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S2E08 – Why WhatsApp Continues to be a Key Customer Service Channel – Sunil Wankhade, Evergreen Community (Seniority)

Duration 15:49

Guest Speaker

Sunil Wankhade

Sunil Wankhade

Head Customer Service at Evergreen Community & Seniority

Sunil Wankhade heads Customer Service at Evergreen Community & Seniority and has had over 16 years of Service Delivery, Operations Management, and Contact Center Management experience. During the course of his career, he has shown remarkable proficiency in transitioning and managing Customer Experience / Customer Service operations for start-up’s as well as well-established organizations.

We cover:

Podcast Transcript

In this WhatsApp for customer service podcast, we have Sunil Wankhade as our podcast guest and Siddharth Sharma as our podcast host.

Siddharth Sharma

Today I have a very special guest with me, Sunil. I am a great admirer of his work and a great fan of the brand that he works for. Welcome to the show, Sunil.

Sunil Wankhade

Hey, thank you, Siddharth.

Siddharth Sharma

Sunil, why don’t you start off by giving an introduction about yourself and the company that you work for our listeners?

Sunil Wankhade

Yeah, sure, you know. First of all, thank you to Verloop for having me on this podcast.

Just to give you a quick insight about my overall career and the organisation I’m working for.

So, I head the customer service operations for RPG Group – two brands, that is, Seniority as a startup company, and now Evergreen Community services as well. 

Carrying an experience of almost around 16 years into customer service domain.

Worked with various BPO’s and start-ups and some well-established organisations – international as well as domestic.

Talking more about Seniority and Evergreen Club, so Seniority and Evergreen, both are, you know, the startups specifically designed and curated for senior citizens.

Seniority is an e-commerce platform available for senior citizens where we have various products for their… not only medical requirements but day-to-day Ledger and you know, other things which they require on a day to day basis you need to live their life comfortably.

And, talking about Evergreen Club, we struck this idea during the pandemic where we started an online community for senior citizens.

You know, where we have various type of online virtual sessions curated specifically for this young at heart. People above 50 years

The program is designed in such a way that we cover each an every aspect of life.

That is not only health, conducting yoga and meditation session, but also their hobbies…To curate their hobbies we have art and craft sessions, calligraphy sessions as well as to keep them entertained, we have antakshri, we have tambola and we have Bollywood quizzes, we have fancy dress and other things.

And most importantly, we have recently started with courses as per their demand.

You will not believe it, you know, senior citizens are, you know, they are looking to learn international languages as well.

So we have courses for Spanish, German, French and we conduct almost around 35 to 40 sessions a day just to keep these seniors engaged during the pandemic where they have just got rid of their social lives before the pandemic.

Siddharth Sharma

Wow. I mean, that’s why I’m a big fan of the brand that you work for, right now.

Sunil Wankhade

Thank you, thank you.

[02:28] Siddharth Sharma

I think there is something very unique and something very….it’s a problem that is worth solving, right?

My next question is how are you, you know, in terms of the company, Evergreen and in terms of Seniority, you touched upon this right, saying that during the pandemic, I mean they have lost their hobbies. Then they lost their social circles.

Sunil Wankhade

Absolutely, yeah. 

[02:50] Siddharth Sharma

How has it impacted the brand and how has it…did you pivot…what did you do to make changes to your brand?

How did it evolve over the last one and a half two years?

Sunil Wankhade

Oh, the year 2020, I think, that has brought a huge difference in not only… in the industry but even in our lives.

You know, it has changed people lives drastically.

You know, it’s a big impact, you know.

And even in the… the way business is being managed and being handled initially, you know. 

And precisely if we talked more about customer service as an industry, you know, what I feel is the industry has evolved drastically in these two years. 

Specifically talking more from an… you know, not only from a customer experience point of view, but automating major…you know, interactions with customers to enhance the customer experience and we are changing, you know, demand and… you know, but I’d rather say requirements of the customers.

Siddharth Sharma

And always trying to build delightful support experiences.

Sunil Wankhade

Yeah, that’s true. 

[03:46] Siddharth Sharma

Cool and you know, you touched upon this again right now, and I would like to take you from there.

When it comes to customer support, right, we’ve seen it can be very hard to measure.

So how have you typically… and you know, this is across your 16 years, right. 

How do you think customer support should be measured? What are the metrics that you will recommend somebody to track?

Sunil Wankhade talks about customer support metrics

See, you know, there… there are various measures, you know, customer service or customer experience can be tracked. 

But then rather what I think is some of the major or the main matrix will be, you know, the NPS and the CSAT. As well as, you know, the recurring customer generation through these particular tools you know.

Because this is how we come to know whether the customers are liking your brand, whether they are liking the products or not.

You know. Because just doing internal quality… you know, checks and… you know, having those particular parameters of end… 

You know, meeting the turnaround times of the complaint management as well as… you know the… the response time, you know. 

These are some of the important things. 

But I personally feel, you know, CSAT and NPS will give you a major… you know, rather analytics, you know, where you know where the brand is and what needs to be changed. If you want to reach more customers. Because in the end, you know, rather than, you know, inorganic, I think, organic lead generation is the best practice

You know which we should all follow in the industry.

