Expedia sought PR help after pandemic-related cancellations led to scores of disappointed customers

Expedia sought PR help after pandemic-related cancellations led to scores of disappointed customers

10/07/2020
  • Expedia sought PR help to repair its reputation after hundreds of thousands of customers called for refunds for their cancelled trips during the pandemic, according to an RFP obtained by Business Insider.
  • Confusion over its cancellation and refund policies damaged customers' trust in Expedia, according to the brief.
  • The brief called for using PR and social media to win back customer trust and confidence in the company, whose revenue fell 82% in the second quarter.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The coronavirus outbreak devastated the travel industry and put Expedia in a bind as hundreds of thousands of customers tried to get refunds for their cancelled trips or change their bookings.

Expedia sought to hire a public relations firm to repair its relationship with customers, according to a request for proposal obtained by Business Insider. The RFP, which was issued in the spring, states that Expedia saw "5-7 times our usual volumes, even in our busiest times and equates to hundreds of thousands of calls."

"Unfortunately, as a result, many customers have, and are having, trouble either connecting with someone at our call centers or attempting to cancel or change bookings directly on our sites," the RFP states. "We also must contend with the fact our policies are, in many cases, determined by our supply partners and they vary greatly."

The company said it was looking for help to win back the "trust and confidence" of Expedia customers who expressed "anguish and disappointment in our service" and be ready when people start traveling again, the RFP states. Expedia listed its main competitors as online travel agency Booking.com and online vacation rental company Airbnb.

The brief called for a firm to help with PR and social media and potentially work with Expedia's creative agency of record, the RFP states. Expedia wanted to hire an agency as early as mid-May but acknowledged that the process could be altered, according to the brief.

The first phase of the assignment called for acknowledging that the company let customers down by making it hard to connect before scheduled travel and not giving them refunds or credits.

The second phase was meant to show customers that Expedia learned from the experience and to show how it was changing to better serve travelers in the future.

Expedia declined to comment for this article. It's unclear as of press time if the company ended up hiring a PR firm or carried out the campaign described in the RFP.

Expedia's revenue fell 15% year over year to $2.21 billion in the three months that ended March 31 and 82% in the next quarter, to $556 million. The company is also facing a class action lawsuit alleging it refused refunds for flights canceled over the coronavirus outbreak, USA Today reported.

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