Ten Years, From Small City, Forging JD’s Best Customer Service

Ten Years, From Small City, Forging JD’s Best Customer Service

by Yuchuan Wang and Ella Kidron

“JD has invested over RMB 1.5 billion yuan in customer service in the past ten years. We will keep investing in this area to provide a better shopping experience for our customers,” said Lei Xu, CEO of JD Retail, at the company’s 10-year anniversary celebration for its customer service center last November.

JD’s customer service center in Suqian, Jiangsu province

Cao Ke (曹珂) is a vice president at JD.com, and the head of JD’s customer experience and service unit. He is emblematic of the type of employee JD is celebrating this month, taking on a great deal of responsibility to get the job done, and a setting the expectation of “all in” for his team by leading and example.

Cao joined JD in March in 2010, when the company had just established its integrated national customer service center in Suqian, Jiangsu province (a city in east China and hometown of JD.com founder Richard Liu). At the time, the center had around 200 employees, and Cao was put in charge of the overall operations.

Cao Ke

Ten years later, JD.com has grown exponentially to become China’s largest retailer, online or offline, with businesses across retail, logistics, technology services, healthcare, insurance, logistics real estate management, and more. Its customer service apparatus now has over 10,000 employees, with additional branches in Yangzhou and Chengdu cities.

“I spent my whole 30s at JD. I still feel lucky and grateful for my career choice at that time, when the company was small,” said Cao.

Prior joining JD, Cao was already a customer service professional in Shanghai supporting software services companies. But he observed that internet companies, especially e-commerce companies, were growing rapidly. Although JD was a relatively unknown company at that time, he decided to join anyway. “I believed e-commerce was a new promising industry, and I hoped to be the person with the best understanding of customer service in the industry. JD gave me that opportunity.”

 

Customer first – Trust lays the foundation

In 2014, JD’s customer service center already employed thousands of people. Cao and his team began to apply for COPC (Customer Operations Performance Centre) certification, the most prestigious recognition in the industry for any customer service operation, to help better manage the growing organization.

“Our consultant from COPC thought JD was unlike traditional call centers. We were operating at high cost and low efficiency.”

Cao recalls, “We once received a complaint call from a migrant father whose child lived with his grandfather in the countryside. He complained that the child had diarrhea after consuming milk powder bought on JD and asked for a refund. Our investigation found that it was because the grandfather fed the child expired milk powder he’d bought and opened a long time ago. He couldn’t bear to throw it away as it was quite expensive,” Cao continues, “But, of course, we refunded him nonetheless.”

From Cao’s point of view, the relationship between customers and JD is built on trust. He goes on to explain that trust is the basis on which JD deals with customer issues quickly. “Every customer calling us has a problem that needs to be dealt with so we try not to complicate things. Our mission is to pursue simplicity, professionalism and speed in our responses. That’s all.”

Whereas traditional call centers focus purely on cost and efficiency, JD takes a different approach. “We have an inverted triangle theory at JD. We are obsessed with customer experience,” explains Cao.

JD Inverted Triangle Theory

In 2018, JD developed an “Aegis System” that fully manages products and shopping experiences from the perspective of a shopper. The system introduced a “product experience index” that scores customer’s shopping experience in terms of the product itself, as well as price, shopping process, customer service, after-sales, delivery service and more.

As of now, JD’s customer service team is the largest in the e-commerce industry. The team offers numerous customer-centric programs such as instant refund, door-to-door return, fresh food compensation, damaged package return, best price guarantee, 30-day return for quality-related problem, delivery delay subsidies, freight insurance, etc.

 

Employee care and social value

“JD’s office was located in an administrative community.”

Moving from Shanghai to Suqian, Cao was a little disappointed at the beginning. The small town was even more under developed than he’d expected.

“When I first arrived in Suqian, there were no noodles, bread, etc. in our canteen.” Cao explains that some colleagues recruited from other provinces who were not accustomed to eating rice with every meal were unable to adjust to the local eating habits and chose to leave the company as a result. This later promoted JD to build its own park and canteen in Suqian and offer a more diversified meal selection to suit the preferences of employees from all over.

In the past decade, JD has invested in improving the working and living conditions of employees including building the customer service infrastructure in Suqian. As of now, JD has successively built two office parks with a total area of 220,000 square meters. “The third office park will be put into use in 2021. It will add over 5,000 workplaces, 2,000 dormitory rooms and various facilities. The dormitory buildings, office buildings and business center will be connected with 5G,” said Cao.

JD’s employee dormitory in Suqian, Jiangsu province

The rapid expansion of the center’s scale also contributes to local economic growth. Following JD’s move, leading internet companies such as Dangdang, Xiaomi, and Tuniu all built their customer service centers in Suqian. The small town has now become China’s largest corporate call center hub with over 25,000 working professionals. Suqian also established an e-commerce industrial park that has attracted over 500 e-commerce companies and brands, providing many job opportunities for local young people.

In 2013, JD established a “Sunshine Angel” team at its call center to train and employ disabled people. Since its launch, over 100 disabled people have found employment through the program.

In 2019, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported the story of Jie Shi, head of the Sunshine Angel team

 

Technology-driven

Cao’s department also uses technology to improve customer service efficiency and quality.

Collaborating with JD’s in-house AI team, the center now uses JD’s Smart Sentiment Customer Service robot to address the high volume of inquiries. Using deep learning and transfer learning technologies, the system is able to detect even the subtlest of human emotions in real-time and provide appropriate responses. During the Singles Day (November 11th) sales festival period, JD.com’s Smart Sentiment Customer Service handled over 34 million inquiries.

“At JD’s customer service center we have our own vision. We hope that customer service can become a ‘keyword’ for JD. Customers won’t just choose JD because of quality products and fast delivery, but also for our quality customer service,” said Cao.

 

(yuchuan.wang@jd.com; ella@jd.com)

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