Thursday, 18 February 2010

Beaches – which one exactly?

It’s snowing yet again outside and it is definitely the time of year to think about booking the big Summer holiday. Don’t be fooled by the recession, a large % of British people count the annual holiday as a necessity and not a luxury.

Although you still can’t beat a brochure and thousands of trees are destroyed per year just for my pile under the coffee table, a large amount of us will turn to the web to research if not to book our annual summer getaway.

I will say it directly now, I have never found a truly good travel web site. Not one. If you have one to bring to my attention – please do. From the large corporates of Thomson and Thomas Cook to the niche operator, they all work off a similar sort of database that can’t see to cope with a “normal” customer request such as “family room, somewhere with sun, no more than 4 hours of flight, all inclusive with a kids club please”.

You have to know the date you are going and which airport you are going from before you can get any choices. Now. I live in Peterborough so I can go from quite a few airports including most of the London ones, East midlands and Birmingham but the travel site will insist you choose first. At best they propose “all London”. And maybe I don’t know the date I want to go, maybe I just want one of the 6 weeks of school holiday and I’ll have the cheapest one please.

Anyway more specifically, for a luxury option, I tried the Beaches site. The family branch of the better known Sandals Resorts, this is “top of the range” stuff. So surely they have a good approach?

First up, they want exact dates and which airport in Jamaica I want to fly to before offering me hotels. Hang on a minute, isn’t it the hotel that dictates the airport? And then, I get the error message, “nothing for that date, give us a ring”.

No alternative, no suggestion, no results at all, never mind relevant ones, just a great contribution to the “how to annoy your customer best” guide which I am seriously considering writing.

So I tried the “hotel only” option and no soon as I get a price, another big usability “no no”, they want my full details and create a log in and password. Excuse me, I was trying to have a browse.

This is one of the biggest reasons for drop off of customers early on in a journey. Ask for their exact details too early on and they give up with the effort and the nosiness. However if you draw the customer into the site, offering them choice, changes of date, a cheaper price, a different airport, a different hotel that is £200 more but with a special facility you might like, you engage the customer and they gain in confidence and interest.

It is proven that customers need to feel in control and love flexibility. Not to be confused with complexity.

Anyway, the Beaches deluxe holiday was just a pipe dream so back to battling with the Going Places web site and the search for a box for four in Benidorm….

Friday, 5 February 2010


On the day when British Airways announces it is likely to make a record loss this financial year, it is always reassuring and really quite exciting to see new entrants into the airline market.

You might think that this would just about be the worst environment ever to launch an airline but a good idea is always a good idea , regardless of the economic climate. And if that idea is about offering a service that is luxury but cheaper, that is perfect for today’ world.

That’s why I am really liking the idea of Wijet, a French company that aims to make private jet travel more accessible. Laugh out loud you may - private jets when companies are cutting back to the bone? But actually this concept is quite clever and is based, I believe, on real customer insight.

There is apparently, a trend towards the day trip for businesses when top management would like to visit multi sites at a time and in a way that is convenient to them. Private jets provide more confidentiality and less of the formalities of the big airports. Imagine, the team can have a management meeting in the sky and visit 3 clients all in one day, saving one of the most valuable commodities of execs: time.

It’s not stupidly expensive either. According to Corentin Denoeud and Alexandre Azouley, the two start up’s founders, Wijet is less expensive for 25 European destinations, flying from Paris than the total of business class tickets, when 3 or 4 execs are flying.

The price is fixed at 2200 euros (£1900) per flying hour which compares to their rival Netjet who sells a 25 hour package for the modest sum of 110 000 euros (£95 800) which works out at 4720 euros (£4110) per flying hour.

Wijet flies from the small Parisian airport of Le Bourget, closer to the centre of Paris than the main airport of Roissy Charles de Gaulle.

Not content with offering business travel, Wijet are also aiming their service at day shoppers. Quick shoe trip to Milan anyone?

I think these guys are brave, innovative and have spotted a gap in the market. If their customer experience is top notch, and they can keep their cost base under control, they could do really well.