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Winning the Competitive and Efficiencies Game in Marketplaces

Marketplaces are competitive, customer-oriented and present huge buying power. Given the intense competition of the space, the challenge for marketplaces is to differentiate themselves with a strong brand image that implies a superior product or service offering, curated third-party vendors and extraordinary customer service and support.

More relationships to manage

Traditional customer support models are built on dyadic relationships. Customer and Business. User and Product. With the marketplace model, things become more complicated.

Managing complex relationships with both buyer and seller adds a unique set of problems to the customer support process. Where customer support used to own the entire relationship between customer and service provider, there’s now uncertainty. There’s little control over the quality of the service provided, or the quality of the customer. Understanding both sides of the transaction becomes more difficult. The challenges of the marketplace model come from the fact that there are a lot more moving pieces involved in each transaction – and customer support teams need to be able to manage them all.

The lack of real-time contextual information

Customers of the marketplace still want personalized, conversational service, and quickly. In order for customer support reps to deliver this type of experience, they need a lot of information at their fingertips, and they need it in real-time. The consumer is no longer the only focus – they also need to be able to see the order, the delivery, the booking, the task and be able to coordinate between two or three different stakeholders to resolve issues.

Beyond the customer’s details, support reps also need to view and understand up-to-date delivery information, seller ratings, product usage, payment information, buyer and seller interactions, and many more. This information needs to be surfaced in an intelligent way so support reps can focus on connecting with customers, instead of searching for information. Unfortunately, this data is often fragmented and stored across multiple systems, making ticket resolution an entirely frustrating experience.

Multiple channels

Finally, these conversations aren’t only happening over email. The bulk of marketplace users are millennials, accessing apps like Shpock and Lyft on their smartphones. Making it easy for customers to engage with your business means opening up in-app chat, social channels and maybe even phone support, alongside the email inbox.

Customers won’t keep their questions to just one channel either. They might start with email, send a tweet when they don’t get a quick reply, and then open a chat for further clarification. If your support platform isn’t omnichannel, these conversations will be disjointed across multiple tickets, which leaves room for things to fall through the cracks.

So how do you win the competitive game?

Create a seamless shopping experience

On a marketplace, just like on any other eCommerce site, it’s essential to create a seamless shopping experience.

Say your marketplace sets up dog walkers with dog owners. If something goes wrong, your customer support team will likely get an email from the dog walker and a live chat started by the dog owner. Your service software needs to be able to connect these two conversations, along with the task (X person is going to walk X person’s dog) in order to resolve the issue. Seeing the whole picture is essential to providing a great experience for both buyer and seller.

Existing solutions don’t handle this complexity well. Buyers and sellers need to be understood as discrete entities in your service software so that you can make connections in real-time. Instead, existing customer service solutions isolate every incident message. Modern support solutions, like Kustomer, move beyond isolated incidents to build intelligent connections. When looking for a platform, look for one that gives each consumer and seller their own integrated timeline.

Marketplaces are built around relationships – and your support platform should accommodate these workflows. Ensure your agents are able to talk to a buyer and seller in parallel. Being able to connect these conversations together means that agents have full context into the transaction and resolve issues quickly. When your support platform makes intelligent connections based on the way your unique business operates, agents can switch between views and connect the dots in real-time.

Conversations, not tickets will create customer loyalty

Every human being, whether they are a buyer or seller, wants to be treated like a real person. That means receiving friendly, non-robotic support from their marketplace. Providing personalized, conversational service relies on having a full view of the customer. Whichever channel the customer contacts your business through, agents need to be able to view past history, order details and task status immediately.

Customers can feel the friction that comes with being treated like a ticket. They know that when agents ask for information they’ve already provided, and confirm details the company already has on file that they are being treated like part of a queue. Traditional help desks build a literal line between customer and business through robotic forms and ###don’t reply below this line### automated emails. Conversational customer service removes these barriers through the use of intelligent context.

Modern support platforms integrate all the data necessary for a smooth issue resolution. Each event is integrated into a timeline that contextualizes conversations. Flexibility in data architecture allows integrations to adapt to your unique business model by focussing on the relationships and connections that are important to you.

With all the necessary data at their fingertips, agents can focus on the customer and building relationships. Imagine trying to build a relationship in real life without history, and without being able to draw from your past conversations. To have a conversation, you need prior knowledge about the person in front of you. How they feel, their previous complaints and what they’ve ordered all comes together to build familiarity with your customers. Conversational support needs to be personal, human and genuine. This is only possible when the platform you’re using supports and creates connections.

Proactive engagements keep customers happy

The right customer support platform empowers marketplace teams to provide an elevated experience by surfacing relevant information at the right time. By being proactive, customer support becomes a value added service – generating repeat business by increasing customer loyalty.

Customer magic happens when they are helped before they even find the problem themselves. To deliver this type of support, modern customer solutions need to be tightly integrated with order systems and customer information. That way customer support can proactively reach out before the customer realizes there’s an issue and offers solutions.

See how Slice and SmugMug used Kustomer to create an enhanced marketplace customer experience and win the competitive game!

Scale Your Online Marketplace Faster Through Customer Support

The Marketplace model is exploding in eCommerce, so much so that it’s taking over entire industries. By 2025, it is estimated that Marketplace companies could account for $335 billion of revenue globally. If you’ve used Lyft, ordered from Amazon, gotten a late night snack through Seamless, or stayed in an AirBnB, you’ve participated in a Marketplace transaction.

