For the on-demand marketplace, what goes on behind the scenes — and what happens when disputes arise between buyers and sellers — can be just as important as actual transactions.
In the latest discussion of just what makes a great online marketplace, Michael Ting, Hyperwallet’s senior vice president of digital markets, weighed in on the need for services in a well-constructed marketplace. Specifically, Ting highlighted the need for what he and Karen Webster agreed remains a “critical component” of a marketplace: integrated support. Support mechanisms that can assist contract workers (or gig workers, as they may be colloquially known) when they encounter problems with technology or have trouble getting paid in a timely manner are among those platform components that often don’t get the attention they deserve. Typically, it’s not until a marketplace desperately needs a support mechanism that it realizes its absence.
As Ting noted, “people go onto these platforms” for a variety of reasons — “for job engines, as lead generators and as payments providers,” among others. Each of these use cases has different user needs attached to it. The key, said the executive, is that the platform itself engenders feelings of both trust and safety in the user community. This means that entities running the platform need to be able to quickly respond to inquiries from buyers and sellers and rapidly deliver solutions for both sides of the transaction. Given the far-flung nature of the gig economy, said Ting, platforms must be able to respond to requests for assistance in multiple languages and even promote “self-service options [so that users] can resolve issues independently.”
Does a marketplace’s contact center need to be staffed 24/7 and ready at a moment’s notice to handle any issue that might arise? Not necessarily, said Ting. “It depends on the service that [the platform] provides. Yes, if they are open 24/7, they should also have support that mirrors that.” But, Ting noted, if they operate within more traditional business hours, perpetual support availability may not be necessary.
Ting pointed out that it is vital for marketplaces to extend their offering onto different platforms and that it be contoured to meet the needs of specific users, whether buyers or sellers. Consider the ride-hailing marketplace, where drivers and riders (and the companies that enable the ride-hailing services in the first place) communicate across apps, via email and even text. Support here can be done on the fly, and the marketplace, said Ting, must be able to track data in real time. In other settings, he added — say, in a workplace via desktop — online chat or email can work just fine as links to support when the need arises.
For the on-demand workplace, noted Ting, large user communities can operate as a sort of support network, where peers can communicate with one another to troubleshoot and offer tips on solving problems, especially across tech-related issues. “They see and experience the same things together,” said Ting, and such effective grassroots support can “keep overhead manageable for firms” that “can’t have customer support agents.” But in the end, the platform or marketplace itself must be sensitive to user behaviors and the types of issues that are being encountered. Technology issues can be resolved quickly and perhaps with minimal human interaction. But when it comes to payments — or, more specifically, conflicts over payments — some human interaction is warranted, given the sensitive nature of such disputes. That kind of support “alleviates friction in the user experience,” Ting added.