Head of Product for CX - Licious
Sreejit Nair leads product building for Customer Experience at Licious. He is focused on building ‘meatier’ experiences for their customers by stepping up online and offline capabilities for the organisation. In this episode, we talk to Sreejit about the components of delivering stellar experiences at scale and what it means to be customer-centric in a post-pandemic world.
- [01:52] How has customer support evolved over the years?
- [03:17] How is customer support seen at Licious?
- [05:11] Major customer support challenges faced
- [08:11] Is there a need to re-imagine customer support?
- [10:24] What impact has AI had on the industry?
- [16:34] Customer support best practices
- [18:10] What metrics do you track when it comes to customer support?
Joining us today is Sreejit Nair, who’s the associate director of CX and products and also heads customer support at Licious.
Sreejit is here to talk about his insights on how the customer support space is evolving and his thoughts on what the future of customer support is going to be like. Welcome to the podcast Sreejit.
Thank you so much, Siddharth. Thank you for inviting me and having me here.
Why don’t you start off by telling a bit about yourself and your role to our listeners?
Great, cool. As you know, I work with Licious. I lead the CX Charter for the product and design point of view and… I am strongly engaged with the operations team to ensure that we give a stellar… uh… end to end experience for a Licious customer. So in terms of some context of what I specifically do I design for two key stakeholders.
One is our customer of course. But, uh… the core enabler within the Licious ecosystem is the customer support executive. And both of them are key stakeholders for, uh… for… whom I design products and features. This is broadly…. two point strategy here, Siddharth.
For the customer side, my focus is on how do I ensure that he does not have… or she does not have the need to contact customer support at any point in his whole journey. And for the e xecutive, it’s about how does he… uh… how is he enabled to deliver a great support experience.
So on the first… on the customer side, it’s order to contact ratio as a metric that we chase as an organization, and on the second side, it’s customer satisfaction. So, uh, happy agent or, we call an agent a Rookie in Licious, a Happy Rookie is a happy customer… yeah.
[01:52] Siddharth Sharma
Wow…happy Rookie is a happy customer? I’ll remember that, and that is… that… that is brilliant. And, you know, you talked about these metrics that you are… that you are evaluating at Licious, right.
How do you think Licious, I mean, because I… I believe Licious was the game changer in the industry. It’s a completely new category and a completely new player. How is it evolved over the last year or so?
So, I’d say, since the pandemic has hit, definitely it has questioned every fundamental of the business. We’ve multiplied roughly 3X in scale in terms of order volumes and every other core input metric.
Now, what have… what that has meant is that…we’ve had to make that hard transition from a start up to a company.
And while doing that, every fundamental across processes at the design of products, our platform stability, our people quality, everything has been questioned. We’ve asked ourselves some hard questions across functions, got some answers.
We’re still solving for multiple others… uh… right… uh… as we speak. And now, a very key challenge with the pandemic is that how do we not only… replicate or do better than the wet market experience for a meat and seafood customer, but also do it while delivering as good or better online experience than… say a Swiggy or an Amazon.
So it’s both of them that are elephants in the room, right, that we have to cope with as an organization and deliver.
[03:17] Siddharth Sharma
I think you’re asking the right questions, right? And I think you folks are doing an amazing job. And now, I’ll hit you back on the previous answer that you talked about how you measure customer support. And you built not only for your customers, but for your executives as well right? Can you elaborate a bit on how customer support is seen inside your organization?
Absolutely. So customer support… for us is not a support function, although support is there in the name of that function.
For us, it’s a core internal function that drives not only customer satisfaction, but slightly later in the value chain is of course NPS, which automatically translates into better repeat and lower cost of acquisition.
So it’s very important that we have a very good high-quality customer support team that’s on our payroll and we call them the customer happiness cell.
So we hope and we design for a great… you know, happy experience at support.
So how does…how does that manifest and how do we do it, is of course… ensure very good hiring bars in terms of the people that we recruit for this team. Have them go through very intensive and extensive training process for systems and tools, give them… equip them with standard operating procedures for each and every issue flow that comes their way, and empower them to take the right call in… in favour of the customer.
And, you know… And so that… that’s… a truly empowered frontline executive, is the sign of a great company.
So I feel… and that’s… that’s what’s been echoed by multiple people who’ve written to us. But when they’ve had a great delightful experience with support.
It’s when the rookie has felt… has known the pain of the customer and has responded quickly. So we also make sure that people who are on the support team also use our products as well.
At least are familiar with the entire flow so that they can sort of… internalize the pain of a customer.
[05:11] Siddharth Sharma
Right. I love that word that you use right- delightful support experience. And I think a lot of time support is not seen as something delightful, right?
