Groupon UAE has been under fire. But, key actions have been implemented to solve the issues that may have soured customer's experience, says newly appointed CEO Alexander Kappes.
The group-buying website that penetrated the UAE market last year has experienced heavy criticism over the past five months.
Customers have mainly been complaining of delayed deliveries and poor customer service, and media reported of an investigation led by free-hold community Tecom, which resulted in an announcement that Groupon had done nothing wrong. This, in turn, sparked more critique.
However, the tides may have changed. Alexander Kappes, who recently followed up Ainsley Duncombe in his role as CEO of Groupon UAE, says the company has recently implemented three key actions that will solve the issues that may have soured Groupon's customer's experience.
"First of all, there was no investigation from Tecom into Groupon," says the German passport holder of Palestinian origin. "There are approximately 30 group buying websites in the UAE and the Dubai Economic Department (DED) was curious about the popularity of the model and approached Groupon Middle East as the inventors to gain further insight into how the business works.
"Following these talks, DED asked Tecom to host further meetings with the group buying websites under Tecom authority – and this is where the media reports picked up."
Getting that out of the way, the new CEO says to be aware that Groupon has had issues with the delivery of certain products. "We are doing everything in our power to address and fix those issues," he tells in an exclusive interview to 'Emirates24|7'.
"Firstly, we have completely refocused from sourcing products from international partners to using local suppliers to avoid any delays in delivery, this not applying to the travel section, which naturally requires international partnership.
"Additionally, we are very happy to announce our new partnership with Aramex," says Alexander. The partnership with the leading delivery service company means that customers will be able to track the delivery of the products they have ordered, a move that is likely to be welcomed by frustrated customers.
Frustration over delays in deliveries is widely shared by Groupon customers in the UAE, some asking for complete refunding because the product that they ordered was of no longer use.
"I have been waiting for two months for a product I was supposed to receive in two weeks. I intended to give it as a birthday present, but that chance has long past," says Marie-Louise, a Dubai resident from France.
"The frustrating part is that I keep on receiving the same automated response that the product will be delivered next week."
According to Alexander, not all delivery delays will immediately be erased, as there are products that were ordered before the implementation of the new policy.
However, customer service is set to improve due to the recent move of the customer service team into a new building with increased telephone capacity.
"Right now, we are able to answer 95 per cent of all incoming calls immediately and we won't rest before we can answer every single inbound customer inquiry," says Alexander, adding that the same applies to mail correspondences.
"Furthermore, we have increased our rigorous quality assurance process," says Alexander listing the recent company policy changes.
"All products and services are subject to mystery visits and quality checks. In addition, all partners are checked for official documentation such as trade and product licenses and every retailer has to prove the quality and availability of the stock."
Last year, Groupon instantly called off a deal after it came to light that the distributor of the product offered on the site was not authorised by the official distributor to do so.
Although customers were offered a refund, no comment from Groupon was available at that time on how unauthorised distributors were able to advertise their product on Groupon's group-buying website.
"There is absolutely nothing more important to us than our customer's satisfaction," says Alexander, "and we would like to take this opportunity to apologize to the customers who were not 100% satisfied with our services.
"What makes Groupon such an exciting company for both the customers and the employees is the constant change. The Groupon concept is an innovation and as such, there is only our own previous experience that we can draw from."
Asked about the recent change in management, the young business man says: "We are moving at such a fast pace and we want to continue moving at that pace in order to satisfy our customers' demands for cool new deals. Occasionally, this means we have to adapt to the situation and act accordingly."