Home >companies >start-ups >Customer support in the time of instant outrage: How start-ups do it

Bengaluru: No online retailer escaped the backlash sparked by a recent clutch of instances in which customers ordered mobile phones online and were instead delivered stones.

The instant outpouring of reactions on social media and the consequent negative publicity have become part of a growing trend, prompting some companies to put in place systems to deal quickly with complaints by disgruntled customers.

Companies and consumer start-ups are trying to be agile in their responses, keeping track of conversations across multiple channels—and stepping in at the right moments to do damage control.

Last August when Twitter user @NIKHILKHALE tweeted this:

“Now she will hit me the stone, @snapdeal delivered me instead of a phone. #CelebrateRakhiWithSnapdeal"

He immediately received a reply from the company saying they would sort the issue out.

This has also opened up designations at companies—like social media managers—which didn’t exist before, and led to the rise of social customer relationship management tools like Airwoot, Hootsuite and OneDirect, which make it easier for companies to track and act on social conversations.

“Social media is probably the biggest driver for brand awareness and image building today—and the cheapest too (almost free). It’s also a great platform for lead generation and sales, but that comes a long while after establishing a great presence. As a start-up, it’s a no-brainer to invest in not just a social media presence, but to also constantly monitor what people are saying," said Prem Viswanath, co-founder, CloudCherry Pte. Ltd, a start-up that makes technology that provides companies with customer sentiment analytics.

Start-ups have differing strategies towards this. Some rely on tools, some on clearly outlined processes for every action, and some involve the whole company to monitor social media.

At e-commerce marketplace Snapdeal (run by Jasper Infotech Pvt. Ltd), social media is handled with a set of processes and a large team of 16 constantly monitoring the social chatter.

“Social media is an essential part of listening to our customer’s voices and engaging with them. We have an objective of responding to users within five minutes," said Mohit Sadani, vice president, growth, Snapdeal.

The team has a target of responding to users within five minutes, and interact with about 6,000 customers each month on various social channels.

This customer data is also used to refine their products and processes.

“There are over 30 types of issues and feedback categories that are analysed for sentiment. This data helps analyse the feedback about the Snapdeal App, offers, advertisements and supply chain among other customer issue categories," said Sadani.

When social networking site Twitter user Priya P.B tweeted to streaming service Saavn LLC complaining about the lack of an album she wanted, Saavn immediately responded to her complaint, offering an apology and an alternative listening choice.

“They broke my heart as they didn’t have the album," said Priya, “but it was a good save."

Saavn believes in a more de-centralised approach, having two dedicated people to monitor social media.

“Generally, our listener support team and social media manager know when to escalate any given case to a particular team member, whether on our product, engineering, content, or editorial teams," said Sneha Mehta, VP, Saavn.

Saavn’s leadership team, spread across New York, Mumbai, California and New Delhi are also active in reaching out to listeners and flagging posts and tweets for attention.

This information also goes into product decision. For instance, Saavn released an app for Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating system based on feedback from social channels.

A social customer relationship management (CRM) system is at the heart of the social media processes at concierge service start-up Helpchat, run by Coraza Technologies Pvt. Ltd.

“(The CRM) has an advanced ticketing system that automatically creates all actionable (chatter) into tickets (for the company to respond). This helps in building accountability in the system. The data related to online mentions of Helpchat is captured and the tickets are created," said Kali Shukla, VP, marketing, Helpchat.

Helpchat said it had to rely on a tool because a lot of the conversation around the brand was not on Twitter and Facebook, and it needed a way to measure what was being said on all networks.

The tech-centred approach also assists Helpchat in getting a plug on what influential people are saying on social networks about it.

“There was a customer who was looking for a household help and wasn’t happy with the options suggested. Using our tool we were able to trace this problem early enough as he was also an influencer (a radio jockey) and the tool prioritised this ticket based on certain parameters. The team got in touch with him and provided him the right solution. The customer was very happy and ended up talking about Helpchat on social media," said Shukla.

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