[05:03] Siddharth Sharma

Yeah. You just talked about how customers are you know, your main focus point when it comes to designing anything around customer support, right?

Do you think that the customers are changing their mindset now for customer support? Like, are they open to queries? Are they… Because I remember, you know, there was a time when I was young and if I had ordered something from a shop, I had to phone up and, you know, get an assistant online.

I had to make sure that I was between 10:00 to say 4:00 PM or 10:00 to 1:00 PM.

Or I was either 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM because one to three was lunchtime.

So do you think customers are now changing their mindset?

Sunil Wankhade changes in customer support

Absolutely. In fact, that’s a good question.

I’d rather say, you know, yes, the mindset of the customers have been changing over the years.

And post this pandemic also, you know, it has made a major impact, you know.

And who had thought, you know, that customer service can be supported remotely or by work from home. 

Now 100% customer support has been supported….and that is also, in line with the meeting, you know, the changing demand of the customer.

Initially customers… it was, you know, as you said, you know, call up during those particular hours or these hours and…but now, customers want to reach us as soon as possible and they… they can reach us on any modes.

Like, we operate not only on calls but we are available on social media.

We are available on WhatsApp. One of the prime and growing, you know, customer service channels.

I would rather say, you know, because everybody there, you know, it’s more than you know millions of people on WhatsApp. 

And now WhatsApp is turning into a business entity to support different brands and industries.

I think that is the major, I would rather say the outcome of 2020 where customer service can be handled not only by voice but majorly on chat and not as… I would rather say the professional chat channel, you know, the webchats or… But yeah, WhatsApp is one of the major… you know, interaction for customer service now.

Siddharth Sharma

Yeah, I think, uh, among all the countries, right I?

I think India is that one country that has leapfrogged into WhatsApp adoption like crazy.

Sunil Wankhade

Absolutely, absolutely. 

Even you will not believe, we are catering to senior citizens, you know, even our senior citizen client – you know, the niche customer base.

I would rather say, are available on WhatsApp and they also like to interact on WhatsApp rather than picking up phone.

Being on queue or you know, at times, because there are a lot of calls in queue, so they rather prefer, you know,

Just open WhatsApp and start interacting with it.

And just to add on, you know, AI and chatbots have made life simpler, not only for the organisations but for the customers as well.

Siddharth Sharma

I think WhatsApp is that very, very good intersection where you can have the… you know, you can go back and see OK what you talked about

What they actually said before, and it preserves that history and it as well it gives you comfort as well that it is secure.

You know nobody else is going to read that. Yeah, that’s true.

That’s true, that’s true.

Sunil Wankhade

And I mean even that makes life of the agents as well easy, you know.

What the chatbot has you know, interact with customers or what the customer is looking for, the history

As you said, you know, that the agent can see on the same screen. He don’t have to shuffle

Siddharth Sharma

Yeah, yeah.

Sunil Wankhade

Through different applications.

Siddharth Sharma

Correct, correct. And, I mean, with agent right, I mean agent effectiveness come into very picture, right? I mean, given that we are all stretched, especially work from home customer support. 

Sunil Wankhade

Correct, correct.

Siddharth Sharma

Yeah, I think, WhatsApp is a very beautiful medium were things, where the magic happens in customer support.

Sunil Wankhade

Yeah, absolutely. And it’s 24/7.

[08:20] Siddharth Sharma

You’ve been in the industry long enough to see it go through various phases in customer support, right? 

Right from the BPO times to the now where we are on-demand, you know, 24/7 on-demand customer support like.

I wanted to, you know, get your thoughts on what used to work before and what works now?

Sunil Wankhade

See initially it was more of customer satisfaction.

We were focusing a lot on customer satisfaction, you know? Now things have changed drastically and it’s more of a customer experience.

You know, building the customer experience is what is, you know, will… will make the customer delightful, you know.

How his experience is with not only with the brand, with the product, but even with the service team, you know. 

How they are handling his queries. How they are handling the complaints.

What is being told, what is not being told. How it’s interacted and the availability of the service channel as well for the customers. 

That is improving the customer experience and, as well as changing the customer mindset as well, and that is what is working a lot nowadays.

Siddharth Sharma

Got it. You are someone who has adopted a conversational AI very quickly and you are a big proponent of conversational AI in customer support. Do you think brands, I mean post the pandemic, have brands started adopting it or were that this motion was there before, but pandemic just accelerated it?

What is that the inflection point when it comes to Conversational AI and customer support? 

Sunil Wankhade

You know Siddharth, You rightly said, you know, it was there, you know.

But then, pandemic, you know, accelerated it. At such a pace, you know, it…It is just you… we never thought that, you know, Chatbots have evolved in… the way they have evolved in the last one year. It has been happening in the last 10 years, you know.

Chatbots have been around since the 90s. You know, but it was not explored at that level, you know.  We were just hanging on to the normal, you know, interaction channels of calls and emails in the 90s.

