ANN ARBOR — Customers give high marks to Southwest Airlines for providing the best mobile experience, making the airline the one to beat on mobile devices as well as in the air, according to new research from the Ann Arbor-based customer experience analytics firm ForeSee.
The ForeSee Mobile Satisfaction Index: Travel Edition is a study of the mobile experiences of 25 major airlines, hotels, online travel agencies, and car rental companies. Customers gave Southwest a score of 82 on the 100-point scale while Choice Hotels (80) and Marriott (79) round out the top three in terms of mobile satisfaction.
Of all the measured travel categories, hotel mobile sites and apps provide the best mobile experience, with an average score of 78. Airlines and car rental companies tied at 77, while online travel agencies score lowest at 76.
“Simple is the rule,” said ForeSee president and CEO Larry Freed. “Customers are attracted to the convenience of the mobile platform and do not want a complicated experience. That’s much easier for a hotel company to do because they have fewer moving parts and a predictable inventory. Airlines introduce more variables like seat selection and variable pricing. Online travel agencies have the most difficult challenges because they’re dealing with all of these factors. Making matters worse, some travel properties are trying to assert more control over their own customers by withholding inventory from the travel aggregators.”
Choice Hotels and Marriott International lead the industry, while Best Western trails in terms of customer satisfaction with the mobile experience.
Mobile Satisfaction with Hotel Sites and Apps
Hotels: Average 78
Choice Hotels International 80
Marriott International 79
Hyatt Corp 78
Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts 78
Wyndham Hotels & Resorts 78
Hilton Worldwide 77
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Intl 77
Best Western International 76
Online Travel Agencies
Individual companies within the lowest performing category are closely grouped, with only three points separating category leaders Kayak and Travelocity at 78 and Hotels.com and Orbitz.com at 75.
Competition is tight and there is opportunity for differentiation and innovation. A disproportionately large percentage of leisure travelers (84 percent) visit the mobile sites and apps of online travel agencies.
“Leisure travelers are more demanding than we thought,” said Eric Feinberg, ForeSee senior director of mobile. “It is clear that travel aggregators need to do a better job of understanding what the leisure traveler needs.”
Mobile Satisfaction with Online Travel Agency Sites and Apps
OTA: Average 76
While Southwest is the undisputed king of satisfaction, the rest of the airline industry trails far behind, with no company within 5 points of the leader in mobile satisfaction.
“Southwest’s simple, friendly and no frills approach to doing business translates well in the air as well as online. No assigned seats and no fees for baggage help to simplify the process for the consumer, which no doubt contributes to a more satisfying mobile experience,” added Feinberg.
Mobile Satisfaction of Airline Sites and Apps
Airlines: Average 77
Southwest Airlines 82
American Airlines 77
Delta Airlines 77
United Airlines 75
US Airways 74
Avis and Enterprise share the podium at 78, Budget and Hertz tie for second with a 77. Dollar trails everyone at 75.
Mobile Satisfaction with Car Rental Company Sites and Apps
Car Rental: Average 77
Avis Rent-a-Car 78
Enterprise Rent-a-Car 78
* Apps vs. mobile sites: Customers using mobile apps (78) are more satisfied with their mobile travel experience than those using mobile sites (77). Apps may benefit from a slightly higher score because their platform, unlike mobile sites, is tailored specifically to a mobile device.
* Not-So-Mobile Users: More than 70 percent of mobile users book with various travel sites from home while only 12 percent of app and site users combined claim to be on-the-go when booking similar services.
* Lookers vs. Bookers: More people access mobile travel sites and apps to research (43 percent) than book a service or flight (23 percent). And those who use the sites to simply research (77) are less satisfied than those who book (79).
* Steer Clear of the Stars: Despite what customers may think, star ratings in app stores reveal very little when it comes to truly tracking the mobile experience. While a stars rating may be helpful from customer to customer, executives should be tuned into satisfaction as a key performance indicator for any travel-related mobile investments.
The ForeSee Mobile Satisfaction Index Travel Edition is based on more than 6,000 survey responses collected in February 2013. The full Index is available at www.foresee.com.