It’s seen something as a chore or something, but you know, truly building the rightful support experiences, I think.
I mean, brilliant stuff. You know, building this would not have been easy, right?
Like, you know… because generally support is thought of as the last part in the stage, I mean there is acquisition, then there is your sales, marketing, operations engine, and then… support is thought of as a last… kind of a… in…in the puzzle, you know… as a piece of the puzzle, right?
So what are the major customer support challenges that you have faced in the… say… in the last couple of years, right?
And, you know, and I’ll just stretch it a bit more. How has the pandemic impacted your industry in business?
In terms of core challenges that the pandemic has thrown our way from a support point of view, I think the 1st and the most fundamental one is the need to scale the support team in a slightly nonlinear fashion. So we’ve not had to linearly scale it, given that we’ve also worked at capability issues at the back.
So… so it’s thankfully it’s a nonlinear scale, but we’ve had to scale with that. And the nature of the support industry, comes attrition, comes the need to sort of… uh… keep the people engaged.
There’s also… that becomes slightly more complicated in a work from home environment. So that has brought with it… added… uh… requirement from us to keep those rituals with… uh… remote workforce… to ensure that they are engaged, they are… and the resolution that they deliver is high quality.
In terms of a stellar support experience, I’d say… Siddharth, we have just started. I think that we have yet a long, long way to go and we’ve… towards that end, we’ve identified resolution quality as a core improvement area.
And we’re investing heavily in operational rigour to begin with, to ensure that the quality of calls and emails that we send out are… are of high quality.
they… they are… of course of the standard that a Licious customer, who’s at a high average basket size, you know, wants from a brand like us.
And, beyond these challenges, I’d say there are two nodes. There is one about the nature of the volumes that we get as a meat e-commerce player. It’s Peaky towards a weekend and it’s even peakier on a, you know… peak hour.
Staffing is always a slightly more complicated challenge when you can’t staff for the peak because it’s not cost-optimal.
So we… we’re figuring out, you know, a work… workforce, design around it. The last bit is, of course, connectivity. I think all organizations and Licious as well,
Is grappling to deliver the right connectivity because telephony issues crop up that much more in a work from home situation?
So we are, you know, trying to equip all our support staff with dedicated bandwidth and constantly checking in with our dial-up partner as well for ways to improve… uh… connectivity on the calling side.
So I think this is a couple of them, but yeah, I mean… these are the core ones that have hit us based on time.
[08:11] Siddharth Sharma
You talked about, you know, how the pandemic has… forced you folks to think hard and take a hard look at… uh… the way customer support is done and you know, equipping your… you know, support folks, your core team with… with the right tools to deliver a delightful support experience, right?
I mean and I’ll just stretch this… I’ll extrapolate this, right?
Do you believe that there is a need to reimagine the way customer support is evolved over the years?
Absolutely. Siddharth, I feel, we have to move… at least at Licious, I’ve… and… before that at Curefit also.
My experiences have increasingly… sort of have lead me to believe that inbound is sort of an outdated concept.
We don’t have to, or we shouldn’t be waiting for customers to tell us what is troubling them. And…
We have the data of… in the organization, in our databases, about any or everything that the customer can or might want, be a… uh… query resolution, something to satisfy a complaint, we have to be proactive.
I think that’s the right word for it. Now we are in the process of building, you know, good control tower team, the likes of which… I think, some market players have definitely made.
We have to get to that point where any unhappiness, be the delay or cancellation or, uh…, you know, reschedule. All of these are proactively informed to customers so that they don’t have to reach out, you know, disrupt their own life cycle and reach out to customer support.
That’s on the whole service side of things, but even beyond that, I think there are definitely a few opportunities for us on the whole engagement piece as well. Where… given… again, the high… like… basket size, the passion that this category carries
I think it’s very good for us from a community-building perspective. I think we’ve just started. We’ve… we just have a loyalty program called meatopia which we are in the process of… like you know, strengthening.
So that, not only do we tap into our loyal customer base, but also do a lot more justice to the digital side. Post the pandemic, that’s assumed that much more importance.
And I think, from a service and an engagement point of view, the investments that we are making on CX products will take us to a point where we engage as well with let’s say an Instagram DM as we do with… lets say, an on call customer.
[10:24] Siddharth Sharma
Got it. And I’ll pick on this thread, right?
Because you said about Instagram, or you know, how well you respond on Instagram DM as you do on a call or an email. What’s your opinion about automation and AI and how significant impact can it have on customer support?
Siddharth, I think, automation is like a double-edged sword, for the lack of better word. I think… if used properly, it cuts down costs. It definitely speeds up resolution.
