Monday, August 19, 2013 Online shopping disaster

Many people are wary of purchasing items from an online store and at times their reasons are quite invalid. Coming from a strong digital background, I personally motivate a lot of people around me to try out online shopping and that it isn't all that bad. However, when a first-time shopper has a bad experience you suddenly get reminded as to why people are wary of purchasing items online.

An office colleague of mine was looking at purchasing new shoes and was browsing through the selection online. She asked me if these transactions are safe and I assured her that they were. After searching through various websites, we narrowed down to a pair of Slazenger shoes from A good bargain and the comfort that an established organisation such as Snapdeal would not mess up, the transaction proceeded with no fear. The package arrived, on the date promised but what was inside the package was the most surprising. Most of the times the goods are damaged, used or not packed properly. Let the following image speak for itself.

In case you havent been able to fathom what they are, what you see there is not a pair of Slazenger shoes but two old coconuts. Yes, coconuts. The stuff that grows on trees by the beach that you crack open and relish the water, coconuts. It is probably the most outlandish and the last thing on the planet that you would expect to arrive in your package, but it did arrive in this case.

Obviously, my friend was extremely upset with this and the first reaction to this is to call the Snapdeal helpline and register a complaint. Snapdeal responded by requesting for 24 - 48 hours to rectify this issue, which to my mind is too much for a severe issue. Being a part of an advertising agency and with my knowledge of social media, we decided to take this war on their Twitter and Facebook accounts and collected a lot of people to rally against the brand and re-tweet our messages. 2 days of aggressive social media campaigning fell to deaf ears, to the extent that Snapdeal banned my friend from their Facebook page and even deleted her post. Not listening to a customer complaint on social media and ignoring them can have catastrophic results and as a social media evangelist, I have seen that happen.

Finally, almost 3 days later, Snapdeal has decided to act on Facebook and have made a return call to my friend, asking for some further details. A decision is awaited.

Issue Summary:
1. Coconuts coming in the package instead of shoes
2. Snapdeal takes 3 days to respond
3. Ignores all messages on Facebook, to the extent of deleting posts and banning people

E-Commerce in India is still at a nascent stage and it is these very issues that are turning customers away from shopping online. It appears that the courier company has had serious lapses with an employee stealing the shoes and replacing them with coconuts. Snapdeal needs to be sure of the courier companies they partner with and take all responsibility of delivering the right products to the customer. Not responding on social media at the first instance and having to take all the pain and efforts to get this resolved has ensured that Snapdeal has lost a customer along with the hundreds who have read of this instance. It has cemented the fact that e-commerce in India still has a long way to go and if these issues do not get resolved on the first instance, customer confidence will fail.

Update: 26/08/2013
4 days after this issue first came to light, Snapdeal finally got in touch with my friend and agreed to resend a replacement pair of shoes. This was promised to be dispatched instantly and would reach her day after. A courier tracking number was also promised to her.

On the day when the shoes were supposed to arrive, my friend had neither received a tracking number nor any further communication from Snapdeal. Upon calling them they learnt that they have still not sent the shoes out since the company was shut due to a holiday. Snapdeal agreed to send out the shoes immediately along with a tracking number. As on 26th August, 2013, the shoes are still awaited and it has been 10 days now since this issue was first reported.

It is extremely shameful that inspite of all the efforts and the complaints that have been going to Snapdeal, they have been extremely lethargic in resolving them. From giving commitments that they don't stick to and taking days to investigate and come up with solutions is not what a premiere brand such as them should be doing. Our efforts to petition to Snapdeal via social media would continue until my friend receives her shoes, in the exact manner in which she placed her order and I would request all readers to continue spreading this message until a resolution is reached.

Update: 07/09/2013
Finally, after all the petitioning and the back and forth that took place, Snapdeal agreed to refund my friend her money and also give the shoes to her for free. The free shoes were dispatched soon after and reached her on the 30th of August with a hand-written apology letter. The money remitting took quite some time to take place and finally arrived in her bank account on the 6th of September.

Overall, Snapdeal seems to have handled the issue quite badly and has made a big mess of things. From second shipment not arriving, social media disaster and delays in fulfilling commitments, Snapdeal needs to tighten it;s belt and improve on its service quality and offerings if it wishes to retain customers. It took Snapdeal close to 3 weeks to put this problem to rest, something which could have been done much better and faster. Comparing this to Jabong, another friend of mine too had ordered shoes from them and their courier service seems to be far more organised and sorted over Snapdeal. In order to avoid courier companies from fumbling with orders, they have their own people taking care of deliveries and waits till the customer inspects the goods and OK's it. 

These issues need to stop surfacing if E-Commerce in India needs to take off. Every Tom, Dick and Harry thinks they can sell online but actually, cracking the E-Commerce wall in India is far bigger a task than most people think it is.