Sunday, May 3, 2009

Losing/Gaining Revenue and Reputation...Here's How:

Now I know this blog is focused on how travel companies can make more money....but I wanted to write about how companies can lose money - by doing the wrong thing online. I've been watching to see how major vacation sellers respond to the current Swine Flu crisis - and how they communicate rapid changes via their websites and social networks. Here are a few grades for the largest sellers of Mexico leisure travel:

Apple Vacations, receives an "B" for effort and execution. Mexico travel is key to Apple, and with 1,648 Twitter followers and 558 Faceboook fans, Apple gets snaps for addressing this crisis with frequent traveler updates on social networks and on their website. The only reason Apple doesn't receive an "A" is because according to some Tweets and FB comments, its website was down for some time, and folks couldn't access vital info. But, we all know the online gremlins, so we need to give Apple some leeway on this one. Most importantly, the info and updates are timely, appreciated and top-notch.

Expedia, receives a "C" for its efforts. Granted, the Flu Advisory for Mexico is well-positioned on its homepage, but in reviewing Expedia's recent Tweets to 7,230 followers, I only see sales promotions and little about travelers' flu concerns. Expedia is the #1 leisure travel retailer, and these concerns are front and center. If Expedia did a better job listening to Twitter conversations, it would engage in the discussion with useful info.

Funjet Vacations, which is part of the much larger Mark Travel Group, receives an "A+." With only 291 Twitter followers, and a Funjet Vacation page with 390 fans, Funjet updates its Mexico Advisory page often, tweets about it regularly, and positions it front and center on its website. Further, the information is timely and relevant. And, like other travel sellers, Funjet promotes "fun" and great deals on vacation packages, but it weaves updates regarding travel to Mexico just as often. Kudos for Funjet in listening to its online customers.

The #2 online travel agency, Travelocity, receives a "C", like its colleague, Expedia. The last time it communicated info. regarding travel to Mexico to its 2,388 Twitter followers was 5 days ago on April 28, and the 943 followers of the Roaming Gnome will read tweeted chuckles but no info on Swine Flu and travel - You'll Never Roam Alone indeed. Really? The website does offer a link on its homepage to travel advisory info, but it doesn't date the info page, so I don't know when it was last updated.

Unfortunately a failing grade goes to my old alma mater, Liberty Travel, which offered its 94 Twitter followers nary a single tweet about travel to Mexico, among its 85 total updates. Since Liberty is new to Twitter, I checked its website, and there too was no mention of Mexico or travel updates - its as if the country fell off the Liberty Travel radar screen. To make matters worse, the new Liberty Travel website doesn't have a "search" box, so I couldn't even look for info. regarding its policies for travel to Mexico. I did, however, see several compaints on Twitter from @CatGray and @ChrisCamm, expressing dismay at the lack of response. Now here's an area that Liberty could have done some damage control by listening to conversations, and responding publicly.

So there you have it, readers. Social networking and website communications can not only help promote sales, it can enhance/diminish your online reputation too. And that affects the ability to make 'mo money.


Dennis Schaal Blog said...

Excellent stuff, Susan. You definitely need to do more posts like this! I wonder if Expedia and Travelocity will respond to their midling grades. They may be a bit overwhelmed with actually handling the crisis, rebooking people etc., but they still should be aware of what they need to do and how they can improve customer service re. this crisis by communicating on the social media airwaves.

Anonymous said...

Great Post! So much has been written about the use of social networks and new media. Yet, as your analysis shows... there's so much room for improvement in actual application.

Anonymous said...

Susan, as usual you provide such a valuable service in our industry as mentor, advisor and watchdog. Apple Vacations is honored to even be on your list. However, as a company of overacheivers, Apple wants an A! The reports about our site "down for some time" are somewhat misleading. We had a planned system upgrade between 10pm (ET) on Saturday, May 2 and 7am on Sunday, May 3. Other than that, we had no system outages. Notably, we had no changes in policy or new content to share during that time. Teacher, would you reconsider the grade? - Lisa Sands, Apple Vacations

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the A+ rating Susan. We at Funjet Vacations work very hard to ensure that we continuously provide both customers and travel agents the best information possible – so it is great to be recognized for these efforts. We will continue to leverage the power, reach and overall timeliness that social media tools creates, so you can look forward to many other great things coming from us in this regard.
Doug Wruck, Funjet Vacations