CARS24 recently celebrated its 5th Anniversary, and the organization is a melting pot of various individuals. A fusion of vast and varied experiences, our company has seen people from all walks of life. To offer a peep into the lives of our employees, we have launched a series of interviews mapping those experiences. This series offers an inside look into the CARS24 office and the employee journeys.
In this segment, we are in conversation with Saumya Chopra, Senior Manager, Customer Experience. Formerly an employee at a renowned MNC, Saumya has been a part of the CARS24 family for more than a year now. Since then, she has been exceptional in Customer Experience team and has managed to create an irreplaceable presence in the company. She headed the Home Inspection customer experience team and currently heads the customer experience for the newest vertical of the organization, CARS24 Moto. She works hand in hand with the retail associates to provide a smooth and holistic experience for the customers. She provided insight into how her team approaches obstacles and works on them to create permanent solutions and provide the best experience possible for the customer.
Saumya explains how women in business are killing it in an exclusive interview!
Q. So to begin with, what exactly does Customer Experience mean?
A. It is quite a long answer, I’m afraid. As the name suggests, it relies heavily on the ‘experience’. Customer experience involves knowing exactly what your customers are looking for and then working hard to provide it. According to reports, customer experience has overtaken price and product as a key brand differentiator. We at CARS24 place immense value in customer experience and feedback. This philosophy binds the customer and the employee together to create success. We strive to provide a close-knit network of experts working to elevate and improve customer experience.
Q. What does your job entail as the Senior Manager?
A. The journey of a customer at CARS24 is divided into four categories, i.e, car seller, car buyer, bike seller, and bike buyer. Our team looks after those wishing to sell or buy bikes specifically, or CARS24 MOTO, the newest vertical. The process and experience for any seller and buyer are broadly divided into three phases: Before, During, and After the transaction occurs. Our job at CARS24 is dealing with all customers, be it sellers or buyers. So the “during” phase is the most crucial time in the entire journey as it establishes the first interaction between the customer and the company. It is during this phase that the retail/sales associates interact with the customer.
Our job at CX is to make sure this interaction goes on smoothly and to figure out ways to improve upon it. We call it the “Project Ferrari”. This is strictly working on an engagement point of view for the 1.5-2 hours the customer spends at the branch. We focus majorly on three aspects- Quality Maintenance, Enhancing Customer Journey, and ensuring Proper training for our employees.
Q. As the brain behind the Project Ferrari initiative, can you describe what all went into its development?
A. Our vision for the company ever since the beginning was to create a user experience that catapults us as the best in the market. A huge chunk of that depends on the retail team. Thus to facilitate this vision, we drafted a preliminary set of guidelines for the retail associates. Introduced at 10 pilot branches across Delhi-NCR, these guidelines formed the framework on how to work towards improving the user experience. Based on the data and feedback collected from retail, the project developed major improvement measures. Since business and experience both go hand in hand, these measures would not only benefit the customer but also help elevate as a brand.
Q. What did you monitor via the Project?
A. Our chief concern as a brand was to increase the interaction time between the two parties, namely the customer and the company. On a pilot basis, we increased this interaction period that occurs within the branch during the inspection from around 5 minutes to over 35 minutes per customer. This led to incredible growth in the results which in turn provided a more positive user experience.
The second parameter we worked upon was the Net Promoter Score. This is based on the customer feedbacks ranging from a scale of 1-10 which gauge how and in what manner the customer will hopefully promote/refer us. It was noted that since the increase in interaction time, there was drastic growth in the net promoter’s score as well. This initiative improved the pre-existing score of 51% to a resounding 65%.
Q. How does your team ensure quality CX?
A. As a part of the Customer Experience team, we are the face of the customers for the stakeholders. We must work keeping in mind the perspectives of the customer. Our job is to discern what is correct and to create solutions that satiate both the customer and the company. We stress on employee satisfaction, so we at Cars24 along with improving customer experience ensure that our retail team is equally motivated to deliver our values.
We aim to eliminate grievances and pave way for constructive feedback. We tend to take into account the importance of EQ. Since a vast majority of Indians are emotionally driven, our priority is to build on the idea that customer experience must be a holistic event. This is necessary for a market like India where building a connection with the customer is important to elicit trust. Through this, we wish to create an extraordinary market presence so that the customer chooses us unquestionably.
