I have been a regular and very loyal customer of Flipkart. They have a neat UI, collection is great, prices are good and they manage deliveries very well.
While shopping for books last week I was shown a recommendation for “The Chariots of the Gods” a book whose introduction/teaser looked exciting. Needless to say I added it to my shopping cart (proof that recommendation engines are maturing fast).
I got my consignment of books right on time, neatly packed with bookmarks etc. I finished the first book and then it happened. When I opened this book – The Chariots of the Gods- the print quality was shocking. It was so bad that it would have made the pirated road-side versions look like hard-bound editions :-).
I tried reading the book a couple of times but just couldn’t get beyond the first few pages. So I wrote to Flipkart. I told them my angst and they promptly agreed to replace the book. I reminded them that they should do so only if the print quality was different from what I had got. So I got my revised copy and it was the exact same quality (or lack of it). Guess its just a badly printed book. Can’t really blame Flipkart ! Or can I?
I guess as the leader in its space, Flipkart is viewed as the entity that promises to deliver a superior customer experience. Though their customer service was prompt and empowered to quickly respond to my case, they failed to investigate if they could really solve my problem.
Also the promise of a good online experience also includes a guarantee that sub-standard products would not be stocked. The book might be awesome, but if the print quality is bad, someone at Flipkart should decide against stocking it.
And I feel this is amongst other factors would determine which of the two models – marketplace vs inventory-driven models would emerge. Would marketplace managers be able to deliver a better experience, esp in categories where the product quality can vary?
I for one would bet my money on those who know how to control and deliver a great experience, marketplace or otherwise.