An interview and case study with Kareem Mazhar, Customer Experience Manager at Dubizzle.com, the largest classifieds website in the UAE. Now part of OLX Group, this network of trading platforms is active in more than 45 countries under 17 brands.
Sofia: Kareem, you are in that very interesting intersection between product and customer support. How did you end up there?
Kareem: I started as a customer service trainer at Dubizzle. I’ve done a lot of customer service in my life — 10 years in different companies — fighting for customers, trying to get businesses to listen to what users are unhappy with. It’s always been hard because every time you try to raise awareness about a customer problem, you get the product manager asking you, “Yeah, but how many complaints did we get about this certain feature, for how long and from what type of customer?”
These are, of course, the right questions to ask but quantifying requests has never been easy for either the product or support teams. 9 months ago I decided to shift career and focus more on customer and user experience. I had a rough idea of a process that would enable the product team and the customer support team to align their efforts around customers and I was fortunate to be able to implement it. From the very beginning my mission has been to make sure that the voice of the customer is heard, understood and acted upon within the organization so we can prevent users from switching away from us.
Initially, I focused on gathering data. I decided to run different surveys on our website to catch people while they were taking different actions and try to create a measured customer effort score, and feedback that we could actually use to make our product better.
I believe that if you do not deliver to the user while they’re on the website, they will not go through the effort of clicking on “Contact Us”, filling out the ticket and complaining about why your product is no good. They’re just going to switch to your competitor or find the stuff that they’re looking for on Facebook or whatever the alternative is.
We launched four surveys at four different touch points and our initial version of what the customer effort score was going to be. Straight after, I went on vacation and came back to find that the whole company had adopted this customer effort score — it actually became a KPI for the product managers. That was the first time in my life I saw a company with a KPI that was controlled and moved by user feedback, not only company targets or revenue KPIs.
Our website has been live for 10 years so hundreds of thousands of visitors land on different pages every single day. When I launched those survey campaigns, there was an interception rate of 10% on each and then.
The next stage was to increase the number of data points we were gathering. We increased the interception rate and suddenly I started gathering hundreds of comments every day. All this feedback needed to be classified and organised so I could meet with the product team and help them see the top pain points that needed fixing.
I used to do this in Google Sheets — launch the campaigns, download the responses, put them on a sheet and tag them. I tried to create manual reports every single week to show the product manager’s what was happening. I also became responsible for keeping the whole company updated in our monthly meeting.
We went from 4 to 16 surveys so the amount of feedback was getting out of hand. I mentioned this to a product manager from one of our sisters companies and he said, “I know your pain but I use this tool that I think can help you”, so I went to their office to look at NomNom.
He showed me exactly what it does, and it was perfect for what I needed — somewhere I can compile everything with no limitations, can easily look at the number of tags and easily create timelines. I was like, “I want this and I want it now” and that’s how we got started with NomNom.
Sofia: What an interesting journey! Could you share a bit more about how you use customer insights now and any successes you’ve had with it?
Kareem: A big win for me has been helping the product team get access to instant feedback that can help them close the feedback loop with customers faster. All our product managers are on NomNom so when we ship a change to our product, they can get feedback immediately.
For example, we launched a new dashboard for our B2B community and set up a survey asking, “Please let us know what you think of this dashboard”. In the past month I’ve had 400 different comments about this dashboard! Some of the comments are very critical and come from very valuable customers. When someone says, “I can’t upload my ad” or “I can’t edit my ad”, we are basically stopping them from getting value and that means they can cancel pretty quickly. We avoid losing customers just by being proactive with feedback.
It’s not only having access to the data but also being able to start conversations around specific insights. I can mention any of the PMs on NomNom and discuss a customer pain without having to set up a meeting for it.
I think it’s important to clarify that we’re not being reactive to the feedback itself. We use it as a way of exploring issues at a deeper level. For example, going back to the dashboard feature, we had a lot of comments but most of them were very generic. Things like, “I hate it”, “It’s very complicated”, “Please bring back the old one”. We weren’t sure what the issue was. Are those people resistant to change or are they really facing some issues with that dashboard? Should we revert the change?
In these cases, NomNom helps us to quickly source all the users that had issues along with their contact details. We can then share that info with customer support agents who can get back to them and go deeper to find out exactly what they’ve been going through.
We found out that most of the comments were emotional. These users encountered minor bugs and generalised their experience as negative. We learned that most of our customers are actually satisfied and also more open because they can see we’re listening to them. This is also part of having better feedback loops.
We also used to have a crazy amount of support tickets from people who used to say, “I can’t log in.” On the surface, there were no bugs or issues but when we dug a bit deeper, we realized that most of those complaints came from new users who hadn’t activated their accounts. We immediately looked at the activation email and figured out that the email copy was really bad — people didn’t realize they needed to click on the link to activate their account.
All we needed to do was change that copy. We went from 150 tickets a week about that issue to 80 the week after the copy change was made. The week after that, there were 20. Now we barely get that type of request.
It was a simple change that took probably an hour of work. Imagine how much money we were losing, how many users that were willing to pay but didn’t because they couldn’t get into their accounts and gave up! It’s very easy to have many of these issues and not know about them when you don’t have access to the data in aggregation.
Sofia: What would be your advice for teams that want to start building better processes around customer feedback and product development?
Kareem: I’ll tell you what I learned through all these years: You’re either going to be in a company that’s designing a product because they think it’s cool and designing features because they think, based on numbers, that they’re going to work. Or you’ll be in a company that actually cares about its customers. If you’re not in the latter, you should do your best to change it because it’s worth it.
Your ultimate power, if you want to convince management about the very big change that needs to happen, is to quantify and link customers to the revenue because revenue is the heart of the business.
If you have user feedback, you have the ultimate source of power within the company. That is always something a lot of managers forget and a lot of company owners forget. CEOs and executives too. If you don’t have customers, you don’t have revenue! Some companies, when they grow big and have all that traffic, seem to forget that those customers can and will find better alternatives. Being the market leader is a constant pursuit. You don’t get there and magically stay in that position.
“A dissatisfied customer is never going to complain. He’s always going to switch.”
I once read a quote that said, “A dissatisfied customer is never going to complain. He’s always going to switch.” Management might say, “What’s the percentage of customers we’re talking about right now? Is it only 5%? Then we still have 95%.” If you can show management who those customers really are and how much money they’re actually worth, they will see the value of the change you want to make.
I have seen it happen. It was the best day of my life when I saw management deciding that we were going to focus on the health of our customers and their needs for a whole year, before shifting back into revenue again. If you have the right tools and the right data, you’re already in a good position to make the change happen.