Q. How did you realize CARS24 was the ideal workplace for you?
A. The ability to take ownership of your job and being actively involved in decision making attracted me the most about this job opportunity. My role allowed me to create leadership opportunities for myself. The complete flexibility in being able to decide what you want to do and how you want to do it excited me. This along with the constant and unwavering support of my managers as well as Mehul (Mehul Agrawal, Co-Founder, and COO) and Ashita Sharma (Head, Customer Experience) made me realize that CARS24 was the most ideal working situation I could possibly find.
Q. What is your aim for 2020 and how do you hope to achieve it?
A. Going forward, we hope to support the retail team so that we can help the customer without compromising the values the company abides by. I started with a team of just 3 people and a pilot for merely 9 branches. A year later, I now manage a team of 25, and Project Ferrari is live PAN India.
Our newest project, CARS24 Moto, the bikes vertical keeps me busy as we are developing a self-inspection model for sellers and also launching pre-owned bike retail outlets, the vertical has a potential to grow 10X faster than cars.
Q. Why do you think CX is getting more importance in today’s day and age? Is it truly the ‘Age of The Customer’?
A. Yes, in every sense. It doesn’t come as shock to any of us when we say that the customer is king. They always have been. Presently the rise we see in CX is due to awareness. Well, awareness and competition. The customer will always prefer a better experience and that is what our team works towards. We are expanding supersonically and with this rate of growth, the one thing that keeps us going and helps us to sustain longer is Customer Experience. At a time when the customer knows their choices, CX is the only way to build a strong rapport with them to ensure business.
Q. How difficult is it to adapt in this ever-changing field? What are the changes you undertook to provide better customer experience during the COVID-19 Situation?
A. Since CX is entirely customer-driven, adapting is imperative. We have to trace consumer patterns in a way so that we keep up with what the customer wants. It is difficult, sure, but very fulfilling too.
Prior to lockdown, only 4 cities had the option of Home Inspection. With the new normal came newer challenges, providing a safe environment for selling cars to our customers was the top priority. In less than a month, the sparkling minds at CARS24 put together an entirely new product and offered doorstep car selling services PAN India. From just a mere 10%, Home Inspections constituted 70% of business once the lockdown was lifted and we were back to pre-COVID numbers in about a month’s time.
Q. Do you think complete digitization can overtake the human presence?
A. It is a strong contender, but no. I don’t think complete digitization can be seen as an alternative to the human touch. It aids us in our work, sure. But eradicating the human touch is not feasible in a market like India with reference to customer experience.
Q. What are the biggest obstacles for the team according to you?
A. The biggest obstacle is surely trying to discern between two different faces of the same problem, that of the customer as well as the stakeholder, and consequently drafting solutions. As Enzo Ferrari once said, “The customer is not always right”. To be able to work in accordance with that as well as our duty to the customer is definitely a challenge, but one which we rise up to.
Q. How do you manage to explore the nuances of CX in collaboration with the other departments?
A. Working with my peers was a fantastic learning experience, be it with marketing, L&OD, the business team, or the post-sale operations team. Every department exerts an influence over the customer so navigating between different stakeholders was very different. We as Customer Experience function had to keep in mind their aims, objectives, and strategies. Integrating those with my aim was difficult at times but in the end, our priority was enhanced customer experience and that is what we delivered.
Q. What do you think is your management style?
A. My management style is pretty flexible I think! I believe it mirrors how I have been treated by my managers. My team, The Hustlers, abides by 3 rules:-
I do not believe in “micromanagement”. I abhor spoon-feeding and micromanagement as they don’t provide room for growth and hamper flexibility. Our philosophy is that you are your own boss, with the flexibility to take your own calls. Learning through experience remains my deliberate effort for the team.
Q. Finally, What does CX mean to you?
A. In the past year, CX has been everything to me as well as the company. It has been such a fulfilling journey, and CARS24 has been nothing but incredible to the point that I wake up excited for work! Even if given a chance, I wouldn’t change a thing. Customer Experience is irrevocably linked to the very essence of CARS24 and we only hope to grow and achieve new heights with the love and feedback of those who have joined the CARS24 family.
Saumya Chopra is a senior manager (customer experience) at CARS24. She is a guest speaker for the Leadership Talk Series scheduled to take place at IIM Ranchi on September 12 and IIM Kashipur on September 17. If you wish to be a part of her journey, connect with her on LinkedIn.