The concept of selling used goods online has been around for a long time but what has irrevocably revolutionised the online secondary marketplaces are websites that allow you to buy and sell non-refundable services- event tickets, hotel reservations and even flight tickets, allegedly at highly discounted rates! By facilitating the transactions which are by the rule ‘ non-transferable’, such websites are openly challenging and blatantly violating the fundamental procedures their respective industries function on and as a result, have to keep manoeuvring legal and operational roadblocks that are hurled their way.
The idea of being able to recover some money from their bookings that would have otherwise gone waste is too tempting for sellers. The proposition of being able to get dramatically discounted hotel deals or scarcely available event tickets is irresistible for buyers. Online Marketplaces that facilitate such transactions are engrossed bragging about the value they bring to the system. In this excitement, people seldom consider the costs and the risk that purchasing from such websites add to the customer’s plate. If you are part of Online Secondary Marketplace industry, this is the take away- your customers face an increasing burden of insecurity and scepticism at every stage of buying process and unless your customer support is able to ease their apprehensions every step of the way, the perceived value of your cost-saving offer would increasingly diminish for even your bargain hunting customers as it is laden with too much hassle.
Let’s dissect and evaluate each stage of your customer’s purchase cycle and see how you can improve the customer experience at each stage.
Phase 1: Your prospective customer arrives at your website, still contemplating whether he should purchase from you, weighing his other options concurrently.
At this stage, your customer support needs to make a sincere effort to educate your prospective customers about your product Why? Think from your customers’ perspective. For them, like everything ‘second hand’, what you offer is also fraught with risks. Imagine the uncertainties that your customers are dealing with: for most, there is no precedent- it is the first time they are buying from a website that sells non-refundable bookings. Second, they are paying upfront without knowing when and whether they will actually receive what they have paid for. Since what you are selling lacks the seal of legitimacy from the industry, your customers would inevitably have a lot of questions about how it works, what happens if you are not able to fulfil what you have promised, what is the guarantee that you will be able to fulfil etc. etc. How your customer support is able to field these queries and reassure your customers, despite being aware that their fears are not unfounded, can make or break your business. Making false promises for short-term benefit would boomerang should something go wrong and will make you come across as the fraud. On the other hand, highlighting the potential risks involved would scare your customers away. It is your customer support’s responsibility to explain clearly and transparently how your business model works, how customers stand to gain in this model, what your safeguards are to avoid any trouble and what measures you take to make sure that the buyers are not stranded if something goes wrong. It helps them determine if your product is right for them and enables them to buy with confidence.
Phase 2: The customer has purchased from you and is waiting for the delivery
At this delicate stage in customer cycle, the customer is assuming the risk and you as the secondary marketplace should take measures to assure your customers of a fast and safe delivery. Delays and uncertainty in your ability to deliver what you have promised is sometimes inevitable and often times beyond your control- now that could be due to your dependence on the seller, the legitimate owner and possessor of what is selling or it could be due to the other third parties- hotels, airlines or other suppliers in question, whose cooperation is indispensable in transferring the booking from seller to your buyer. When that delay happens, customers are understandably freaked out. In most cases, your buyers may have made other related travel bookings hoping that yours will materialise. At this point, what is required of your customer support is to make sure that they deal with buyers with empathy and constantly keep them in a loop on what is happening. Allowing your customers to grope in the dark and speculate would only make your task more difficult and can possibly invite ignominy on social forums that will hurt your business. At the same time, your support needs to exhibit agility in expediting the process and be prompt in scouting for alternatives just in case original option does not work and should propose the same to your customers at the right time. If your team shows laxity in finding the right alternatives or finds it more convenient to deny the booking, you may lose more money than you planned for or lose customers altogether forever.
Phase 3: if all goes well, and the customer receives and is successfully able to use what he has paid for, great but what if things don’t go as planned?
You are selling based on the assumption that the actual seller’s intention to sell is bona fide and he will not back out once you have sold and will actually deliver the product. But what if he does back out? and it does happen, many times, irrespective of how circumspect you are in your procedures. Worst there could be unforeseen hiccups when your buyer arrives at the destination, preventing him from using the booking he paid for. You may have standard guidelines and procedures to follow in a situation like this but as much as you want, there can be no standard solution for all situations.Your support has twin responsibility to deal with at this time- they need to calm down the buyer, who is probably very upset or even furious, and buy some time from them to work out a solution. Then they need to act really fast and think out of the box to actually come up with one. Every effort should be to help the buyer use the original booking. Now, that may require a lot of negotiation, convincing, coordination, story making, excuses, pleading, or even fighting but your customer service should not give up until they have no option but to fall back on their last resort- rebooking which is usually the most expensive option. If that is also not an option due to unavailability or higher cost that you have budgeted for, your customer support needs to make sure that the customer is refunded at the earliest, if possible even compensated in form of credits to motivate them to book with you again.
Secondary marketplaces are still in a stage of infancy and are yet to attract a large number of sellers and buyers. Their success and even survival are contingent upon how much they can satisfy the few customers who have given them an opportunity. Outstanding customer service from the pre-purchase stage to the end of the customer service lifecycle and making sure that they feel in control of the transaction all along is imperative to get them to spread a positive word for you.
At LiveSalesman, we have handled end to end customer service and operations for many secondary online marketplaces including the largest online ticket marketplace for events ticket resale and the first and the biggest online marketplace for selling & buying discounted hotel reservations. We understand the intricacies and complications involved in the business of this nature. Talk to us today to see how we can help you provide an awesome experience to your customers while you focus on charting new territories.