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Integration – But, Don’t Forget To Call

We are really making progress in the world of e-business. Maybe I’ll update my talk about The Future Of The Internet and say we are 3% of the way there instead of 2%. A board meeting this month will take me toNew York City and I decided to go to Tavern On The Green (update Feb. 4, 2013 – Tavern on the Green is now closed) afterward. I haven’t been there for quite a few years and thought it was time to try it out again. I am sure it will be a pleasant experience as it was in the past. I headed on over to their web site and was not surprised to see it was comprehensive — pictures, menus, history, and even online reservations.

My first experience with online restaurant reservations was with the Red Sage Café in Washington D.C. (update Feb. 4, 2013 – the Red Sage is now closed as well). I demonstrated their homepage and "online" reservations capability to IBM’s senior management meeting in May 1994. The menu page played a different southwestern music clip for each selection and then described the dish. To make a reservation, you filled out an online form and when you submitted it, a fax was sent to the restaurant! It is hard to describe how impressed everyone was — including me. This was eight years ago. Secure ordering, e-business, and IBM WebSphere were nowhere at the time. There was no eBay, Amazon, or Yahoo! How far we have come.

Naturally, the Tavern On The Green reservation process was slick and secure. After stepping through the form in their reservations section, I received a confirmation number — and I was a happy camper. Almost instantly, I received an email. It said "Thank you for making a reservation at Tavern On The Green. Please call (212) 873-3200 24 hours in advance,with your Reservation Confirmation Number ready to confirm". What? I just made a secure, confirmed reservation, including my credit card number. In fact the email said, "If you do not cancel this reservation and fail to arrive for the scheduled reserved time, the credit card you provided will be charged a $25 per person ‘no show’ fee".

The good news is that they are integrated, you can make a reservation online and call them with your confirmation number in case of a change. This is in stark contrast to Hotel sites where you can’t use guest points from their web site to pay for a room you reserved on the same site. Tavern On The Green has done a really good job here, except they left the online customer in the lurch. I have a reservation but they are telling me to call to confirm. What could they be thinking? The old models don’t die easily. Somebody somewhere thought it was natural to add that last step — just to make sure.

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