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Who Will Win the Travel Agent v Technology Battle?

 Travellers Turn To People Power When Things Go Wrong

We may book our travel online but when things go wrong we hanker after the human touch, according to new research conducted by leading global customer experience expert, Webhelp.

A survey of 500 UK consumers revealed that a whopping 81% of us say we tend to book our travel online or via a mobile app and 77% of us book our main holiday using an electronic device. These figures get even higher when you look at particular segments of the market, with 93% of 18-24s, 90% of 35-44s and 88% of people earning more than £40k pa, opting to book their travel online or via a mobile app.

But when things go wrong with our travel plans we turn our backs on technology, according to the survey data.

If we need to make changes to a booking or have a problem before our journey starts we begin to reject the robots and prioritise the personal touch. Overall 67% of people surveyed said they would prefer to resolve a travel issue that occurred before their journey started by telephone or face to face. The human touch is even more important for the over 65s, with 81% of them choosing the telephone or face to face options.

Once our journeys have begun, we are even more inclined to ignore the internet as a means of solving our travel issues. 79% of people said they would prefer to solve an issue that occurred while they were travelling by telephone or face to face. That figure goes up to 90% for the 55-64s and 84% for people in the top income bracket (more than £40k pa).

The survey data reveals our dependence on our devices to resolve issues while we are travelling varies according to the nature of the problem. If we experience problems with our onward connections or our baggage goes missing, 81% of us opt for face to face or telephone contact to resolve things. Missing baggage is also the time when face to face contact is most important, with 47% of people choosing this option, with 34% of people preferring to use the telephone. This figure may be influenced by the convenience of airports having desks dedicated to solving these problems.

The more time sensitive a problem is, the less likely it seems we are to trust technology. When the issue is a missed flight, train, bus or ferry, then 85% of us want to resolve the problem with a person, either face to face or on the phone.

David Turner, CEO of Webhelp UK, India and SA, said: “As far as the battle between travel agents and technology when it comes to travel bookings is concerned, there is no competition. Across all segments of the population, the vast majority of people prefer to purchase their travel via an electronic device, with only 23% of people preferring to book face to face or on the phone. The group most likely to want to book with a person are the over 65s, but even in this group 57% of them take the technology route.

“However, when it comes to sorting out problems or making changes to bookings people are quick to ditch their devices. The swing to people power is most pronounced when the issues are time sensitive, such as missed journeys. In this situation 85% of people prefer to deal with a person.

“This clearly illustrates how important it is for travel companies to ensure they have a customer experience solution that addresses a variety of situations. A one size fits all solution isn’t good enough because our preferred method of engagement changes depending on what stage we are at in our journey.”


Our report outlines our findings in a bit more detail. To view the full survey report, click here.


Press information:

Heather Astbury, head of PR at Webhelp, on +44(0)7825 593242





Article by: Heather Astbury

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