The company’s HQ in South Jakarta

Customer relations management (CRM) is one of those factors that will determine whether your customers will stay or go. Major tech companies are investing heavily in it, including Indonesia’s own e-commerce and fintech giant Tokopedia.

In an interview with e27, VP Operations Rudy Dalimunthe explains why CRM is considered “super important” for the company.

“If there is a white space for differentiation to make Tokopedia stands out amongst the [existing] e-commerce players, it is through CRM, since all other promos are typical and can be copied by anyone in a short time,” he says.

Customer interactions –and their expectations of what they can get from Tokopedia– escalate as the company grows bigger, pushing them to continuously evolve in how they deal with customers.

Starting off with a simple, basic CRM system, Tokopedia then moved on to use tools such as Zendesk and eventually Salesforce, which the company’s product and engineering team has customised to suit their needs.

It also runs its own in-house online dispute resolution system, which includes the use of bot for simple and basic interactions. The bot has been integrated to the platform’s back-end, from chatrooms to emails.

Also Read: Tokopedia appoints former Indonesia Finance Minister as its President Commissioner

However, Tokopedia still gives space for human interaction, especially when the situation demands more than what the chatbots are capable of.


Rudy Dalimunthe, VP Operations, Tokopedia

“Artificial Intelligence (AI) and bot investments are driven by our need to increase both efficiency and customer intimacy – a deeper understanding of customer needs leading to customised and personalised solutions. But building human sensitivity into algorithms is not an easy thing,” Dalimunthe says.

“Hence, I would say it will never replace human touch experience by human CR officers. There are situations where human presence is still required, even at some point you are required to come and meet them directly in person. Those are the moments we build emotional connection between our brand and our customers,” he stresses.

Exclusively for e27 Academy, Dalimunthe explains what founders need to know about CRM –and how to get it right.

The basics

Dalimunthe begins by explaining the five key principles of CRM, which should include:

1. The ability to uncover hidden customer needs

“This is the key ingredients for surprise effect in your CRM. Good CRM should think beyond hygiene factors and cater end-to-end customer journey; if it is only to cater customer complaints reactively then it is an outdated CRM version. We know move to CXM that enables us to see what customer doesn’t see since the early stage of their journey, and proactively engage with it.”

2. The ability to capture all interaction details in real time

This includes a 360 degrees customer profile in single view, real-time insight flow, and time-stamp for SLA capture.

“In short it is about ‘who, what, when, and how the interactions [happen]’ which covers both inside-out data (historical user profile including social media profile) and outside-in data capture (customer voice and survey results on their feedbacks and how they perceive us).”

Also Read: After raising US$1.1B, Tokopedia will remain focussed on Indonesian market

3. Being easily customisable

“Every business and every customer are unique, there’s no one-size-fits-all.”

4. User-friendliness

“Even your non-CS staffs should be able to use it and get the best of it in very short time.”

5. Integrity

“… Business is about trust and transparency, so we must act in a very professional, personal, open and transparent to engage with the customers. We should avoid at very most the impression that your people, process, and system can not be trusted and unable to present transparency on what happened. Even if it happens, service recovery process must be done in a very fast, precise, and most personal way. That’s CRM.”

The last point led to a very important question: How about in times of crisis?

Dalimunthe says that when he joined the company in 2017, to set up a crisis management plan was one of the key deliverables prioritised for immediate completion.

By the time, it could take two to three weeks for a crisis situation to get back to normal, leading to lower key customer metrics and trust from customers. It even led to a public relations crisis for the company.

“We are talking about multiple times increase in users traffic in every big campaign, where any small glitch will impact million of users. That eventually will flow big numbers of negative comments in social media and support channels,” Dalimunthe points out.

To handle a crisis situation, the company needs good preparation, collaboration, and the obsession to “always put customers at the centre of business.”

Also Read: How Tokopedia uses localisation strategy to reach out to Indonesia’s uniquely diverse society

“Good preparation means you actually know what will happened. Good, proactive communications before the fire gets bigger is key, so we’re talking about speed and communications accuracy,” Dalimunthe says.

