This week, 12 years ago, I was writing Net Attitude. The basic premise underlying my book was that the web was at its infancy and we had only seen 2% of the potential it offered to simplify our lives. I asserted that websites that did not live up to their potential were a victim of attitude, not technology. I was sure that in a year or two, all websites would be as simple and effective as Amazon and eBay. Fast forward 12 years, and we see a lot of progress, but many websites still fall way short of their potential. Amazon and eBay are not beautiful sites, but they do exactly what you want in an easy to use manner. I am sure we all have examples of websites that frustrate us, don’t do what they’re supposed to do, do things we don’t want them to do, and generally frustrate us to know end.
If I had time, I would start a new blog series called Hall of Lane, each week highlighting a website that falls short. I don’t suppose this would change things, but perhaps I would feel better having opined. My first selection would be Best Western, which for now I will have to label Worst Western. There are multiple deficiencies in their site, but the one I will highlight is the calendar function. It seems so basic that any website which creates a reservation would offer the option to create a calendar entry on your device. Hundreds of millions of people carry a sophisticated digital calendar in their pocket connected to a cloud service which synchronizes that calendar with their other devices. Whatever device you might be using has your calendar at your fingertips. This seems like a simple vision that is so basic that every airline, hotel, restaurant, or car rental company would offer it, but very few do.
It is hard to fathom why this obvious gap exists. How could the CEOs of companies like Best Western be so benighted? I suspect they don’t personally use their websites. The only thing worse than not having the functionality to add your reservation to your calendar is to do what Best Western does, which is to offer the option to ADD RESERVATION TO OUTLOOK CALENDAR. Not only does Best Western not realize that using all caps is from the 1960s, but that not everyone in the world uses Outlook. I wonder what percentage of Best Western customers have an iPhone or Android but not an Outlook calendar – millions for sure. How could Best Western not know this?
A few enlightened travel companies have a link that says “Add to my calendar” and when you click on it, it asks you what kind of calendar you have: iCal, Yahoo, Google, or Outlook. In the case of Best Western when I clicked on ADD RESERVATION TO OUTLOOK CALENDAR, the page went blank and nothing happened. I called customer service and found them to be clueless. When I escalated to a supervisor, I found that person to be even more clueless. Her suggestion was to use the email confirmation to manually enter the reservation into my iPhone. The rest of the conversation went nowhere.
Best Western has some very nice properties and they are my first choice at certain locations. They do a good job of managing their physical properties, and I hope they figure out how to make their web property equal or better. I also hope they discover that extending an online reservation to the cloud-based calendars of their customers is a way to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.