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Topics include: Direct to consumer / E-commerce / Data & privacy / Martech

‘Fraud is an arms race’: how Carousell boosted its customer experience to fight bad actors

Carousell battled mispriced listings by opportunistic individuals who wanted to use the Covid-19 crisis to profit from masks.

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to reiterate the importance of understanding consumers, and having a pulse on local market sentiments and general news for Carousell. Lavone Toh, a business process improvement manager from the marketplace experience team at the platform explains to The Drum how each market reacted differently with respective lockdown measures and social-distancing guidelines.

Consumer behaviour, such as buying and selling patterns across categories, changed throughout the pandemic in 2020. For example in Singapore, consumer interest moved from medical supplies for masks to home services as the situation improved.

For secondhand marketplace platform Carousell, the key has been to focus on how its product can serve its users and the wider community while being empathetic and well-informed. Toh claims that by having an ear on the ground and being nimble, Carousell were able to strategically chart out initiatives that catered to what the community needed.

“We will continue to use data to drive our product decisions and anticipate our users’ needs. More importantly, we will give greater appreciation to country and category nuances as we make decisions,” says Toh.

“Within our customer support function, we are looking at ways to further scale our business to achieve greater customer satisfaction at a lower cost.”

She adds: “This includes building automated workflows, using machine learning to develop our internal chatbot for our users to get their resolutions fast and accurately. This will help our operations remain robust and ensure our users are not affected in the event of unforeseen circumstances.”

To achieve its targets, Carousell enlisted the help of customer service platform Zendesk, which it has worked with since 2017, to use its self-service solutions such as Zendesk Guide and Answer Bot, a virtual assistant that guides users to find the answers they need easily via relevant Help Centre articles without having to reach out to Carousell’s service agents.

Wendy Johnstone, the chief operating officer for APAC at Zendesk, claims Carousell’s efforts to automate workflows and leverage AI and machine learning capabilities, has empowered their support teams to manage an average of 30,000 tickets a month, 77% of which are responded to in less than a day.

“Businesses which prioritize agility and responsiveness during the pandemic will have set themselves up for continued success post-pandemic,” she adds.

Having an improved customer support function has helped Carousell combat fraud, which Toh describes as “like an arms race” because scammers innovate as quickly as the platform does.

She explains that Carousell battled mispriced listings by opportunistic individuals who wanted to use the Covid-19 crisis to profit from masks and sanitisers when the Covid-19 outbreak first peaked in many countries in early February, by taking the unprecedented decision to moderate listings based on prices set by the government (where available), or an internally developed benchmark (in countries where the government does not set the price).

Carousell also noticed new suspicious activities as panic-buying became rampant, discovering that scammers quickly put up listings on the marketplace without the real intention of fulfilling buyers’ orders.

“We had to activate our teams to scan the marketplace frequently. More importantly, we stepped up on the review rate of flags our community of users sends to us so that we take action on bad actors and fraudulent listings with little delay. We also configured our internal keyword detection tool to trigger a safety tip message to the users when it detects potential suspicious activity in chats,” she explains.

“One example was the in-chat prompt advised users not to take their conversations out of the platforms—a very common trick of scammers is that they ask users to chat on another app instead of using the in-app chat so that there would be no records of their conversation.”

Toh claims that as a result of Carousell’s efforts, the platform saw the fraud rate spike in February dropping month to month and going back pre-Covid levels by June across its markets. The surge in all these activities resulted in a spike in ticket volumes on its service front, but Toh says the team gave their 100% effort to stand by its users, retain its service, customer satisfaction, and efficiency levels.

In 2021, Carousell needs to consider not only the current channels, says Toh, but also the ever-evolving nature of customer experience as AI is transforming the way businesses interact with customers, and it is vital that the platform keep pace with this trend strategically.

“One example is building automated workflows for a more consistent experience. Using automations for general enquiries and repetitive tasks will give service agents more time to focus on value-added interactions, increase overall efficiency, and ensure consistency as we scale,” she explains.

Carousell previously explained to The Drum why it is operating on a largely ad-dependent model as it wants to remain free to use for its users to inspire every person globally to start selling and buying in order to do more for one another.

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