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How could Flipkart respond to the open letter to its founder by a dissatisfied customer

January 26, 2012 19 comments

Today, I came across an open letter written to Sachin Bansal, CEO/Founder, Flipkart.com. In this letter, the writer (Sushrut Bidwai) talks about his experience of trying to get his laptop replaced by Flipkart. He also talks about the attitude of the service staff and how they left him feeling frustrated (repeatedly).

This open letter has also induced responses from other customers of flipkart to come in the open and admit that they also had similar experiences when it came to refunds or replacements.

Now, flipkart has the following options:

  1. Pretend that nothing happened and continue business as usual.
  2. Take notice of the service failure, take corrective actions to ensure that this is fixed at the earliest. Then continue business-as-usual.
  3. Put corrective measures in place, reach out to Sushrut and sort out his matter. Also, reach out to the others who have indicated that they went through a similar experience and sort their matter as well.

These steps can address the issue at hand. However, can Flipkart manage to use this incidence, turn it on its head into a great PR activity for itself? I think it can. The question is how? If I were in Sachin’s place, I would write an open response to this letter as below:

Dear Sushrut

First things first. I am really sorry for the harassment caused to you in your transaction with flipkart. I also know that no matter what I say or do, your 40 days of productive time will never be recovered. As a fellow entrepreneur, I understand what a difference such a time frame can have on a business.

However, I also wanted to thank you for taking the time and writing such a long and detailed letter to me. I want to let you know that I personally take responsibility for the actions of my employees and apologize to you for the bad treatment that you have received from Flipkart.

Just so that you know, your open letter has had the following effects on flipkart:

  1. We have identified the reasons for this service breakdown and have put in place processes and policies to ensure that such an incident never happens again with any other customer. Thanks to you, the service levels at Flipkart will go up a couple of notches which will be appreciated by our future customers. 

I would like to invite you to my office so that I can explain how we have ensured that such an experience never happens with any other customer.

Also, I would request you to address our employees on your distress during this period. I hope that this will make our employees more aware, conscious and inspire them to provide better service to our customers. 

As a token of gratitude & appreciation (for having taken the time, put in the effort to bring this to our notice and helping all our future customers), I would like to offer to you one book, free of cost, delivered to your home every month, for the next 5 years. You can pick the books and we will deliver it. I know that this can not in anyway bring back the time you lost due to the issue, but hope that you will benefit from the knowledge you gain from the books. 

I would also like to take this opportunity and request all our customers to continually engage with us and continue to provide us your valuable feedback. We would like you to believe that delighting you at every interaction is our only objective. Anything short of that is not expected. So, if you think, we are slipping, please provide a helping hand and let me know. I will be ever grateful to you for this help. You can reach me at (his email ID). 

Looking forward to meeting Sushrut and delighting all our other customers. 
Your’s 
Sachin Bansal 
Note: This is my way to respond to such a situation. Let’s see what action Sachin takes (or ignores).

How can Crossword compete with FlipKart.com?

November 25, 2011 2 comments
The only thing I indulge myself is in buying andreading books. Lots of books! I love going to a bookshop, browse their bookcollection, read a few pages of a book and buy it if I like what I see. Thereare times when I got so immersed in the book that I read the complete book atthe bookshop itself. I loved the cozy chairs that these bookshops provided withso many books to browse and read.

Of late, I have seen that the stock of books atbookshops like Crossword has been on the decline. I also find myself and all myfriends (who buy a lot of books) buying most of our books online from vendorslike Flipkart.com. One of the primary reason is that we get good bargains(discounts ranging from 5-50%) depending on the popularity of the different titles.They ship the book almost same day to your home. They offer an entirely differentexperience to the shoppers.

What does this result in? You find that more and morebooks are being sold online. Though Crossword also has an online store wherethey offer equally compelling bargains, they are losing sales to Flipkart.com. Thisis because of the fact that these websites are considered a necessary way tofight the online bookstores but are not promoted the way flipkart management promotestheir websites (as it is their only mode of survival).
One possible reason why Crossword does not promotetheir online store could be that they perceive that this could possibly hurttheir sales in their physical stores. What they do not realize is that this isanyways affecting their sales of the physical stores and they are losing thesale to their competitors.

This same trend that happened in the US is beingrepeated in India.

Now the question is what could Crossword do tosucceed from the situation they find themselves in?
In my opinion, they could do one the following:

  • Get out of the books business and re-design their stores to sell otherhigh margin products like kid’s toys, clothing, coffee shops, etc. 
  • If Crossword wants to continue to sell books, then they need to change their business model & their Go-to-market strategy and could do the following:
    • Convert the bookshops to coffee shops that stock books, have cozy seats where youcan sit, relax, have a cup of coffee and read a book for as long as you want to.Run a marketing blitz to promote the new model. Coffee sales in the storesshould be able to cover the cost of running the store. Install automated check-outcounters where customers can order the books they want from within the storesto.
    • Only sell the top 20 best sellers at the store. Anything else onlyavailable for delivery. This allows me to come in, browse, read a few chaptersof a book, order a cup of coffee and decide which book I want to buy. I thenplace the order at the counter (could also be a kiosk) and go home. The booksget delivered at my home. I get the best of both the worlds. The comfy feelingof browsing for books the old fashioned way and ordering books with the bestdiscounts, the modern way.
    • If customers don’t come to you, you go to where your customer is! Install kiosks at differentmetro stations, malls, offices, bus stops (near lifts) where people can orderbooks or magazines while waiting for the bus, train or while having some coffeeat the office cafeteria.
  • If you can’t compete with them, join them! Close all physical books storesand become an online bookseller themselves and go crazy with media (incl. socialmedia) blitz.

The worst thing that they can do is not to doanything and continue to do business as usual. Because, it is end of Business as usual for Crossword and  will resultin only one thing – Slow & painful death.

Hope someone is listening! 
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