Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Procrastination spoils holiday plans

Personally, I feel that www.FreedomBoatingHolidays.com is an easy-to-use web site and the vast majority of our customer feedback suggests so too, but I need your opinions also. There's a growing number of people who will send an email using the contact form on the web site asking us for availability and pricing.

Now, to my mind it is blindingly obvious that all this information is already on the web site; there's even a great big orange arrow on the home page drawing your attention to the area of that page (and virtually every other web page on the site) where you can check these things; yet, the number of email enquiries grows.

Out of the busy booking times, this is a trickle of enquiries. Right now, it's multiple enquiries per day and that's a problem. Here's why.

Availability is vanishing fast - people are desperate now to get a summer holiday booked and gaps are being filled at a rate that's creating a significant backlog in the office. At the best of times, responding to an email that says "I want a holiday from 7th August for a week on a boat, please advise availability and prices" eats time as, commonly we don't get any information about the party size or a phone number to call. The response to such an email has to be along the lines of "Thanks, but I can't really help you as you haven't told me how many people are travelling. If you refer to the web site, you can check live availability and pricing; alternatively, give us a call and we can check for you.".

No matter how we word this, it's not a lot of help to the customer.

When availability is getting scarce, every hour (minute even) can be the difference between getting a booking or not. In the 15 minutes I've been writing this blog, at 7am on the 22nd June, I've had two booking requests in for July and August. If those people had sent me an email, by the time I had responded and they had read the reply and replied themselves, high season might be sold out.

So, how can I make it more obvious that all the information that they seek is right in front of them before they take the time to email me and introduce the very delays that might prevent them getting a holiday with Freedom? Your input is welcomed.


Anonymous said...

How about give a freephone number on your home page.

If you are too busy to take calls yourself, use a company like www.liberate-uk.com to do it for you - they can even use your own website to check the availabilty on behalf of the caller.

Andy Banner said...

Thanks, anonymous. I'd much prefer to publish comments from people who are prepared to identify themselves and I am now left wondering what association you have with the company that you've recommended.

I don't believe, for one moment, that publishing a free-phone number will make any difference. For one, well over 50% of our calls come from mobiles anyway and (as far as I know) all mobile operators charge their customers to dial FreePhone numbers anyway. That's precisely who we no longer make our 0845 number terribly visible. A geographic number is the key to transparency of charges.

The problem with using call centres (and I know as a I used to work in one and b, I've written software for another www.RealTimeReception.com, just to even the score) is that they simply do not know the product that you're selling, the environment and so on. Callers can tell the difference immediately between someone who's on-site and knowledgeable and someone who's miles away and without a clue.

Additionally, my comment was more about people who send emails rather than telephone. Telephone calls are welcomed as we can deal with enquiries in real time and without delay. It's not that we don't welcome emails either, but they introduce delays that may cause the customer to lose a booking.

www.FreedomBoatingHolidays.com www.NorfolkCottageHolidays.com www.HorningFerry.co.uk