Tuesday, July 23, 2013

E-Commerce Diaries Part 1: Myntra pickup guy is trained to treat all customers as dubious!

Either I am terribly unlucky to be on the wrong side of the customer service of almost all e-commerce companies I have transacted with in last 9 months, or something is systematically wrong about all of them at the same time.

Let's take the latest case first: Myntra. The word in the market is that Myntra has among the best service across all e-commerce companies in India. Ironically, I am standing at a juncture that I don't think I will order with them for a lot of time to come for the reason of (abysmal) service quality.

This is the off season for most apparel companies. Enticed by the heavy discounts, we ordered two sports sandals on June 26th, my first ever apparel order on e-commerce. True to Myntra's reputation, the products did arrive in a jiffy. On trying, we realized that both the sandals were of the wrong size. So we called the customer care and they took the return/exchange requests. One of the products was indeed picked up the very next day! So far I was impressed!

Here is the interaction I had with the delivery man who came to pick up the second sandal (July 3):

Sujeet (The delivery man): "Sir, the sticker is intact and this product looks unused, but I can notice a few specks of dust on the back of the left sandal. Did you use it?" 
Me: "No, we only tried it for a couple of minutes only to realize that it was not a fit. It was never used or cleaned" 
Sujeet: "Sir, unfortunately, we just had a training in which the company informed us of a change in policy. We have been asked not to accept any order which we may suspect is used. If I take this and the Quality Assurance team does not accept it, I will have to bear the cost of this product from my pocket." 
Me: "What kind of logic is it when you can also see this doesn't look used, you will not accept it? Can I speak to your supervisor" 
Sujeet: "Sure." (He now calls his 'boss') 
Me: "How can you not accept something which is so clean? Do you expect us to not even try it?" 
Boss: "Sir, we don't know whether you used it or not. We are only in the logistics department or the company and we have to work according to the policy. Please call up Bangalore office and we will take this back if they take a decision in this regard." 

My expectation of 'empowering' customer service and 'customer delight' from Myntra just vanished in thin air. Having no other option, I clicked a few pictures and uploaded them on the site on July 9. They promptly sent an email promising a revert within 'three business days'. Then there was no update from them for a week. On July 16th, I had to call to elicit a response. After a 22 min long customer service call, I was promised that this order would be picked in another three days. Upon asking why wasn't the promise in the previous email kept, I was told this happened because I chose the 'wrong sub-option' on the returns form. What a brilliant excuse!

Sure enough, a pickup man did arrive the next day. On this occasion the same product was acceptable to him and his QA team and my refund was processed back to Myntra cash. I thought this would be end of my woes with Myntra.

To use the cash we just received, we ordered another two sandals on July 21. This time we were at least sure about the size of sandals. True to its reputation, the orders were delivered in two days flat. But guess what, one of the pairs is covered with dust, has scratches and appears as if it was lying un-boxed in a warehouse for a long time. If Myntra was training its people to be so hard-nosed about accepting borderline cases in returns, how can the same team deliver much dirtier products and expects the customer to be okay with them? I so wish there was one shop-owner I could shout at. 

Something seems to be terribly wrong with the way we build customer focused companies in India. Even while we know that customer is king (I am sure Myntra surely believes so!), the processes on ground are created with a false objective of 'efficiency', even if that turns customers away like nothing else.

Although the various discounts offers in my inbox will keep enticing me, I will surely think twice before ordering apparel online.

[This is first of a series of blog posts that outline my experience with e-commerce companies in India. In the coming episodes, I will outline experience with Indiatimes ShoppingFlipkartShopClues and ZoomIn. If any of these sites want to touch base with me, I tweet at @arpiit]

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cafe Coffee Day supports Entrepreneurs!

I am self-professed Cafe Coffee Day (#CCD!) junkie. Right from the days of Barcamp Bangalore in 2006 (Can't believe just had their 10th edition!), there has been very few weeks in my life that I haven't been to a CCD. They have been the #1 place to meet friends, conspire new camps and going out on a dates to now being the de-facto place for working out-of-office to inviting customers over for a chat, CCD has seen me growing. It wouldn't be a hyperbole if I assert that CCD has had a BIG role to play in shaping who I am.

