We messed up: Groupon SA CEO

Wayne Gosling, CEO of daily deals site Groupon SA, says that the company has let its customers down in recent times in terms of its product delivery and general customer service.

Groupon has come under harsh criticism on consumer champion website HelloPeter in the last 12 months. Out of 3,784 reports on the site about Groupon SA, 3,300 have been negative with complaints ranging from goods not being received, no refunds, to incorrect product delivery, and poor after-sales service.

“We have had huge mess-ups in terms of our products and delivery, which has been well documented,” Gosling said, adding that as the company added to its daily deals quota, “we were handling stuff, but not as dynamically as we could be”.

This, according to Gosling, is largely the reason for the appointment earlier this week of a new head of customer services, Katja Alves.

Groupon SA said that Alves has been appointed to roll out new international processes and procedures to align the Cape-Town based call centre with Groupon International’s standards.

Wayne Gosling and Daniel Guasco
Wayne Gosling and Daniel Guasco

Gosling says that Groupon SA has bolstered its call-centre staff, based in Cape Town, to 39 people out of a total group quotient of 130 people.

He said that Groupon SA handles approximately 600-700 deals on its site at any given time and is now operational in five cities. “The model hasn’t stopped growing in South Africa, it’s one of the more profitable ones in the world” he said.

Earlier this month, Groupon, which is active in 48 countries, reported encouraging quarterly results with operating income up $34.0 million compared with fourth quarter in 2012. Analysts have expressed concern over the group’s ability to scale.

Active customers, or customers who purchased a Groupon within the last twelve months, grew 13% year-over-year, to 41.7 million as of March 31, 2013, comprising 18.2 million in North America, and 23.5 million in International markets.

These numbers impressed investors, and boosted its share price to $7.26 on the Nasdaq, but still someway off its November 2011 initial public offering price of $20 a share.

Alves joined Groupon from customer contact solutions firm Merchants, a Dimension Data company.

“One of the key accounts I worked on for the last 4 years was ASDA, a major UK High Street retailer, who have their call centre based here in South Africa. This retailer has high expectations regarding the level of service they demand for their customers: and use a quality framework to ensure consistent responses across all written and verbal contact with their customers, so that the experience exceeds the caller’s expectations.”

“It is that consistency of excellence I am looking to foster and continue to drive here at Groupon in co-operation with the international push to standardise our processes and consumer expectations,” Alves said.

“Over the last 3 months we have seen a steady rise in our customer satisfaction scores, so this will hopefully give that trend a solid boost. We are looking forward to seeing the implementation of several new processes that Katja wishes to drive, coupled with the technology support roll-out to ensure we have clear oversight of our call centre at all times,” Gosling said.

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