With the Marketplace model comes unique challenges. Managing a Marketplace business where you don’t own all the pieces increases the complexity of delivering support. Imagine a Marketplace that connects boutique shop owners with customers around the world. If a shipment goes missing, who owns that mistake? Who does the customer communicate with? Who ultimately fixes the problem and makes sure the customer walks away happy?

Successful Marketplaces know that a great Customer Experience isn’t just about delivering a product. Everything comes down to supply and demand. To really succeed, you need strong relationships with both buyers and sellers. The best Marketplaces elevate everyone’s experience. The necessity of managing so many relationships adds to the complexity of delivering great support in a Marketplace environment.

The Complexity of Marketplace Support

Most support solutions are designed for 1-1 interactions. Traditionally, companies focused only on the relationship with the end customer. For Marketplaces, there’s more to it. You have the Marketplace team talking to their vendors, who are talking to their customers, who are also talking to the Marketplace—all with their own workflows.

Slice, a Marketplace for pizza, has experienced this challenge firsthand. Pizza shops want to know when their customers complain. Slice Customer Support handles complaints from both the hungry customers and the pizza shops. Cody, Director of Product at Slice, says “We have to interface with many restaurants, who all have different workflows that we need to accommodate. Our team wants to provide service that allows them to run their business better, not just answer their questions.”

Our tools often shape the way we work, but most tools aren’t built for this. Most systems aren’t designed to support so many complex relationships and that can contribute to a poor end-user experience.

Ultimately, managing the Marketplace means ensuring a consistent experience for the end customer. All the complexity behind the scenes shouldn’t make it more complex for the customer to get problems resolved. Customers shouldn’t need to know how your business works, in order to do business with you.

Building Relationships, Not Transactions

Multiple relationships mean a complex data model. A simple transaction like a return or exchange means communicating with a multitude of systems, many that might not even be owned by your company. From package tracking to conversation management to inventory updates—support teams are on the hook for a ton of moving parts. And they have to search for the correct information across these many disconnected systems.

Usually resolving an end customer concern means logging into several point solutions. Support team members will look up shipping numbers in one tab, confirm inventory in another, all while reading customer conversations in another help desk screen. Support teams are overloaded with transactional systems, instead of focused on relationships.

Relationships are built on a shared history. Knowing the past experiences of buyers and sellers means that support teams can provide proactive, helpful advice. Getting this data into one place empowers support teams to build stronger relationships with both vendors and purchasers.

We need to focus our data models around the one thing every transaction has in common—the end customer.

To visualize what this data model looks like, imagine pulling up a support conversation with an AirBnB customer in your help desk. If you’re only looking at the customer’s history, you’d see their past reservations. That’s helpful! But you’re missing part of the picture—you also need to view past host bookings to see if there’s a history of issues there. Only by connecting to both the buyer and seller can you truly understand the source of the issue.

Supporting Multiple Stakeholders

When supporting a Marketplace, there’s so many stakeholders involved, both inside and outside the organization. Vendors want to know customer concerns, Marketplace support teams want to improve their own service and product teams want insights to improve too. Like Slice, all businesses want to provide value to their vendors.

Thinking beyond the individual conversations with customers, you need a data model that delivers insight on both buyer and supplier behavior. Lyft drivers want to know what riders say about their experience. They also want to know where the most profitable ride requests come from, and how many riders they can expect to serve in a day. The Lyft product team wants to know what tasks trip-up customers when booking. And the support team wants to know when things go wrong so they can staff their contact center effectively.

That’s a lot of information to sort through and deliver to the various stakeholders—but there are even more valuable insights to glean if you’re able to identify issues early on.

With a platform that’s designed to help businesses unlock the data that’s being collected in support conversations and build better workflows around them, you can do more. If your platform operates on a flexible data model like Kustomer, even unconventional businesses like a pizza marketplace can fit the tool to their needs.

Finding Business Value in Your Platform

Businesses can struggle with balancing the individual needs of a customer with their strategy for the entire company. Traditional help desks aren’t helpful. They let you export raw data, but aren’t set up to serve up insights for the business.

Using a customer experience platform will help you serve up insights from customer conversations to the major stakeholders without the need to hire a data scientist.

Showing Internal Teams the Value of Support

How many teams wish they could talk to customers all day long? Marketing, product, and executives all want to know more about how customers think and the problems they have. But often, that valuable information is locked up in Customer Support conversations. Getting that data out of your service platform in a usable format and into the hands of internal teams is often an impossibility.

If you can highlight trends in customer contacts, focus on your neediest vendors, and illuminate your biggest areas of opportunity—all from the customer conversations you’re already having—then you’ll be able to share this valuable insight with relevant stakeholders across the organization.

Building Stronger Relationships with External Partners

Companies are successful when their customers are. Using a support platform with a flexible data model means you can pull insights from your partner’s perspective. Independent vendors often don’t have the big business tools to gather their own business intelligence.

That’s where a great Marketplace support team comes in. Being able to analyze customer trends and serve up insights for their business means building a stronger relationship. Your support platform shouldn’t just provide value to you—it should provide value for your partners too.

Highlighting Opportunities For Business Intelligence

The best tools help you grow. If you’re thinking of your help desk as just an email inbox, you’re missing opportunities for growth.

Pulling out service trends, customer questions and feedback can highlight new markets to expand into. Combining this with other data can help superpower your growth machine.

A Platform for Marketplaces

Supporting customers in a Marketplace environment is a tough gig. But tools are improving to help support teams be more effective in building relationships. Using a support platform with a flexible data model means that your workflow (however complex) doesn’t need to compromise.

If you’re working with multiple stakeholders, you need software that makes complicated relationships simple. Take a test run of Kustomer and see how we can help you manage your Marketplace.

Schedule a demo.