 percent of consumers who have spent $500 or more online in the past six months answered the question the same way, and 54 percent of this group said that the experience would adversely impact their future off-line relationship with that company.

Jupiter claims that e-mail response times to customer inquiries within the travel sector often do not meet consumers' expectations. While 61 percent of the travel Web sites tracked in a Jupiter survey responded to a sample e-mail inquiry within 24 hours, 31 percent took three days or longer or did not respond at all, the company said.

When consumers were asked to select the aspects of customer service that would most affect their decision to make future airline ticket purchases from a Web site, 67 percent said "efficiency of problem resolution" and 63 percent said "knowledgeable customer service representatives."

Sixty two percent of consumers want airline companies to keep them informed of delays by either e-mail or phone.

Fifty-six percent said companies should provide 24-hour toll-free access to customer service representatives and 54 percent said they should improve the response time of e-mail inquiries.


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