“The customer is always right,” or how to build trust to an e-commerce platform

In 2017 consumers from all over the world spent more than $2.3 trillion USD in online stores. In 2018 the number may increase by $500 billion. The reason behind the success of e-commerce isn’t just technology, it’s the hard work of the people who ensure safety and comfort to online shoppers. Adam Gruda, Head of Customer Support in Kinguin, talked to us about the role of CS in the development of an online marketplace.

You can find the original content in Polish at: Interia.


What kind of products do you usually buy online? What was your most expensive purchase?

As a die-hardgamer, I usually buy digital products, such as games and software. Sometimes also electronics and household appliances, but under 2000 PLN. I like to be able to see more complex products before I buy them.

The global success of online shopping is a given because it’s easy, it’s quick, and it’s comfy. But how does it look from the other side?

There would be no success if the clients weren’t satisfied. The shopping process has to flow nicely and with no unnecessary complications. Any complaints have to be dealt with immediately. It’s the continuous hard work of a couple of dozen experts, who aim to please clients, gain their trust, and bring the ‘WOW effect’. Clients who get top-notch service and are surprised by the friendly attitude, become our best allies in building the brand image.

But let’s start from the beginning - from the efforts we cannot ignore. The consumer sees a product, clicks it, pays for it, but before he gets it, a lot more has to happen. For starters, the store’s website is a creation of an army of programmers and graphic designers who had to predict pretty much every action the consumer can take. There’s the sales department, ensuring the availability of product, and then the payments department. Finally, the customer support, available 24/7, providing service before, during and after the sale. Also, we constantly evaluate the website and conduct market research.

How did the customer support department look at the beginning of Kinguin’s operation? What did it take to make the platform the global leader in digital video game trading?

From day one, a five-person strong department has been providing 24/7 support in English and Polish, using email for communication.

The business kept developing rapidly and we’ve started encountering problems, often related to the growing number of customers, but also with online scammers. Back then these were huge challenges. We worked a lot of 16-hour days, ate at the computer, even had beds in the office. But these were exciting times and I have fond memories.

Before we became the leader, we had spent a couple of years learning from our own mistakes, introducing new tools and methodologies. The most important change, perhaps on a global scale, is the way we communicate with our customers. The entire interaction takes place within the structures of our department. We’ve become self-reliant, focused on the client and on researching his consumer experiences. This allowed us to become more effective than ever. We’ve also established a customer experience research team that tracks our customers’ action in social media, gaming forums and gaming websites.

Another important factor was the introduction of the OKR system (Objectives and Key Results) - an effective technique for setting goals and controlling efforts. This let us optimize cooperation between departments and employees, get to know the consumers better, and adjust our offer and service methods to their preferences.

We’ve built a well-oiled machine and set it on the foundation that allows us to develop it and adapt to the continuously changing market. More than 80 people now work and improve themselves according to the plan, and without any kind of micromanagement. This is, in my opinion, a big achievement and one that is beneficial to sales: a business model allowing for a constant development while improving customer relations.

Which tools do you currently use in Kinguin’s customer service?

We follow the global technology standards, increasing the level of interaction with the customer. We utilize only those solutions that have been tried and tested by the largest e-commerce platforms. We also have developed our own effective automated solutions for combating scammers.

The plan is to develop a model that combines tried-and-tested technologies with tools that are a result of our internal achievements. Wherever it is possible, we automate, and where it is necessary, our specialists ensure the optimization of the processes related to client interaction. HotJar is a good example of such a combination. It’s a software that allows websites to anonymously analyze the visitor’s actions on the website. Our analysts recommend changes to make our site more sales friendly based on these data.

Which element of customer care is the most important one?

It would be a mistake to point to one and ignore the others. It’s necessary to ensure the quality of experience in every single interaction. This isn’t only about a positive reaction to a conversation with customer support. It’s also about the speed of item delivery, easy purchase, interesting personalized offers, satisfactory handling of complaints, and so on. All of the above influence the user’s experience, prove that we care about the him and serve to turn him into a constant and loyal customer.

Does it mean that the customer should feel like you provide them with special treatment?

The customer should always feel this way. Sometimes it requires a lot of effort on our side, but it comes with a benefit, because the customer returns.

Achieving this level of service guarantees success, but it’s a huge challenge. You need to recognize the customer’s needs, get to know him or her, show empathy, and satisfy everyone. This is why we don’t introduce rigid procedures. We’re flexible. Our employees are trained to deal with each client individually and surprise him or her in a good way. Only by being proactive we can convince that customer to become the brand’s ambassador, a person that recommends the brand to other people. It’s a powerful marketing tool that should become a priority of every sales policy. I recommend it wholeheartedly. Only special and surprising treatment of customers can induce the ‘WOW effect’.

