Todd from Flightfox here.
I'd like to explain our major recent improvements, particularly the details of our price guarantees, to answer the original question.
It's true that many things have changed with our format, policies, guarantees, processes, etc., over the past couple of years. These changes come from constantly trying to improve things for customers while keeping the system fair and balanced for experts too.
I enjoy working on this problem, which is why my responses can get pretty detailed. You can read about our efforts to optimize for customer satisfaction on our blog. You can also see our real-time 30-day avg. customer satisfaction rating on our home page.
(FWIW, that's the only metric we use internally: our customer satisfaction rating. Our average rating is over 9/10 and over 50% of our customers provide a rating. Both are industry records and we're completely transparent with how we calculate our average rating.)
Regarding our price guarantee policy:
We guarantee to beat your quote (or retail prices) by more than our fee.
The "beat your quote" scenario is easy to calculate: you provide a quote and trip preferences, and we beat your quote within your trip preferences by more than our fee, or your money back instantly no questions asked.
(As other answers confirm, we refund quickly without question.)
If you do not provide a quote, we use the best retail price we can find. There's never been an argument with customers during this new policy over what we use as a retail price. We know when we're beating retail prices; it's not even a question for us.
We take anywhere from 2 to 24 hours to conduct a truly exhaustive search, depending on the complexity of the trip.
This policy is vastly different to our previous policies. While in theory it seems simple to guarantee savings, it was difficult in practice because the concept of "savings" can be pretty subjective, especially if the customer does not provide a quote. We've now solved this.
Most complaints you see on this thread refer to our previous policies. In the very beginning, if the expert conducted a truly exhaustive search, we said they should be paid. But that was naive. Instead, we had to engineer the process to guarantee value. Sure, this wasn't popular with our experts, but it was necessary. We've now found a great balance and everyone is happy with the value aspect of our service.
Although this sounds negative, a positive byproduct of getting value right is this:
- Most, if not all, complaints are from free searches (no fee charged)
What this represents is a shift from "value" being the main issue to "experience" being the main issue. That's a massive win for us (though no rest for the weary). It means virtually every customer that pays gets good value.
Take @Saabi on this thread for example. He wanted us to find him business class flights SYD-BRU for AUD2k (USD1.5k). His expert worked his ass off, but couldn't hit his budget for his dates and preferences, so we did NOT charge him a cent. We provided a completely free search over many hours, but couldn't hit a budget that no one else could have hit either.
Don't get me wrong, his grievance is still real because our communication was sub-par (we should have given more frequent updates), but it represents a big shift in our offering because it's a complaint about a completely free search trying to hit an impossible budget.
Improving the experience is a tough one. There are very few real-time human-to-human service-based marketplaces on the web. Uber is one example, and they've almost nailed "resource planning", but we have timezones :(, and timezones make this problem particularly tough.
Unlike the value issue, I don't have answers for this one yet. I have a few ideas, such as streamlining the process to do a lot more of the required work in the initial consultation when everyone is still online. But we've tried a variation of that before and customers felt rushed. So we need to again find a balance that suits all stakeholders.
If you have any questions, please let me know here and hopefully I'll be notified and can respond to each one personally. We can act on ideas and suggestions very quickly and sometimes will have new features deployed in the same day they're suggested to us.