“It requires good collaborations with product or tech team way before product launch, at least two weeks before, so you know exactly every single details of the campaign and how to deal with any issues when things get worse. And all of the CS staffs should be well-prepared, most importantly in closely monitoring on the crisis level. The team at the front must actively inform if this is a minor, major, or even a crisis level situation where corporate communication involvement is required to release a holding or stand-by statement,” he continues.

The principles of customer relations crisis management plan according to Dalimunthe are:

1. Understand clearly the scope and magnitude of the issues –minor, major, or crisis– since every level requires different treatment and communications. The team should also create clear and quick internal communications line.

2. Become a trusted voice in crisis. Avoid lies and one-shot statements; communicate regularly until the situation gets back to normal.

3. Give the crisis situation your full attention, even up to management level. Give fair compensation to your customers; do not just disappear and expect they will go and forget.

4. Monitor all social and traditional media closely. In addition to using social listening tools, companies need to know influencers and their level of reach. While holding statement is required when the situation has reached crisis level, companies need to know when to handle a situation using personal approach. They also need to carefully consider the words that they are choosing.

5. Take every problem seriously. Never repeat the same mistakes and blame other parties.

6. Last but not least, be responsible and take all the bullets.

Also Read: Tokopedia reportedly raises fresh US$1 billion funding

Case study

As a company, Tokopedia is run with these principles that the company considered as its DNA:

  1. Focus on customer
  2. Growth mindset
  3. Make it happen, make it better

These principles are expected to be implemented not only by its employees, but also the partners that the company is working with.

Dalimunthe mentions one instance that he considers as one of the greatest challenges Tokopedia has faced in terms of providing the best service for their customers.

In Q3 2017, the company was going through the process of appointing a new party to manage its process when it faced integration and alignment issues. They had to synchronise with three organisation at one shot, involving 500 people in the process, and this is something that Dalimunthe’s team had never done before.

“They were directly facing and dealing with key person in partners’ side … to negotiate business terms, OKR, and strategy alignment in a very short time. At the same time, Tokopedia’s programmes and businesses keep running fast, with more and more new products set to launch in Q3-Q4. I have to minimise the impact of these changes to Tokopedia users,” he explains.

But the company was able to survive through the process by living its DNA, and onboarding its partners to ensure that they are able to implement it through their works.

“In fact, we’re expecting to book almost US$4 million of savings from this improvement, while the quality of the delivery is at even higher number compared to last year,” he adds.

Also Read: [Updated] Tokopedia, OVO team up to offer the payment service on the e-commerce platform

Advice for startup founders

At the end of the interview, Dalimunthe says a study has revealed the high rate of failure in CRM strategy execution to be the result of over-dependence in “cutting edge” CRM system.

“[If you spend] too much focus on the CRM technologies and not enough time to build a team that is armed and able to handle the gun, all will be for nothing. ‘It’s all about the man behind the gun’,” he explains.

He then shares the secret recipe of building the best CRM team:

1. Get a clear CRM direction and strategy available for all team as a blue print will help them to prioritise every steps and think creatively to support the strategy.

2. Identify and set up a strong group of people with Analytics, CX, and customer journey (process) skill as a thinker and designer. This should be followed by setting up another group with strong people skills to execute the system designed by the “thinker” team, and another group to oversee the process.

3. Identify and build leaders from the smaller level of the team.

4. Have a strong mindset to always put ourselves in customer shoes, the bravery to take direct decision on customer’s behalf, and the knowledge on when to drive the business and tech team to take actions related to CRM (instead of the other way around).

5. Have a company-wide understanding about the importance to put customer at the centre of every decision. CRM goes beyond the responsibility of a particular team; it is actually a mindset that every employees need to have regardless of their job description and division.

A simple check-list that founders can go through include questions such as: Do you involve your customer care team in product launch preparation? Do your product and business units have all customer metrics in their score card? And finally, is everyone ready and brave enough to see customer complaint reports every day and work upon it?

Images Credit: Tokopedia