Pricebaba started with a ambitious online to offline approach, connecting consumers to local retailers. In 2016, we declared this part of our business a failure along with the reasons. However the amount of traction Pricebaba generated (at peak ~INR 60cr worth of leads every month), there were several interactions with end users & retailers that shaped our learnings. Back in 2014, at a time when we were growing very fast, we started encountering a problem that we had long anticipated – customer experience issues at local stores listed on Pricebaba.
We built out enough flags & intelligence in our systems to detect anomalies. A lot of this was smooth because the ops, business & tech teams were one small group working from the same floor (even at peak we were 30 people in the company). I sensed the need to get our teams to understand the gravity of any customer complaint that reached us. Below is an email I wrote to the team (alongside all the other processes & systems that we put). Sharing it just like the previous post on Commitment to Equality.
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Annkur P Agarwal
Date: Fri, Oct 24, 2014 at 11:20 PM
Dear Ops Team
Over the past few days I have come across a few incidents where our users have had a poor experience with retailers. I understand these aren’t isolated incidents.
In almost all cases it involves a retailer who doesn’t delivery the advertised price or product. We also came across an incident where the retailer spoke rudely to a customer. This end user told us that he probably made a mistake by coming to us and going to that retailer.
So whenever you come across an incident where a retailer either refused to give a certain price after updating it to our R Panel or in any other way gave a bad experience to the end user – Please report it to Nishit and me. I have asked Ayaz to create a Trust and Safety spreadsheet to record every such incident.
You may find this to be a tricky situation because holding a retailer accountable for this is tough. We can’t reprimand them easily and our primary commitment isn’t to make retailers suffer for who they are. We are here to educate and empower them such that the end user gets a good experience.
“The way to deal with such situations is to show empathy towards the end user. This is someone who is spending his/her hard earned money to buy a mobile phone and relies on us as a friend to help with the purchase. We need to take up every such incident reported to us and play for this consumer.
Please call the retailer and inquire why this happened. Make them realise that we work hard to get these consumers to PriceBaba and then trust the retailer to take care of them. In a time when online sites like Flipkart and Amazon are providing crazy service over phone, email, facebook and twitter to these consumers, they still come to us and visit local shops. Let’s respect that. Let’s serve them.
Additionally always call the end user back and close the loop with them. Show empathy towards them. Tell them while we are a platform that connects the consumer with retailers, we work hard to give them a good experience.
Accept the failure of the situation but communicate them everything you are doing to help the situation. If need be connect these consumers to me over email. If need be I will call them personally.
If the situation looks grim, please report to me on email and over phone / in person as required immediately.”
In coming weeks we should draft a detailed terms and condition and build more legal binding with retailers registering with PriceBaba and make them somewhat legally bound for the price updates they give. However, this situation won’t change dramatically overnight. But regardless, we should do our best to educate the retailers and help our consumers.
– Talk to the end user as a friend. Not a support helpline. Please feel their pain.
– If you don’t know how to handle a particular incident, ask. Find a way.
If you don’t know what to tell the consumer, tell them you will consult with your manager and get back. And do so.
– If you think a particular approach is wrong, ask Nishit or me.
Above all remember, we have no right to be in business if we aren’t giving a 100% to help our users. The least we can do is do all in our hands to help them. As we progress, the system will evolve to iron out a lot of issues that seem like an impossible pursuit. But that would only happen if we have the intent to honestly help the end user.
Marking all@pricebaba so that everyone in the company is on the same page. If you haven’t ever spent time calling retailers and end users alongside our ops team, please do so. If you understand them, you will build better solutions for them!
Annkur P Agarwal