Differentiate with digital

Top 10 Ways My Mobile Travel Apps Disappointed On Travel Day

Julie Ask
Vice President, Principal Analyst
January 28, 2013

Is it me or my expectations? My mobile travel applications have only improved over the past 12 months (and I mean this sincerely), but my disappointment has never been so acute. Why? My expectations have never been higher. I access information more frequently (see Ted Schadler's and John McCarthy's Engagement report — they quantify this), and I expect more accuracy. In the absence of tethering my computer or tablet to to my mobile-phone-turned-hotspot (difficult on the move), I turn to my mobile phone for services. "Immediacy" is what makes mobile so valuable. If I can't get real-time, accurate information on the go, then how useful are the mobile services? 

11. (an extra) When I use the mobile app to add the boarding pass to Passbook, why does only one of two boarding passes go there when I have a connecting flight?

10. I uploaded an update to the loyalty program from the hotel chain. It deleted all of my account information. Awesome. Really guys?

9. I searched the mobile app, mobile web, and full web for a way to recover my account number – not possible in my 10 minutes of searching. Only possible to get password. 

8. I called customer service (hotel brand) while sitting on the plane to get my account number. They asked me to state my password out loud (while on the crowded plane). I gave them the password, and they told me it was incorrect. They proceeded to ask for all of my additional security information (e.g., mother's maiden name). "We have these rules in place to protect your privacy and ensure the security of your account." I'm thinking, "My hotel frequent stay account??? It's easier to get my user name and password from my bank!!" Terrible user experience. 

7. My airline sent me little messages — push-based notifications — with the time of my flight well after I had landed.

6. My airline sent me push-based notifications with the original flight time while I sat on the plane on the runway that had not taken off yet — left an hour late. Hello!!! Apparently, it is either a) hard to get real-time information or b) hard to use location to understand that I am still on the ground at the airport. 

5. My maps app has my hotel on the wrong side of the highway. I asked the hotel reception about it. He said, "Yeah, uh, we get like 10 to 15 calls a day from lost travelers." 

4. My airline sent me pushed-based notifications with a "time" — some were arrival and some departure, but it didn't say which. 

3. My airline promoted its mobile application on its napkins on the plane . . . but it doesn't offer connectivity and the flight attendant keeps trying to clean them up and take them away.

2. My hotel app asked me if I wanted to add my hotel reservation to Passbook. I thought, "Sure, why not?" When I did, I lost the reservation in the application. It completely disappeared, so I could no longer access the reservation amenities — information such as "Is there a shuttle from the airport?" All gone. And honestly, there was such good information — sincerely. It was simply no longer available in the application. I'm not sure if this was triggered by the move to Passbook or the time of the day. 

1. I showed up at the hotel. I showed them the reservation in Passbook and asked how I should use it. Response, "Oh, that's pretty useless. There's nothing you can do with that." Perfect — and I lost all of the functionality in the app by saving it to Passbook. 

What I did notice in terms of improvements to the applications was a lot of app-level, surface-level, pretty stuff — but not the features/functionality that really empower consumers. For example, the apps used more side-bar, popup navigation. Very smooth — nice stuff. The apps are more visual: They have larger photos, more media, fewer text links. They are more touch-friendly. They integrate with Passbook and Maps. I'm not discounting these improvements, but this is all stuff that a development team or agency or platform can do. What it reveals though are some really big gaps: 1) they haven't thought through mobile use cases; 2) they are either over-using or not using enough context (e.g., time relevant to an event or location); and 3) they don't have deep integration to the back-end systems to access real-time information. 

Why is mobile important to travelers? Among frequent business travelers — the most profitable to the airlines — close to three-quarters have smartphones. Almost a fifth of us book on our phones. We check information at two to three times that rate. It's essential. 

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