5 Lessons from Flipkart's billion day sale on importance of customer support on social media

By Nishith Gupta, afaqs!, | October 13, 2014
Nishith Gupta

Flipkart is a marquee e-commerce player in the Indian market. It has been able to build the brand with a strong focus on customer interests supplemented with fast delivery and multiple payment options. Recently, Flipkart had a massive campaign called billion day sale! It received its share of bouquets and brickbats. Probably brickbats were higher than expected. This resulted in a heartfelt apology from the founders, and this speaks about the importance imparted to customer trust by Flipkart.

However, a brand with such high credibility can also draw customer ire on social media platforms. One of the biggest transformations that digital and social media has done is to give customers a platform to voice their opinions. A decade ago, a similar campaign would have resulted in more number of calls and e-mails to Flipkart, but to make sense of the complete noise it would have taken some time to come back and address the issues in a holistic manner. However, armed with social media, customers took those e-mails and calls to official social media channels of Flipkart, giving an opportunity for real-time query resolution. Being a brand which believes in customer experience and customer trust, it tried to respond to queries on social media instead of hiding or ignoring. However, due to backlash it was not able to support customer queries in an adequate manner. This validates my faith on how critical it is for brands to get serious about social customer support and response management on social media.

It is much more relevant for e-commerce and other service intensive industries. Years of enormous efforts to build brand advocates can go away with one bad customer experience as it is immediately out on a public platform. Hence, here are the 5 lessons on social customer support that every e-commerce and other service-oriented brand can learn from Flipkart's billion day sale campaign -

1. Social crisis can happen anytime, anywhere - be proactive than reactive

On an average, Flipkart received around 500 to 1k comments per brand post on big billion day sale, with most of them related to issues being faced by customers while ordering online. When there is a spike than usual volume, it should be defined as a crisis. Hence, brands should have a campaign crisis framework which should be a mix of right response, alerts and approval mechanism.

2. For holistic marketing campaigns, response management is a vital element

The earliest date I saw on Flipkart's FB page when it started posting about the sale is Sept 25, 2014. Thereafter, the campaign just grew stronger by the day. Some initial reactions about the campaign were quite enthusiastic. Big thumbs up to the marketing team for that! However, as it is with any big marketing push, the expectations of customers get sky high which in reality is hard to meet. Every brand knows that.

Thus, it is always better to identify the type of queries one could get during the campaign date and have a proper response management in place to support the volume of queries. The response management should be real-time and personal to ensure no valid query or complaint goes unattended.

3. Right people alignment from customer service and other functions to support your marketing campaigns

With volume comes the issue of capacity. As can be seen from the below screenshots, Flipkart - which otherwise is good on any given day - could not handle the queries of large magnitude. I would like to assume the reason to be the wrong estimation of team size to handle social queries.

Most brands work with agencies when it comes to social media campaigns, i.e. publishing brand content rests with them. Here comes the real difference as the DNA for responding on social media is very different from content publishing. It needs to be looked from customer support perspective, which is more metrics driven and can provide 24*7 operations.

4. Right set of technology tools to support and enable rapid response to volume of queries

Technology plays a critical role in perfect execution of social customer support. However, brands need to understand that they need a system which is designed for social customer support and not the typical social media management activities. The system should be able to fetch the comments real-time, posts on page, tweets, private message and identify relevant issue categories. It should further be able to allocate the issues to relevant agents. The system should have a mechanism to ensure strong workflow management and conversation context in order to remove manual checks on whether the issue is resolved, pending or in open state.

If brands want to close the issue on social channels, they also need a mechanism to let agent internally collaborate with various functions, and system should ensure that it is also bounded by a KPI. In most of the cases, it happens that the issue remains open due to lack of response from subject matter experts and not because of agents.

5. Campaigns also needs to have a KPI of time bound response time

Last but not the least, even the campaign queries need to be addressed in a time-bound manner. If one KPI is around the number of posts that the brand should do around a campaign, there should also be a KPI on maintaining a desired response time for that particular campaign.

The above 5 lessons, if incorporated in your marketing campaigns, will not only help in better approach to crisis, but also complete the campaign loop in a more effective manner.

About the author

Nishith Gupta is Product Head of Social IQ at TO THE NEW. He has experience in designing, consulting and selling of CRM and Social Media Products & Solutions. He has previously worked for Infosys and Verizon Data Services and has done his PGDM from IMT-Ghaziabad.

Reach out to him - Nishith.gupta@tothenew.com