On its part, from their near-ubiquity in Bangalore to their near-ubiquity anywhere in India, CCD has grown by leaps and bounds in last 5 years to become one of the top youth brands in India today. They stand for great customer service, quality, comfort and innovation. They could, perhaps, do a little more. I wonder what if they stand firmly behind the latest crop of startups in India too in being that one place one can go to work, meet partners, call customers or just unwind after a day of hard work!

I have an idea. And I am going to propose this to Cafe Coffee Day team as well. What if CCD starts a "CCD for Startups" or "CCD for Entrepreneurs" program, to start with in those outlets that aren't doing as well as others. Here is what this program would promise:

  1. A 'rental' option where a CCD allows entrepreneurs signed up for the program to use the cafes for a fixed duration during the off-peak time for a fixed charge redeemable against food and beverages in the cafe. For example, CCD could allow me to work for 11 am to 6 pm if I agree to have minimum billing of Rs.250.
  2. CCD could start create more power-points and WiFi for startups willing to work from there.
  3. CCD could also create community evangelists who are their feet on-ground to get more people signing up for the program and making sure that entrepreneurs are delivering on their promises. Headstart Network could be a great community evangelists!
Here is what the entrepreneur can promise:
  1. Mention of CCD as a 'supporting partner' on their websites.
  2. Bring more friends and partners to a CCD nearby (say, through a special loyalty program)
  3. Promise to build a great business for the future of the country!
I am not sure if this will really work, but I am already excited! :)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Common-Wealth of India: Dreaming 2020 Olympics

So the games finally got over, without much glitch. A Bollywood style return-from-the-fringes experience. It appears that we Indians can't live our life without nerve-wrecking drama.

All's well that ends well!

Our media had convinced us that the corruption has rot our games so badly that nothing could save India from a massive international disgrace. Starting yesterday, perhaps for next 2 weeks, media will continue to show hitherto unknown (read: obscure) proofs of how successful it was!

In a country where we hardly pay heed to any non-cricket sport, reading sports headlines on the front page of even ToI was refreshing, reassuring and memorable.

What ended in the magnificent closing ceremony was a spectacular international sporting festival. Something that makes us proud of being Indians, yet again!

But, yeh dil maange more!

What next, it asks? I have set my sight on the 2020 Summer Olympic games. Bidding will happen in 2013. The chairperson of IOC Dr Jacques Rogge has already said a successful CWG 2010 in Delhi would make a possible Indian bid stronger for Olympics.

THIS is the most successful it can be. Dr Rogge, did you notice?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Rejection V/s Selection

This one's going to be my shortest Blog Post. If you have a mobile with T9 dictionary, turn it on and type r-e-j-e-c-t. What you get it "select".

Wondering what happened to "reject", such a common word in English? press * (for Nokia, for other press the key that takes you to the next word in sequence) to get it. Can't believe it, try again.

Also try for r-e-j-e-c-t-e-d, or r-e-j-e-c-t-i-o-n.

Guess they are both really two sides of the same coin! :)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Death of an IIT Kharagpur student: Issues with media

I just came across this news of the death of an IIT Kharagpur student, Rohit Kumar due to alleged 'negligence' by hospital authorities. A follow up post was written by Ashish Gourav, another resident Kharagpur campus. He mentions that Director has resigned from his post. He goes on to mention that the internet services were down and no media were allowed, alleging deliberate sabotage of external communication by IIT authorities.

Before I proceed, I must express condolences to the student's family and the entire student community of IIT Kharagput. It is an unfortunate incident and everything should be done to avoid it in future.

The truth is that there was no deliberate sabotage of external communication from the campus, as PTI did publish this news about 15 hours ago. Several other publication followed suit and this made to the front page of The Telegraph today. Other major publications of Kolkata like Indian Express, Times of India and others did publish it today.

This is an interesting case of improper use of media by enraged students, misquotes by media, and following rage by Students across the country. Also, about a typical passive follow up by media on the issue of construction of a hospital at IIT Kharagpur.

