The Wired Hotel: Web Site Design & Customer Satisfaction
By Jerry Tarasofsky CEO, iPerceptions Inc. | January 27, 2012
When you get right down to it, your web site is just another extension or variation on your actual hospitality property. Visitors must be able to easily navigate their way through your site and find what they are looking for. As with any hotel, make it difficult to find the front desk and you'll probably never get too many guests making a reservation. Visitors must be able to easily access information about rooms, rates and amenities and they don't want to be kept waiting - again, no different than if they were in your lobby and could not find the front desk. Hit the mark in these key areas and most likely you will provide your web site visitors with a satisfying and positive web site experience - one that will encourage repeat visits and build loyalty. Miss on any one of these key web site customer experience criteria and you run the risk of not only encouraging visitors to abandon their visit, but you can also do potential harm and damage to your brand and the loyalty and positive goodwill you've invested in the bricks and mortar world.
Good web site design is all about creating a positive customer experience and the benefits of a positive customer experience will not only enhance the image and value of your brand, it will impact your bottom line. We have in our work with hospitality properties including Choice Hotels, Radisson and InterContinental Hotels, positive proof that those customers who rate their overall experience as good or excellent more often than not refer friends and associates to the site as well as become brand champions. This leads to increased look to book ratios and declines in reservation abandonment. Remember this and ask your web team if they are benchmarking customer satisfaction. If not, I'd recommend you start immediately
The equation is simple. Solid web site design leads to a positive web site experience. In turn that positive experience leads to enhanced customer satisfaction. The first step in understanding if your site's design is enhancing or hurting overall customer satisfaction is to measure and quantify your visitor's overall web site experience. This process involves watching what visitors do on your site - something that can be undertaken using a wide range of behavioral analytics services including the new free web analytics tools from Google. More importantly, although behavioral analytics tell you what is happening on your site, it is critical for you to obtain insights into the "why" behind this behavior.
And that is not as difficult as it sounds.
The first and most obvious way to understand and interpret the "why" is by listening. Your actual web site visitors are the best and most reliable source of intelligence. If you are able to capture and quantify their voices, that information becomes a stylized road map for improving site design and for benchmarking future web site enhancements. Solid web site design is not about cool colors or flashy slide shows. It's about satisfying a visitor's need and listening.
Listening today means more than just asking for feedback though that is still critical and something that I encourage everyone to do. In fact, if you do not have a systematic procedure in place for capturing and monitoring feedback, you are missing a critical marketing component to ensure your web site design meets the wants and needs of your site visitors. Every touch point or opportunity you give visitors to interact with you is another opportunity to build and enhance your relationship with them. But remember just collecting feedback is not enough - more on that later.