We live in a digital world where our ‘go to’ place for information is online, so why is it that so many social care eMarketplaces fail to succeed? Affinity Works director Tom Knight takes a look at a thriving physical marketplace in India and shares his thoughts on how we could learn a lesson or two from the pre-digital world…
Part 3 of 3 – The Concierge
In part 2 of this series I suggested trying to replicate the various types of interactions that happen in a physical market. For the final part in this series, I want to focus on a special type of interaction that helps people get to the products and services that they are really interested in – the concierge.
One of the things I noticed at the market in India was that there were plenty of locals who would happily accompany people and show them where best stalls or products were for a tip. They know exactly how to navigate the market and can take you straight to the things you want, quickly and easily. I wonder why most of our eMarketplaces don’t offer the same service? As I mentioned in part 1, the scope of an eMarketplace combined with potentially unfamiliar health and social care jargon isn’t any less disorientating than trying to navigate your way through a maze of stalls in a foreign country!
The eMarketplaces we support allow any user to browse for products and services, and drop them into a shortlist which can be saved or sent to someone via email. When you’re buying something as important as health or care services however, it’s natural to want some form of advice or even advocacy to make sure you’re looking at the best products or services. An effective digital concierge can be implemented simply by adding chat functionality that is handled by people who understand the market and could be initiated by visitors that were struggling to find what they wanted. It would open a thread and enable people to get some help or guidance that could be as simple as answering a question or two, or as comprehensive as constructing a tailored shortlist full of potential services that the customer could consider in more detail.
The higher levels of satisfaction with online chat are partially due to the efficiency and immediacy of the experience
Similar assistance could be provided over the phone but one of the main reasons customers like online chat is because they can multi-task, and as the same is true for agents, it is a service that can be provided very efficiently. The technology has been around for years but has become increasingly popular recently for the reasons listed below:
In situations where a deeper level of assistance is required, particularly over a longer period of time, a brokerage service can be invaluable. Some companies (like Salvere) specialise in this area and can help people organise, buy and manage the care or services they need through a team of independent living advisers. They are able to construct effective support plans to meet complex sets of requirements and offer an impartial voice that is trusted by both purchasers and vendors. Whilst the “tip” may cost more than a few rupees, it is usually something that can be funded as part of a personal budget and could prove crucial in identifying and engaging the best services. Could these “expert shoppers” perhaps prove to be the most critical component in moving eMarketplaces forward so they can deliver on their promise?
Throughout this mini-series we’ve looked at improving design, levels of interaction and customer support to provide an eMarketplace experience that is as close to a physical market as possible. One of the most interesting things to me is that the barriers definitely seem to be less about technology and much more about simply understanding what users want, and then having the resources to implement them effectively. It’s an exciting challenge and one we have to take on otherwise there is no incentive for users to give up the familiarity of their search engines.
On that note… I’m off to find a chat service that accepts bit coins as tips!