Saturday, June 4, 2016

Why Indian startups suck at customer service compared to Western peers

In these days of Startup India, homegrown startups can do little wrong-except maybe when they delay joining offers to students hired from campus. So this

Let me give a few examples

  1. Flipkart vs Amazon: Amazon is WAY easier to contact using multi channels-you can write an email after logging into the account, or call or chat. They respond quickly and helpfully. It is not that they are pushovers or that they bend policy-for example when I wanted to convert an ongoing monthly subscription into an annual subscription to save money, they said I need to cancel the monthly one first and then take the annual one. But when it comes to resolving a genuine customer grievance(as opposed to a wish), they are unmatched. For instance, I ordered L'oreal Kajal eyeliner for my wife, which got over in 2mths vs normal usage of 5mths. When I pointed this out through email, Amazon did not reply but directly placed a free replacement order. This is customer delight indeed. In contrast, Flipkart takes time to respond to emails, and is not too well known for timely or helpful resolution. While Flipkart's hiring of people from customer centric industries may change this trend, I believe Flipkart has a long way to go here
  2. Uber vs Ola: While Ola is more tuned to the Indian marker(for example Launching Ola Share before Uber Pool in India, and launching Ola Outstation), 
    1. its customer service is slower than Uber and can be reached through a NON toll free number. Whereas Uber has a super helpful drop down menu where customers can select their grievance category, and drill down to the sub type. In case of a common complaint of overcharging/poor route/wrong distance, Uber compares the fare to its database and estimate of the best fare, and adjusts if any difference. For example, the fare from my home to Mumbai Airport Terminal 2 is around Rs 220 by UberGo. When a driver missed a turn leading to a detour of ~5km and 15min, Uber corrected the fare by ~60. However, they do not do this for cases where the distance is small, or the best route was not taken. For the same complaint type, Uber can resolve it faster and better than Ola, who seem wedded to a manual process itself. 
    2. However, Uber is NOT free of murk-it has introduced a long distance surcharge in Hyderabad where distances over 15km are charged at 2x the normal rate. This is quite unfair and not shown on the app, still they have done this. Still, considering it is an aberration, I can forgive it. 
    3. Credit Card integration has not yet happened in Ola, so if the wallet balance runs out, one needs to pay in cash which is an irritant. I suppose this is a business call to minimize credit risk, however this is an irritant and does not leave the option to dispute fare components such as toll. 
  3. Quikr not getting involved into post delivery complications such as refund or escrow balances. I had ordered a sofa set which was delivered to the society watchman(hence I could not reject it on the spot) however this was a kit involving assembly which the seller had not mentioned, and refused to help in. While Quikr initially said I need to solve it with the seller, when I raised the threat of credit card chargeback, they started getting involved and trying to persuade the seller. However, they STILL released the payment to the seller, who thankfully saw the light and agreed to refund the amount. Lesson learnt: Make payment through credit cards so that you can chargeback the amount in case of fraud. This is where bank accounts and wallets are absolutely of NO use. 
  4. PAYTM nearly non existent customer care-Very tardy to respond to emails/tickets, and no phone number worth the name. One of the worst customer care processes I have seen-if your problem does not fall within their defined types, you wait 4 days for a response, and then some drone on the other end dutifully raises a query(instead of calling), and then extends the whole loop again. 
How can you protect yourself in this scenario?
  1. Transact preferably through credit cards so that you can chargeback if needed
  2. Prefer websites who offer an escrow mechanism-for example fulfilled by Amazon
  3. Be comfortable writing detailed emails to minimize to and fro

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