For any brand, keeping customers happy and ensuring satisfaction is a key preoccupation. A good marketing campaign might get them to try out your product, but unless you have a good product, you’re not going to go anywhere.
For online businesses though, it’s not enough to have a good product. You need to make sure that you get it to the clients quickly, and that you get them the exact product they were expecting. The whole issue of look and feel – that customers want to see a physical product before they buy it – has to be addressed, and so for e-commerce, customer satisfaction has very different dimensions than brick and mortar companies.
Manu Agarwal, Founder of Naaptol, said, “We are a home shopping company. Customers buy products from us and then we must work with logistics companies and retail partners to ensure that they get the product they want quickly and are happy. There is a lot of emphasis on satisfaction, and we have a complete CRM and reverse logistics system in place. We can pick up things from the customers so they don’t have to return them, and we do replacements or refunds as required.”
“Consumer satisfaction, not marketing spend, is what drives the industry. If customers are satisfied, they will come back, otherwise you have to spend marketing money again and again. So, our goal is to respond to every customer query that comes and provide a good experience so people come back again,” he added.
Kunal Bahl, Chief Executive, Snapdeal, said, “In e-commerce, we don’t face more issues than offline businesses, but different kinds of issues. At a brick and mortar store, for example, a big issue can be inventory. So, we have different issues to deal with, and most people work hard to address these issues. E-commerce is still nascent in India, and the government and private companies have not made the required investment in infrastructure yet. Entrepreneurs are trying their hardest to make sure that they deliver the best experience, but in any business there are dependencies on a huge ecosystem that includes banks, couriers, retailers and even phone companies, and sometimes, things go wrong, and then the company must address the customers’ concerns in a professional, polite and timely manner.”
Research and Experience
It’s important to be fully aware of the business, to know all the dependencies and what can go wrong, and even more than that, customer care must be able to answer the question – what do we do now? Thorough knowledge is critical for full satisfaction, and to that end, Snapdeal, Bahl says, it tries to research every facet of their business.
Bahl said, “In Snapdeal, our dependency is on retailers, so we do audits of each merchant in a structured manner before a deal goes live. We send people to shop as customers to ensure that they are being taken care of in the right way. We train the customer care, and on the first Saturday of every month, I send a personal email to everyone who has bought from Snapdeal that month, asking for feedback. These mails come directly to me, and I can usually respond to everything within 24 hours. We’re not in it to just sell and run, but to build a relationship and ensure that you have a great experience.”
Other companies try to leverage existing expertise to bring value to the customer. Manoj Gursahani, Chairman of travel portal Vamoose.in, said, “Before this, we have run TravelmartIndia very successfully, and while Vamoose is a new venture, and a new concept, it is backed by tremendous experience in the travel sector. If a person calls us and asks about changes to their travel itinerary, or asks if a particular destination is a viable place to take a young child, or asks about nearby destinations they can visit while going on a tour, then you need someone who already has a lot of knowledge about travel and tourism. Our expertise in this field means that we can answer these questions, and we listen to the customers at all points through a variety of touchpoints to guarantee satisfaction.”
“We engage with people online as well, and make sure that we are aware of what the customers are saying. We’re not trying to control the buzz, but to gain very important feedback from it, so we can make our service better,” Agarwal said.
Bahl said, “The future of customer care is Facebook. A lot of people don’t even call now, they just leave a post on Facebook; so on Facebook we have a 15-minute turnaround of complaints on the page. We have a person manning the page at all times, and we have created a live chat option with someone watching and responding to the customers online, along with the call center and email, so there are as many touchpoints for the customers as possible.”
He advised, “People have the right to communicate with us in any way possible. Don’t run away from a customer issue, because that is bad for business. If there is a problem, the first thing to do is to own it up, and then try and fix it, instead of trying to sweep it under the rug.”
Social media can be such a useful tool for collecting user feedback that it can even change the services that a company offers – for example, soon after the uprising in Egypt, Vamoose offered a travel package deal in Cairo. Gursahani said, “We felt that it was perfectly safe by that point, but we quickly saw a lot of people posting on Facebook that they didn’t think it was a good idea, and they didn’t believe the situation had settled down so quickly. Based on the feedback, we took the deal down, because that’s what people wanted.” This sort of quick feedback is one of the biggest advantages of the digital domain for online companies, which can make changes at a far quicker pace than offline companies, to ensure maximum customer satisfaction.
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