But… if used a blanket… like a hammer, I think it ends up, uh… making the whole thing look very robotic and unplanned, which is where you get, you know, people saying that is this a robotic response.
We’ve had that experience even with templates that were not used judiciously. So we make sure that we deploy automation… or the…
The road map wherever we haven’t yet tapped into it is to deploy automation primarily for queries and requests, as that’s again been my experience in terms of queries and requests are low hanging fruits.
They roughly do comprise 70% of our inflow and we want to deliver that without human intervention. But when it comes to complaints, I think… not just us, I think the larger industry is slightly far off in dealing with that… in as empathetic a manner as a human would.
And… I think there are a couple… there…there’s some investment for us to be made from a machine learning standpoint, from a customer profiling standpoint, to understand… how to handle complete profile, the customer profile, the issue on profile, his previous interactions with support.
And all of these then… sort of, boil down into the right resolution for a complaint. Because it’s never objective, like a query or the request.
[12:03] Siddharth Sharma
Perfect, yeah. And… and now playing the empathetic thread, right, because I agree with your sentiment, right? I mean, empathetic… wherever there’s empathy needed right, AI is still not there, right?
Now, when you talk about, you know… and you want an agent or somebody to help the customer through and ensure that they have a delightful support experience.
And in your experience, right, I think what you are also… saying was that… When it’s a query or a request, it is OK for a… say an AI chat bot or voice bot to actually resolve it but…
And whenever it is a higher-order skill needed like empathy or a larger thought process needed, I think an agent is definitely necessary.
Yes, that’s the current point of view also, Siddharth. I think… as tech evolves, I think we will definitely get to a point where even this constraint is… uh… is lost.
And then we’d probably be able to place empathy and every possible quality of a… you know, of a human within a bot.
I’m sure there are companies that do it and in some parts of India and in the world. But we are yet to come across a brand that’s completely done this. We have to get there for sure. I think it’s definitely possible.
[13:07] Siddharth Sharma
Since I’m on the other side, I I know it’s poss… I know it’s going to be possible and I’m looking forward to that day, right, I mean… where, we can deliver empathetic support at scale.
So… uh… moving on, right, we talked about how the customer’s industry sketch is going to evolve and… you know, you were greates… gracious enough to mention about the meatopia community you are building across, right?
How do you feel, you know the sense of community with your customers? How does an organization build that sense of community?
Like OK, I mean, you give it a name you give it a… you give that property a name, right, but how do you build that sense of community within your customers?
So I think there are… there’s a threefold sort of strategy that we follow, and it’s been executed to varying levels.
The first and foremost, we’ve always felt that a very good word of mouth is always the best way to engage with your community.
A brand automatically… say becomes the flavour of a Friday night conversation without having to do anything if it does… it delivers a great experience to a set… a customer.
So I… I mean, I’ve seen that with Curefit, we’ve… like we are getting there with Licious as well, where… you know, people think about you when they’re talking about… you know, happy times with… with their friends, right?
So… so, strong word of mouth is definitely number one on that list. And for that, of course, you have to do a lot of hard work across the organization to deliver.
The second one is what I call a 5 on 4 experience I… or… I think, Airbnb branch as they call it 12 on 10 when it came to delivering beyond what the customer wants. I think we’ve begun doing that by empowering our support team.
To deliver the right resolution fast. Even if it does come at the cost of time, I’d probably… we’d lose out on a few checks
But if we have to prioritize the right experience quickly for a customer, if he’s at the receiving end of a… of an unhappy food. The third one… is ensuring that the customer… he feels listened to.
So, for us, how that shows up is, of course, not just handling inbound conversations well, but there are, I think, 2 streams that we want to look at. One is, how does that feedback…
We get a lot of rich feedback from customers across ratings, product ratings, LIBRI ratings, NPS, how does that all flow back into say, the whole shopping flow, for instance.
How does that inform… uh… a more… a better purchase decision for the larger meat purchasing community? The second stream, I’d say, is fewing root causes and preventive actions back to the customer.
So, sometimes he reports a tactical problem saying my order was cancelled and we… we service recover for that particular customer that instance. But what about the larger issue at hand?
His… his trust is definitely dented to a certain extent. So how do we circle back to people who have had unhappy experiences, whose trust has been broken and say, hey, you know we’ve fixed it at the… uh… at the root and now you can, like transact unhesitatingly from us.
I’ve had a lot of that feedback coming in from customers, especially those who want to… uh… build a life long relationship with us. They say, please tell me once you have fixed this, and even that’s my commitment to a lot of… like our transacting base.
