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Don’t use our web site

Now, you’d never tell anyone not to use your Web site, would you? Of course you wouldn’t. At least not on purpose. But that’s the very message I got from Marriot Hotels when I recently needed to change a reservation. Nobody said it to me, but that was the conclusion I drew. If you’re not careful, your customers might be learning the same thing from you.

Marriott International

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I don’t want anyone to think I am bashing Marriott, because I am actually a big fan. They are one of my favorite hotels. I stay there numerous times each year and am rarely disappointed.
I’m not even bashing Marriott’s Web site. I’ve used it many times in the past and have always been happy with the experience. Until the other day.
I had to change my reservation for a Marriot stay. It was well before the cancellation deadline and there were rooms available for my new date. The problem was the rate of the new room–I was using a corporate discount provided me by my client and I could not get that rate online, even though the Web site showed that the reservation I was changing was at that very rate. In order to make the change, it would cost my client over $100 a night.
As someone who has run big Web sites, I decided to get on the phone and plead my case. I knew it would probably be difficult, but I wanted to save my client all that money. (I am a real cheapskate, if you couldn’t tell.)
But it wasn’t difficult at all. The Marriott rep I called could not have been nicer or speedier. My reservation was changed in no time to the right dates with the corporate rate. No muss, no fuss.
Except for one thing. From now on, I will always wonder whether I should be calling Marriott instead of doing business on its Web site. Could I get a lower rate? Or a room for a night that the site says is sold out? Clearly, the phone people have access to secret good stuff that the Web site does not. My lesson? Don’t use the Web site.
Do you have the same problem with your Web site? If your Web site can’t do what your call center does, what message does that send?

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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