The Trust Call

Customers want their phone call. And here is one way to deal with it…

Ordered on Swiggy? Call them to make sure they assign the delivery.

Booked an Uber? Call the driver to make sure. Oh, and if he doesn’t answer, cancel the booking and complain.

Amazon is delivering today? Call the delivery boy to make sure he knows you are waiting.

Now, these may seem a little irrational to some of us, but India is a land of broken promises. It is perfectly acceptable for people to not respect your time, or your trust: plumbers, maids, car salesmen, drivers, even colleagues. Delays, no-shows, glaring quality lapses, are all part of our chalta-hai life here.

It comes as no surprise, then, that customers are naturally suspicious of us product companies, as well.

Phone calls are expensive

When customers are spending money, particularly for the first time — as long as there is a number to call, expect calls. Lots of calls. The only problem: phone calls are expensive.

They cost us money, and more:

  • You need people ready-for-the-call, doing interrupt-driven work when the rest of your product team is (hopefully) doing project-type work
  • An unanswered call, even in off-hours, can lead to an online backlash you cannot afford
  • Unlike product experience, it’s hard to control the call experience across your many service associates
  • You’ll probably need multi-lingual staff

Our first experience

We at enParadigm, launched our first B2C mobile product, SuperAgent in 2016. It is a sales/marketing/ready-reference app for LIC’s life insurance sales agents. These are independent agent-entrepreneurs, who buy the app out of their own pockets. The app has a short free-trial period, post which purchase is required.

Even at an introductory price of INR 1000+ per year, the app was a significant investment for the agents. So we weren’t surprised when we got a significant number of “verification calls” in the first month. These were simply to check “company hai ki nahi” (does this company exist or not).

Not just a “first-month issue”

But the trend continued. Even with word-of-mouth spreading, and the app becoming a known entity in their circles, agents still called up to “confirm” before purchase. In September, a full 8 months since launch, with 60,000 users in a tightly-knit community, we still had to field 17 confirmation calls for every 10 purchases.

We had to field 17 confirmation calls for every 10 purchases.

Most of these calls were suspicious, and therefore unpleasant. The highlights were some customers who even wanted to visit out offices to make sure we were legit.

Our solution

Now, like any good product company, we wanted to talk to our customers for support and feedback. But these confirmation calls needed to stop. So we went to work, and, after multiple failed attempts, this is what works for us now:

Step 1. Reverse-personalized emails in the free-trial period

These are different from the usual B2B “personalized” mass mailers, where the emphasis is on getting the customer’s details right. The emphasis is on humanizing ourselves before the need-to-verify arises for them. Here, “Hello, I am X, and I head the SuperAgent team” is much more important than “Dear Y, I hope your Ganesh Visarjan went well”.

Step 2. An unexpected gift

Near the end of their trial period, we send them another mail asking if they wanted a small extension of their trial period. They could simply email us back, and we’d get this done.

We picked this gift carefully: The agents are hard-working, field sales people who cannot afford for the app to be locked-out in the middle of the day. Also, a majority of them are middle-class folks who, like us, feel good when they get any value for free. Plus, in a market/country where we have to stay paranoid and demand the value we paid for, an unexpected extra, however small, makes a big difference.

Step 3. Purchase

At the end of the extended trial period, most customers are happy to purchase from a friendly, known, company that looks out for their interests. We still get a few calls (around 3 for every 10 purchases — the number is so small that we haven’t counted precisely). Even on those calls, the conversation is quite pleasant: more thanks-for-the-extension, rather than where-is-your-office.

Whew!

Thanks for reading, and I hope our lessons make life a little easier for some of you. More to add? Faced other quirky challenges building for India? Drop me a line and we’ll talk/solve, or at least laugh about it.