In an interview with CustomerService.ae, Aakash talks about how one of UAE’s leading ride-hailing service, Careem is working towards enriching customers’ everyday lives by providing topnotch customer service. He also mentions the availability of multiple payment options and round the clock call center service for their customers.
Q: What was the idea behind starting Careem and how far along has it come?
Aakash: Prior to starting Careem, co-founders Mudassir Sheikha and Magnus Olsson were consultants who traveled a lot for work. They quickly realized there was no quick, efficient and reliable transportation method to get from point A to point B, so they felt inspired to find a solution. The answer came in the form of Careem, and the rest is history.
Today, Careem is the region’s leading app-based car-booking service. We have 250,000 Captains in more than 80 cities across 13 countries. Our customers have the convenience of a ‘Now’ or ‘Later’ booking option, allowing them to book a car on demand or in advance. A range of different car options cater to the varying needs of each city in which we operate, with Economy, Max and Business car types available across all markets. In the UAE, we also have Careem Kids – a dedicated Careem car that comes pre-installed with a child seat, and Ameera – Dubai’s first female chauffeur service for women. In Qatar, KSA and Morocco, we also operate Careem GO – an affordable option ideal for short trips. Payment options are just as easy. Customers can choose to either pay in cash, via credit card or with Careem credits.
Q: How have customer service practices at Careem influenced the brand’s success?
Aakash: Since we launched, we have always believed that we should focus on creating a positive impact in the region and financial success will follow. Our approach to business is simple. We want to enhance the lives of our customers, while also enriching the experiences our Captains (drivers) have, as an integral part of Careem’s dynamic success story.
In terms of how we are making a difference in the lives of our customers, we can look at it from the perspective of pre- and post-Careem phases. In Saudi Arabia for example, after Careem’s launch women can move around conveniently, afford our services and feel empowered, and now this segment makes up 80% of our customers in Saudi Arabia.
Q: What metrics are most essential to ensure that customers are left with a memorable experience, one they would talk about?
Aakash: We try to create a wow experience with every interaction by simplifying the customer’s life through quick resolution. We currently have a turn-around time of less than six hours and continue to identify ways to shorten that time period.
Q: What has given Careem an edge to survive against pre-existing competitors in the market?
Aakash: At Careem, we embrace competition because it prompts us to constantly improve our services and focus on satisfying our customers. The transportation industry has witnessed extreme disruption over the past few years, and there are many players, both small and large, across all the markets in which we operate. That said, we strongly believe we stand apart from other car booking services for two reasons: firstly, we are homegrown – by the region, for the region; and secondly, our mission revolves around making a difference in people’s lives, focusing first and foremost on local communities.
This in-depth understanding of our markets enables us to provide a completely reliable service that caters to people’s needs – for instance, pre-scheduled bookings, multiple bookings, cash payments and a 24/7 call center were services that we pioneered.
Q: To what extent has social media been a medium for Careem’s customer support and lead generation?
Aakash: Social media is the most efficient lead generation medium in our digital marketing strategy. Our pages organically reach millions of social media users a month and attract hundreds of thousands of people across all markets to engage with our content, sharing feedback and lodging inquiries.
At the same time, social media is the most effective two-way medium of communication with our customers and fans and is supported internally with over 30 content, management and community management team members.
Q: How soon in future do you see Careem offering self-driving cars and how would that work for customer experience?
Aakash: We announced a partnership with U.S. startup Next Future Transportation in July 2016 to launch the MENA region’s first driverless pods for public transit.
These driverless pods are electric and can move individually or by attaching themselves to other pods to form a bus-like structure, allowing passengers to move freely from one pod to another. Designed to work as a mass transportation system, the self-driving pods can pick up customers on demand and drop them off to various locations, as they link and detach accordingly. The end result is an efficient, safe and environmentally-friendly mode of transportation that ensures door-to-door pick-up and drop-off, which brings greater convenience and affordability to our customers.
We expect to launch the pods in 2018 in Dubai as a tester market before they are rolled out in other countries.
Q: What sort of training programs do you provide to help improve customer service? Do you conduct training programs internally or engage external trainers?
Aakash: We provide one week of soft skills training, two weeks of product training and one week of a nesting period where the new hires are coached on every interaction so that they live up to the standards of the company.
Q: What sort of customer support do you offer your website visitors?
Aakash: We have a very detailed FAQ section, which answers most of their queries, along with voice and email support.
Q: Live Chat has become the in thing in 24/7 real-time customer support these days. Do you feel incorporating that within your mobile app would enhance your customers’ experience?
Aakash: Yes, we have plans to launch live chat, and we’re going to be testing this feature very soon.
Q: Are there any new advancements in customer service that Careem plans to adopt for a better customer experience?
Aakash: Yes, we have a survey that goes out on every interaction (voice and email) where all dissatisfied customers are called back by a dedicated team to ensure that they are provided with a resolution to their satisfaction.
Aakash John is an experienced operations professional with a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and services industry. As Careem’s Head of UAE Contact Centre, Aakash is responsible for the day-to-day operations of Careem’s call center for both customers and Captains. Aakash was Careem’s first employee and has been with the company for five years.