Kinguin’s Customer Support does well compared to your own results from the previous years, but what about a comparison to other e-commerce platform?

Kinguin’s customer support department is currently on par with such top companies as Google, Amazon or Sony. In July 2018 we achieved our all-time highest customer satisfaction score. According to Net Promoter Score it’s 64. Only Apple did better. We’ve also helped more than 1 million customers via LiveChat, and every single one of them can rate us after the conversation ends. Our average effectiveness score is 98%. Furthermore, we’re the only marketplace for digital games that even allows their customers to contact support in real time via LiveChat. It takes an average of just one minute for our employees to respond, and solving a problem usually takes no more than 15 minutes.

We’ve also been awarded with the prestigious Global Business Excellence Award in the Outstanding Customer Service Team category. Other companies to boast this title are Philips, Arvato, Orange, and Microsoft. Our motto are the words of Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart: ''There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.''

There’s a lot of talk of artificial intelligence. Do you think that chatbots will replace people in customer service?

I am amazed by the rapid pace of technological advancement. You can’t ignore the benefits it brings. We’ve also created our own chatbot, Dave, whom we’ve tested, reaching 50% effectiveness. Dave can not only solve the customer’s problem, but also amuse customers with various quizzes.

However, we need to remember to always treat the chatbot as an addition that can’t replace a human. Bots will always, or at least for a very long time, be unable to handle unique, non-schematic customer issues. In my opinion we should use the bot - which we already do - for answering easy, repeating questions, such as: when will I get my item? The customer has to be aware that they are talking with a bot, and has to be able to reach customer service at any moment.

Were there any unusual or especially difficult situations your department had to handle?

Quite a lot of them over the years. The biggest challenge was the premiere of the long-awaited Far Cry 4 in 2015. One of the merchants offering the game had made an unauthorised payment to the game’s developer. It all ended in blocking the entire stock and huge dissatisfaction of thousands of our users. It was an all-hands-on-deck situation. People from every department helped serve customers more than a dozen hours a day. No one just stood there and watched.

In these moments, when an executive rolls up his or her sleeves and does the hard work with the team, it not only unites the team in the fight against the odds, but also  motivates the manager.

Customer support also has to handle security.

It’s the primary challenge I had to face when taking over the department.

There was this one time when the number of online frauds was so high that payment providers blocked their services on our platform. We had to act fast. We became very rigorous in customer verification, looking closely at every transaction. We needed thousands of hours of conversation with the users to prove them that verification is good for them because it guarantees safety. Then they get the pleasure of using our services, because we build our reputation of being a trusted e-commerce platform.

After years of tests we’ve improved transaction security tools. Today 95% of the tools we use are our own creations. We’ve developed, for example, the FRESC software (Fraud Risk Evaluation Script), which we’ve been constantly improving since 2016. FRESC detects scam attempts, automates processes and prevention. It’s a complex tool that analyzes more than 40 risk factors, recommends verification scenarios, and aggregates data in the form of ‘risk fingerprints’.

Thanks to this and other solutions we’ve achieved a very high effectiveness in detecting foul play, and ensured that orders are dispatched quickly even when there’s a great number of orders. This is very important, because our customers come from all over the world. The fraud rate on our platform is 0.16%. According to the Chargeback benchmark, that is six times lower than the market’s average. This year we want to complicate things for scammers even more by implementing Ravelin - the global leader in online fraud prevention.

So the key to success is gaining the customers’ trust. How do you find and train people?

Trust is the basis of every relation. At Kinguin, we assume that no external service provider can give us the exact kind of training our team needs. Especially since when we’ve started, there were no e-commerce training programs for the gaming industry.

We’ve decided to create an internal unit called Quality Development, which conducts trainings, plans the strategy, assesses employees, does internal testing, and mentors new team members.

Moreover, once a month we conduct internal tests regarding the knowledge of products and procedures. Many of our employees have spread their wings and gotten promoted - even outside the customer service department.

What’s important, there is no single person, even in an executive position, who didn’t start in a junior role. Everyone has improved step by step. This was a key decision. It’s not an easy process and it requires effective talent management, but the benefits are unparalleled. We have an open work culture and great in-department communication because everyone is part of our team, from the new hires to managers. Promotion is a real possibility that motivates employees to self-improve.

This year, we’ve also started our own general training program: Kinguiners’ Guide to the Universe, which is obligatory for every new employee. Even execs need to undergo this training and learn about our customer service ways, because… the customer is always right!

Interview by Bartłomiej Bełc