I also spoke to Arnav, VP of IIT Kharagpur's Technology Students' Gymkhana. Here is the official line:

  1. Internet services were not brought down as a reaction to this incident, but happened due to another failure in computer center.
  2. The doctors in their campus didn't have neurologist among them. That's why they didn't act further than stopping external injuries.
  3. Rohit did not have any history of epilepsy as suggested by news media.
Here is the official press release:
Rohit Kumar, a third year student of IIT Kharagpur, was regularly visiting the institute hospital since the last three days on account of chronic headaches. On his way back to the hostel on the third day he fainted and fell off a cycle rickshaw and sustained serious injuries.

He was again rushed to the hospital, upon which it was decided that he should be taken to Kolkata. However, on the way, his situation deteriorated and he was instead taken to Midnapore, where he was unfortunately declared brought dead.

This incident triggered off strong emotive response from the students as they felt that the medical facilities were inadequate. The students immediately met the authorities and lodged their strong protest. The institute has expressed its condolences to Rohit's family and friends. The administration took note of the issues and met the student general body and assured them and laid out a plan in which they would work together with the students towards improving on campus medical facilities.
Note these:
  1. No mention of Director's resignation on this issue
  2. Overturning a car at Director's residence and breaking window panes is just "Strong Emotive Response". Grow up, people!
As you can see, everyone's playing with media. Media itself is playing with itself. Kharagpur is no Mumbai to have three super-speciality hospitals within 2 kms of campus. But so has been the condition of most population of India. Do the 'elite' students of IIT might have a bigger need of medical facilities than an average Indian citizen?

I say, No. Everyone should have better facilities. What do you say?

Update: I had no idea that what I am getting into by expressing my opinion in public. A section of students from IIT Kharagpur has forgotten debate and started a scathing personal attack on me. For the moment, I have enabled comment moderation. I hope that can keep the discussion on this blog a little sane.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Power of Twitter

Twitter is unbelievably real-time voice-of-crowds. I'm thoroughly impressed and, now, hooked on to it!

Let me give you a recent instance. @dkris wrote that he was sitting next to the cutest girl of BCB8, in one of the sessions. Tweets like that would obviously incite my interest and I asked if someone has more details than that. Very soon, several more tweets followed describing where he was and if this should have been the focus in a Barcamp.

Moral issues aside, the whole community got into action and in less than 10 minutes @alagu and @amigos uploaded of two photos the girl concerned having a chat with @dkris on TwitPic.

Here I am, sitting in Mumbai (could have been anywhere else in the world too!) getting real-time updates (and photos) on what's interesting in a Barcamp in Bangalore, without any charge (on a device of my choice) and from at least 100 different sources.

Distances don't matter. And there is enough being said for all possible interests e.g., a girl in Barcamp Bangalore (how geeky!)

Twitter is Great! :D

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Why do we need an expert?

Some of my friends who attended BarCampMumbai4 are already aware of my fascination with Wisdom of Crowds. But few of them know that I have gone ahead and started a research project to explore what happens to the expert in the era where getting wisdom of crowds, at least on basic yes/no issues, is so easy?

Ankesh would point to fallacies to the power of the crowds and crowdsourcing. But, to me, something fundamentally shifted after reading this book, as a part of the Knowledge Economy course at SJMSOM in Aug-Sep 2008.

With the advent of email, I don't need to host a party or wait for people to come to a particular place to conduct an opinion poll. Right from the days of Yahoo Groups, the cost of seeking 'crowd' opinion has reduced to negligible. I can run a simple poll on an ad-supported free site to get opinions/surveys. If nothing work a Google or Wikipedia search will (I would like to believe that it is, in a broad way, wisdom of crowd).

Why, then, does society need an expert? Why is it that we still look forward, and often travel thousand miles, to hear an expert. If she is only a synthesizer and aggregator of information, once I have access to all resources that she has, or once there is a healthy community of my fellows, do I really need her?

Looking at a special case of media, where an editor very rarely adds any extra information and plays a role of only a filter, I may do without her. May be her - as a single person, if not her as a community. For example, Benkler describes how does the network of blogs act as a filter themselves. He describes a Strongly Connected Core which acts as the filter for blogosphere.

The question I am grappeling with is: If filterning is the only critical function performed by editor/expert, in the present day I may not always need an expert for all small issues. Why then is it so important for the society to venerate an expert?

Also, if I have become an 'expert' in my field through my education and experience. What is the implication of wisdom of crowds for my future?

No just me, all of us are under threat by wisdom of crowds! :)