By Martin Kelly

AIRLINE websites singaporeair.com and cathaypacific.com finished first and second in an Asian consumer satisfaction survey of six regional websites run by IFH Worldwide in which retail site asiatravel.com finished a distant last, it was revealed at Wired Travel Asia 2006.

IFH Chief Executive Officer Thomas Kraft said major hotel groups Shangri-la.com (3rd) and ichotelsgroup.com (4th) were also polled, as was Zuji, which finished fifth in the first mystery shopping exercise of its kind conducted in the region.

Each site received 10 visits from different shoppers in the guise of either leisure or business travellers planning short-haul Asian trips from Singapore or Hong Kong.

The results were mostly consistent across both groups except for Zuji, which ranked highly among leisure travellers (79% satisfaction ranking) but less well with business travelers (64% satisfaction ranking). Zuji’s overall satisfaction ranking was 71%.

Asiatravel.com was by far the worst-performing site with an overall customer satisfaction ranking of just 52%. Customer comments on this site included:

– Not able to book online for sites
– Had to drill down to another page to activate booking screen
– Unable to book as there were error messages on the screen
– Easy to find on Google, poor visibility of Yahoo! and MSN

Zuji fared much better although some were peeved that booking a flight or hotel still took five clicks, while others thought it took too long for new customers to familiarise themselves with the sites and that “not all pages” loaded quickly enough.

Slow page loading time and too many clicks were also raised in the customer appraisal of ichotelsgroup.com, with a couple of reviewers complaining they to drill down two or three pages before their selection was available. Its overall satisfaction ranking was 73%.

Shangri-la.com performed very well with many positive comments (“easy and efficient” – “very trustworthy”) although the payment took 15 seconds to appear. Shang’s overall customer satisfaction ranking was 77%.

Cathaypacific.com also did very although was chipped for not having a ‘home’ link on all booking pages while site loading was again an issue. Cathay’s overall customer satisfaction ranking was 78%.

Finally, Singapore Airlines may have topped the survey with a customer satisfaction ranking of 82%, but customers still had issues with six clicks to book, slow page loading and SQ not offering the best or equal rate for 35% of its products.

None of the sites polled ranked very well with search engines, however some Wired Travel Asia 2006 delegates argued that the keyword search terms – Air Ticket, Hotels and Destination (in question) – were too nebulous to give a meaningful result in this area.

In summary then, the IFH mystery shoppers were generally happy with the online experience at the sites visited (apart from asiatravel.com) but were consistently disappointed with the number of clicks needed to book and slow downloads.

Like you and me, they have better things to do with their time.

November 8, 2006

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