But… that we are trying to create a mechanism to do this at scale, where we talk to see these people and we inform them…
You know, these…these were the things that cost it and this is what we’ve done to structurally fix it. I think these are the couple of streams.
[16:34] Siddharth Sharma
And… I’ll pick on your last sentence that we talked about right, unhappy customer to a delighted customer, right?
What do you think are the best practices when it comes to building that kind of a framework or building that delightful support experiences… going back to your word. Your thoughts on what used to work before?
Because you… you’ve seen this industry and you’ve been very… at… at the front lines of it. So what used to work and what works today?
Absolutely. Earlier, I would say Siddharth, I think… the core framework for delivering a great support experience usually used to lie with people.
You hire the right people, you train them extensively, you keep motivating them through day and day, PEP talks and… and then you hope for… you know… because you put in all these inputs, things should work.
But it’s not just that now. I think the support ecosystem… I mean, and given the kind of attrition that this organisation… industry faces, I feel we have to design for a slightly… you know, moderate level of commitment, from that workforce. And what that means is an increased emphasis on better technology for these… Rookies or agents, right?
It is not just a very, very intuitive and seamless CRM flow, a seamless ticketing flow, but also a very seamless quality audit mechanism
Say for the quality manager. So, now it’s basically… I think Japanese uses…use a word called ‘Poka Yoke’ for it, idiot-proofing that whole flow right?
So how do we… how do we do that and how do we design for a place where people… their commitment can go wrong but your systems still won’t break, right?
So that is what I think the norm is changing towards.
[18:10] Siddharth Sharma
Got it. You know, at the start of our discussion today, you mentioned about… you know, order to support ratio… uh… that you track as well as the NPS that you track, right, from the customer. Are there any other metrics you track for customer support on the regular basis?
So Siddharth, uh… I think CSAT, which is what I mentioned as a Northstar for a support organization, is still a lead… uh… a lag metrics for us.
There are a couple of lead metrics. There are four of them to be precise. One is handling time. The amount of time that is spent on the call… uh… yeah. So it… it… It doesn’t exist for the email. First contact resolution, meaning, does the customer have to come back after he has reached out to support?
First response TAT, means how long did we take to come back to the customer with a human response, and resolution TAT, means how long did it take to close the issue.
In addition, there is a slightly non-quantifiable, I’d say, metric called availability… of support, which means how many channels do you make accessible to the customer.
So I think all of these then boil down into final customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction within itself, coupled with a bunch of other fulfilment and… platform metrics completely join into an NPS.
I think that’s a… that’s a point where it directly has a one to one relationship with repeat.
[19:26] Siddharth Sharma
Alright. This is super insightful for everyone who’s listening in. And how do you make sure that your support delivers delightful, I think you had your answer right there folks.
Sreejit, I’m going to go ahead and ask you some future-oriented questions, right?
This is just your take. Customer support evolution in the next two years? How do you think it will… what do you think will happen?
So, again, just touching back on where I was. I… I think 2 years is still a time frame where we’d probably not have completely gotten out of inbound context.
We’d have mailed queries and request to a team. I think we would have gotten to point where we don’t have any trace of a query or request with support.
But people only train to be empathetic… for complaint flows. And… and only for customers where our in app service recovery doesn’t work. That’s an exception field within itself, right?
So, at that point, I think we’d be designing from a support point of view for people whom we have impacted… negatively and we’d be designing for them in a very proactive manner.
Meaning, the control tower team that I had spoken of, they’d have a view of the entire experience and we will reach out to any customer ahead… very well ahead of the life cycle and solve for that person. I think that’s where we would be in two years, yeah.
[20:42] Siddharth Sharma
Got it. And since we’ve been talking about tech and support interchangeably, right, how do you think Tech too should evolve in the customer support space? What is that one thing that you would like to see… today in your hands?
So in terms of tech… let me think. I’d say, a very… intelligent… workflow automation.
So I think what any query or a request or complaint has within itself is a set of tasks that an agent has to do. So it… it’s of course triggering out a response, plus doing a certain set of actions on the CRM, plus informing the business stakeholder and then holding them accountable till closure.
So I think… all of these currently needs four systems. I think you need a ticketing tool, plus a CRM, plus… uh…say a task manager like a JIRA or a service log, to all come together and deliver it.
Hey all these things will be done. I think that’s something that would be… like the magic mantra that… for support.
[21:46] Siddharth Sharma
Got it. Sreejith, I can keep asking you questions right, and I think then this podcast will go on forever. Thank you for being such a gracious guest and thank you for answering all the queries with such patience. And, you know, helping me understand everything about customer support. This was truly delightful for me.
Thank you, thank you. It was mutually a pleasure.