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Travel’s unique relationship with hate-selling — a combination of high-pressure sales and fear of missing out — puts travelers on the defensive when they’re just about to make a big purchase.
Note: This is an excerpt from The Versus Issue, the second print magazine from Skift.
Hate-selling is a symptom of the industry’s ongoing conflict between increasing revenues and making travelers happy.
As airlines, hotels, cruise lines, online travel agencies, and others find more and more success
unbundling services and selling them a la carte, consumers are faced with a constant upsell on horrendously designed car rental booking sites, over-aggressive airline sites promising humane treatment for just a few more dollars, hotels asking for a few extra dollars to promise non-smoking rooms, and “buy-now-or-else” false-sense of-urgency prompts on online booking sites.
Fees aren’t always bad, but the combination of FOMO and constant begging for money leaves a bad taste with customers. This is what happens when you let conversion marketers run amok with customer experience. They made it a science, but forgot about being human.
Here’s are four ways the industry and consumers can better get along:
Don’t make the cheap option feel like a penalty: Delta and JetBlue’s approaches are excellent examples of the contrasting approaches. The former uses pop-ups on its website to warn consumers that the cheap fare they are buying is a really, really bad idea. Instead of a list of what you get with the fare, the focus is on what you don’t get. Over at JetBlue, its new fare classes read more like a feature list for an iPhone, going from a base model to one that’s fully tricked out. Sure, the cheap option doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the pricey one, but you’re not left worrying you just doomed your family to a terrible trip because you didn’t pony up$20 for a seat reservation.
Talk like a human: The cost of car rentals can be quite confusing: local taxes and fees associated with airport versus city pickup, mileage fees, car classes, and other differentiating factors aren’t easy to explain. So don’t. Renters don’t need to know the precise breakdown of every single item, they just need to know what they’re going to pay at the end of the day. If you show $23 a day for a Hyundai on page one and present them with $62.50 at the end of the process, the renter doesn’t feel more knowledgeable about rental car pricing and policies, they feel like they just got swindled.
Think mobile all the time: Uber has managed to combine very complicated fleet tracking, on-demand car hailing, user reviews, GPS, mapping, instant messaging, and payments in a few flicks of the finger. They even made surge pricing painless to accept (the pain comes later). They can do this because they only have one consumer use case, and it’s mobile. Travel brands need to narrow their use cases to what power users want, and give the fringe cases other ways to book that don’t interfere with the other 95% of users that just want a room, flight, ride, or ticket.
For every fee you add, add a perk or freebie: Are you a hotel manager charging a dreaded resort fee? Then drop the Wi-Fi charges, deliver free bottles of sparkling or flat water to guests’ rooms, and ban tips to service staff. Travelers don’t always hate fees, they just hate being nickel and dimed.
Don’t be punitive: Southwest Airlines has a few fees, but it doesn’t screw over passengers when it comes to changing flights or checking a bag. It stands in stark contrast to United, which charges for everything, and then charges more when things go wrong.