Author: Rohit Raghav, Co-Founder, Toost
In today’s fast-paced world, with time becoming an increasingly rare commodity, auxiliary services are beginning to play an extremely instrumental role in our lives. From plumbers to electricians, doctors to food, and boutiques to party planners – our everyday practically hinges on service providers. To find the solution to our service needs we generally resort to antiquated list compiling methods such as internet searches, yellow page listings, or asking someone in the neighbourhood. Does it work? Of course it does, but not necessarily in the way that we hope for. More often than not, we as consumers have to pay through our noses for services that barely cut the grade! Getting recommendations from friends & family used to be the way out but that’s neither very practical for the time and effort involves nor a very useful and accurate way considering whole array of services and quality levels we expect these days.
But why does it happen so often?
This question as well as its answers can be found if one analyses our country’s current local services scenario. Service delivery sector in India is highly fragmented. Add to it the lack of an effective quality control in service provision sector and vested interests in online service listings, and what do you have? Shoddy service quality, incessant delays, and extremely low value for consumers’ money – in short, a service nightmare that any consumer would dread facing. There are aggregators and marketplace attempting to solve the challenge too. But how many apps you will have on your phone? Will you take intermediaries’ word for trustworthiness? Will you find the plumber for installing a Jacuzzi or a bathroom renovation the same way you look for someone to replace a leaky faucet? Will you be willing to change your behaviour and approach to find service providers because bunch of apps want you to? Will you be able to rate and review individual service provider to save your friends from bad experiences?
Tackling such a problem in a country as large and ethnically diverse as India is not easy, but efforts have been made in the past and are being made today too. Social graphs could have been an option. Depending upon human to human interactions, social graphs came with a mishmash of options in Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn which allowed users to contribute their ratings and reviews of various businesses on social media platforms. The goal was simple – consumers were to be empowered with a tool that could ease service selection through user reviews while also provide an effective feedback method to ensure quality. But that use case has failed to take off, more so in India. We are tuned to ask out with friends and family but as that approach becomes both impractical and less effective considering all services we need, there is nothing in digital world that can replicate the trust from physical world. As a consumer, it makes no sense to blindly follow the advice of anonymous users to judge a business when we cannot relate to their personality and are not aware of their biases. Also, several local service providers do not list their services online – forget the social media, obscuring their visibility and considerably depleting the options available to consumers.
But necessity is the mother of innovation. As the need for a reliable platform to connect businesses and consumers grew, innovators bent their minds to resolve this concern and finally hit upon an extremely innovative, highly efficient model for service searches – phone graphs! Based on the principle that local service searches should not utilitarian in nature and must incorporate a broader social ethos, phone graphs are redefining the very basics of service searches. Need a carpenter? Check out which of your friends has rated a service provider highly. Feeling hungry? See which food joints your contacts recommend to ease your hunger pangs. Have mixed feelings about a logistic service? Ask your phone contacts their opinion of services rendered.
The main reason phone graphs are gaining popularity in the local business search is its operational model, which closely mimics word-of-mouth recommendations that are fundamental decision drivers when it comes to local service businesses. Phone connections are better indicator of trust than social connections and indicate a level of trustworthiness that Facebook or Twitter cannot achieve. Their recommendations mean more to us as they come from trusted sources. But it isn’t just the social connect that empowers consumers using phone graphs. Supplemented by powerful back-end big data technology and advanced cloud computing capability, phone graphs use robust technology, advanced algorithms and superior analytics to deliver rich, personalised experience in real-time. Moreover, due to the dynamic community-driven model, phone graphs keep evolving to be in lockstep with rapidly changing consumer requirement and service landscape.
Aided by the advent and penetration of smartphones, we are connected with our family and close friends seamlessly. Phone graphs use this connectivity to provide social and mobile service search resolution with an open approach and looks set to revolutionise the service landscape in the favour of consumers. We now have the solution for every service problem at our fingertips. With the coming of phone graphs, we will now see the beginning of the end of the rudimentary unfit for survival in today’s technology age. Welcome, to the age of empowered consumerism.
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