If you have it, use it


I’m a huge fan of Southwest Airlines. Sure, they’re not perfect, but I find them easier to deal with than any other airline. Their fares are straightforward and predictable, they don’t charge you to change a ticket, and their website is really easy to use. But I did notice one oversight that could be costing them sales. Specifically, when you try to add a hotel to your air travel, it doesn’t start you off in the place that you’re traveling to.

In other words, even though Southwest knows I’m flying to Fort Lauderdale and how long I’m staying there, the hotel search makes me enter a city and state from scratch. And even after they show the matching results, there’s no way to sort by price, distance from the airport, etc. This adds up to extra steps and frustration for the user, and makes it more likely they’ll give up and book the hotel (or rental car) elsewhere.

I’m sure this issue is present on other sites, too. All kinds of places make you enter the same data two or three times during a session. Generally speaking, the solution is to take the info you already have about a customer, and use that to minimize the amount of repetitive data entry. Even if your knowledge of that person is limited to the transaction they just completed (e.g. what city they’re flying to and how long they’re staying), this info can help you streamline the experiences that follow and increase your sales of related products and services.

6 Responses to “If you have it, use it”

  1. Thanks for the update. Sounds like there are some interesting nuances about how that function works. Perhaps I failed to click the hotel option before I started the overall booking process. At any rate, I have always found the process of adding a hotel to the air reservation a little finicky, so I think the improvements you mention would be a welcome addition. By the way, you guys rock for following up on this!

  2. Morning, Jeremy. Hope you had a lovely weekend. Wanted to let you know that I spoke with the folks in our interactive marketing department, and they said that our site actually does offer the pre-populating function. “The catch” is that it doesn’t work from the booking widget on the homepage. You have too start the booking process from the “Book Travel” option. On the first page where Customers indicate their desired city pair and travel dates, if you scroll down there is a hotel section. If you indicate “Yes” you would like to book a hotel, then once you finish your air booking and click the “Book a hotel” button, we default the arrival city, and both checkin and checkout dates based on your air booking. So…we’re halfway there. No word yet on when the widget will have the option as well, but your suggestion has been noted!

  3. The “semi-annual peanut transition” sounds very official 🙂 One thing you might consider is letting customers vote on the snack options, perhaps via a poll on the Southwest blog.

  4. I don’t know when the snack packs will change, but I do know that we’re in the midst of our semi-annual peanut transition. No more honey roasted nuts until fall…so I hope you don’t have a sweet tooth.

  5. Hi Paula. Thanks for your reply. It’s great to see that Southwest is so proactive about monitoring blogs and other discussions online. Now, about those snack boxes… seems like I’ve been getting the same stuff in there for the last 6 months 🙂

  6. Thanks for the kind words…and the great suggestion! We want you to have the easiest booking experience at southwest.com, and I can definitely see where auto populating the city on the hotel screen would be an improvement. I’ll forward your suggestion to our Interactive Marketing Department and see what we can do.

    Paula Berg
    Southwest Airlines