And now in the 21st Century, you know the AI and chatbots have made life easier not only for the brands but for customer service, for customers as well you know. 

And the only channel technology, you know, which has been built around… towards this AI and chatbots have helped the brands to deliver that customer experience.

You know, which is the correct thing to delight the customers now.

And yes, AI and chatbot have increased the pace in the market not only through the WhatsApp or any other social media channels, but now they are developing through voice channels as well.

[10:32] Siddharth Sharma

Yeah. We talk a lot about chatbots and we talk about automation right.

I wanted your experiences in that as well. How effective is conversational AI given today’s space? I mean, you know, has it come to that level of a human level. Or is it that people are adjusted to it so they feel better?

Do you think there’s still a bias against automation talking and people still prefer to talk to a human?

Sunil Wankhade talks about customers preference for support

You know, it’s mixed… I would rather say. It’s a mixed, you know, overall feeling.

Or rather mixed, you know, experience altogether?

You know, just to give an example with us, when we started with automation last year. You know, with Seniority you know, our being a customer clientele of senior citizen. You know, it was a bit hard for them to acquire this new technology of chatbots because somewhere the senior citizens need a human touch. 

I would not say that it is not there in the chatbots it is being developed now, but it is going to. Take time. But yes. Overall, if you say now  Even the senior citizens, over a period of one year. And down the line, I think… next two to three years, I think they will be well equipped to handle the chatbots as… as customers as early.  I would rather say is, not only, you know, helping in reducing the responses as well as it’s also helping in, you know, resolve… the… the resolution time, overall resolution time. It’s further efficient and effective.

You know, and talking about human touch or, you know, taking jobs from humans I somewhere feel it’s not a correct statement, rather. You know, because it’s making human life easy and, if we have chatbots in place. I think the humans which are there, you know, can be utilised to develop the overall processes.

And, you know, enhance the customer experience by different channels or generating leads

You know, any other thing which humans can improve the processes.

[12:11] Siddharth Sharma

Got it. And, you know, I wanted to ask you what is that one Tech in customer support you would want today.

Like, you have been a big proponent of adopting tech in customer support. What is the one tech that you want today like hey, I want it now. Oh, I would rather say, you see, chats on voice or non-voice have helped a lot. You know. I think now chatbots on voice is gonna help everything.

That’s the next future for customer support, you know. 

I think that will further help, you know, not only the customer service industry overall, but even brands and even customers as well, you know. 

So they don’t have to wait in queue. They don’t have… they just pick up a call and, you know, chat… chatbot is answering that call and all basic queries can be handled there, you know without going into systems and, you know waiting for queues or waiting for a customer support agent. 

I think that’s the next thing I would look forward to you know, as soon as possible to explore. Because I have been well versed with chatbots on non-voice channels, social media, Facebook as well as WhatsApp.

But I think now it’s time to play around with the voice chatbots.

[13:09] Siddharth Sharma

Alright.  And one last question before I let you go, right. 

In your own experience, why is customer support… has always been looked at as an orphan child or has not been given…And now brands are looking at it at a very strategic angle.

What is your advice to, you know, future customer support leaders?

That hey, this is what you should do in your career or this is what you should be doing to basically advance customer support as a bigger organisation in the team?

Sunil Wankhade talks about AI in customer service

See, you rightly said, initially, customer service unit were, you know, taken lightly, you know, ok fine. It’s the customer service department.

They don’t, but now it is not the customer service  It’s ‘the’ customer service department. 

Because they are close to the customers. The voice of the customer always comes from the customer service team, you know. 

And, talking about, you know, rather than giving my thought over how the leader…The customer support leaders should, you know, think about in future.

I think they should try and, you know, accept the AI and the chatbot industry now.

You know. Because, as I said, you know, it’s a mixed feeling. 

You know, people are… so some are, you know, fearing that their jobs might be at risk and some are like…

You know, accepting at it with, you know, open hands. But then, at… over a period of time, if you think, I think the future is going to be AI, conversational AI and chatbots.

Because it’s not only developing the customer service, but also improving the customer experience and enhancing the overall customer journey, you know.

It’s certainly going to reduce the workload of the human and repetitive tasks of humans.

And rather so that the humans can focus a lot, you know, on utilising their focus on upselling and handling more complex issues, or. 

You know, adding value to the business by improving the operational processes and efficiencies.

And, you know, plugging those gaps between the chatbots and the humans. Yeah, And then humans have been developing chatbots.

Chatbots are not developed humans, you know? So it’s going to be hand in hand, you know. So that’s the… I would rather say, we should accept it and, you know, we should learn more about AI and..As well as the overall, you know, automation industry and try to explore it more.

Siddharth Sharma

Got it. Correct.

Thank you so much for coming on the show today Sunil. 

I have learned a lot about, you know, how conversational AI is going to help the chatbot, I mean, in terms of how chatbots and conversational AI are going to help each other out in the space of customer support.

It was a pleasure speaking to you today.

Sunil Wankhade

Thanks, thanks again Siddharth. Again, pleasure speaking with you guys, you know. And thanks again for having me on this discussion panel.