Pakistan’s E-Commerce Boom
By Laila Rehman
The e-commerce boom has finally arrived and not a moment too soon. What with over 8 million Pakistani users on Facebook, nearly 2.1 million broadband internet users, additions of digital media divisions in technology companies and acquisitions of small agencies by big names, its safe to say e-commerce and digital media will grow rapidly in favor of LSM [Life Style Measure] 7 and above.
The year 2012 saw the entrance of Rocket Internet in Pakistan for the first time with Azmalo.pk (an Amazon replica-now closed) and Daraz.pk (head to toe apparel). The emergence of the latter has inspired many locals, who have created their own off shoot brands such as TeesOurz, Style Shop, Symbios.pk and a few others all eager for a chunk of the untapped online apparel market discovered by Rocket Internet in Pakistan.
But why did Azmalo.pk fail? One possible reason is margins and safety concerns, with the former stemming from poor hiring practices – a preference for international graduates with little to no industry experience within Pakistan, thereby little to no negotiations skills that adhere to local practices. And they were taken for a ride inspite of all that international investment. It didn’t help that they hired graduates from international institutions but opening an office in the very pricey Harbor Front was not the best choice, given Home Shopping operates out of one shop on Tariq Road. In terms of optimized square footage and sales, the local brand wins by far. The second reason, safety concerns, is an externality far outside their control – fake orders are placed and the delivery man is held at gun point upon arriving at an empty plot; happens far to often, even to the best of us. Yes the product can be insured, but at some point it has to reach the intended actual customers.
There is however a third reason, one that is surprisingly overlooked and applies to the mass failures of brands outside of the e-commerce boom as well. It’s true that most of the organizations today are running to automate almost everything and meanwhile neglecting the important data they generate through call centers. Ideally the organizations should classify the calls in the domains like for an e-commerce company billing and order management. Then they should try to do the root cause analysis and they will find that 80% of the calls come because of 20% main problems. By targeting these 20% of problems, they can avoid many calls and gain on revenues front. Call avoidance cannot be looked down as it can help companies to save a significant amount of money. Especially in an economic downturn when every organization wants to save every penny, call avoidance can turn out to be gold mine. Generally in growing e-commerce companies, the focus is more on launching new products/promotions but then they ought to also focus on their call center which is important source of information.
Daraz.pk provides so much generic information on their site, which can be accessed by their customers without any log on. However, when customers call their call centers, most of them may insist on knowing the account number, telephone PIN number, and other info that is the voice equivalent of a log on. They do this even when customers only intend to ask for generic info that is not specific to their accounts, for example, “What are the Halloween special offers today?”
If call centers provided this kind of generic information quickly without any fuss over collecting identity data, they will not only improve the customer experience but also reduce call times, thus saving time and money for both themselves and their customers. Of course, they should insist upon authentication to that subset of customers who are calling to know their purchase history, last bill amount, and other account-related info.
Some corporations treat back office operation as a cost center. When that happens, customer satisfaction can be affected. Automation might be an option but is not a panacea. A strategy that corporations can adopt is to ensure close integration and seamless flow of information within the enterprise.
Nadia Textiles touched base with its customers for the launch of Line 3.0 earlier this year for their Uth Oye brand – they integrated communication channels which helped in reducing cost without compromising service.
Providing incentives to customers who adapt to self-service in different ways can also help in reducing the support cost.
Inbound call centers are often designed (inside-out) to deal with calls rather than genuinely achieve successful customer outcomes (outside-in), which is their original intention—why else would anyone want to phone a call center if the matter raised is not resolved, hopefully right first time without referral?
Even a year after its launch, the call center for 14th Street Pizza had a low level of operational maturity and the first emphasis was gradually maneuvered on productivity of the call center, which serves only to reinforce the inwards focus. Call categorization is a critical success factor for effective operation but seldom well-selected as it may not be done from a customers’ (users) perspective taking all stakeholders into account, especially the needs of customers and those that impact overall performance of the service or product.
The absence of rigorous root cause analysis contributes greatly to under-utilization of this potential asset. Besides catering for routine matters, several of which may be successfully automated (rather than simply routed, very few call centers are able to deal effectively with difficult or complex matters that need to be quickly identified and referred upwards. Since these calls are typically associated with high value clients expecting a high-touch service, they may be particularly dissatisfied with the standard offered—a double whammy!
With the proliferation of call centers, let’s ensure they play their role with the efficacy desired, and it will remain imperative to understand and have insight into all calls on an ongoing basis.
About the author: Laila Rehman is Social Media Manager for SilkSkin, overseeing monetary optimization on their earned, paid and owned digital platforms. She is based in Karachi.