Challenges in Delivery – Speeding up the process on Go Digital With EZAssist

Watch the episode here.

RJ Shantu: Welcome everyone, you’re here with Dhaka FM 90.4 today, and you can both listen to us on the radio and see us live on Facebook. Join us on Facebook live if you’re tuning in on, on

We’re about to start the third episode of Go Digital With EZAssist, every Thursday, 11AM.

As it is the time of Ramadan, with Eid coming up, for Muslims here it is one of the biggest festivities of the year, and everyone more or less does some shopping during Eid. Due to the lockdown, it’s become quite impossible to go to stores and do any Eid shopping, but online shopping is readily available. One of the key issues when it comes to online shopping is delivery, and to speak about that today we have with us Syeda Nawshad Jahan Promee, Chief Operating Officer, Loosely Coupled Technologies, Irin Parveen, Senior Manager, Customer Success, Loosely Coupled Technologies, and we do have a third guest but while he joins, you’ve met Promee apa before on previous episodes but Irin apa is new on the show today. For our audience today, please ask any questions related to deliveries or any stories you have regarding delivery related problems in the comment section of our Facebook Live.

Now, starting with Promee apa, how are you?

Promee: Hi Shantu, I’m alright. How are you?

RJ Shantu: Everything’s good. My question for you is, as no one is able to go shopping due to the lockdown and the websites of our favorite stores have become the saving resort, yet a lot of people consider websites and online shopping to be a luxury, they’re comfortable with Analog and they want to just stay there. So, what do you have to say about that?

Promee: I think the people of Bangladesh would choose to do things the analog way every time if given the option. But since last year, during this COVID period, people are slowly adapting to digital platforms. Yet still, for some business owners they’re keeping the hope alive that this pandemic will pass and they’ll get back to operating their stores like before. A lot of people are moving with the times and attempting to go digital, but a lot of people are not. The consumers are going to keep shopping, nothing is stopping them from doing that, and they actually want the digital platforms to grow and become better and they want the deliveries to work smoothly. But the merchants need to come forward here, things will not go back to the old normal anytime soon, this is the new normal, and the merchants have to start building up the customer base online and let people know that the business is here and accessible. It’s not even about growth, it’s about survival here. 

RJ Shantu: Mezbah bhaiya has joined us. I welcome Mezba Uddin Ahmed Arnob, HOD, Local Delivery Unit, C-Express and Capital Logistics Ltd. Ramadan Mubarak. We were actually just in the middle of a discussion, so let’s finish up with that first if you don’t mind.

Promee apu, sometimes we see that a business owner, for example someone who has a fashion house, might be content with having that and not think it’s necessary to build up a website for it. So will you please talk a bit about how important it is for businesses to have their own websites or be on a digital platform? 

Promee: So here if a customer finds a website for a business, they will be interested to place an order. The merchant has to be willing to set things up first, and it doesn’t end there, there has to be an effort to keep things updated and running smoothly. And there does come a challenge when the merchants cannot properly do online marketing, not everyone can even keep marketing managers, and then they give up and that is actually losing out on so much potential and online sales because people cannot buy things physically right now and online is the only way to go, so they have to expend the effort into building up a digital base.

RJ Shantu: Alright, I’ll go to Mezba bhaiya for a bit now, you are directly involved with EZAssist and you handle their deliveries. We, as customers, when we place an order we naturally wait for it to arrive as soon as possible. Now I’d like to ask you, as the one conducting this process of getting things delivered, what are some of the challenges that you’ve faced? 

Mezba: When customers place an order, sometimes it’s easy to forget that it goes through many different steps before it can be safely delivered to them. The order is processed by the merchant, they deliver it to us, and we deliver it to customers, and even in between there are many steps that the customers aren’t aware of. 

RJ Shantu: Alright, now back to Promee apa, in Bangladesh you’re handling the entire operations of EZAssist, according to you this digital transformation of Bangladesh, how far along do you think we are in terms of developing this, maybe in respect to other countries. 

Promee: I think that in respect to other countries, unfortunately Bangladesh has not been able to keep up with the digital wave that started with COVID. And I think if we miss this wave that’s currently taking place across the world, we’re going to be lagging behind. And in this case, just one segment cannot come forward to develop digitally. There’s different processes involved, the merchant themselves, the delivery partners, the online payment methods, etc. These segments work together and I think all of them have to come forward in developing themselves.

RJ Shantu: Okay, back to Mezba bhaiya now, what I wanted to know is, when I place orders online and the delivery person is coming, even I have sometimes had to give an excuse that i can’t take it today, or it has to be right at a specific time or something of the sort, so what kinds of problems have you faced in conducting deliveries if you could please tell us some of them?

Mezba: ….

RJ Shantu: I think he is having some connection issues, so why don’t we get to Irin apa in the meantime. Irin apa, we have spoken on the phone a couple of times but this is the first time you’re on the show with us here. Since you deal with the merchants a lot, please tell us about any experience you’ve had, stories or any trends that you’ve noticed when dealing with them.

Irin: Hello Shantu. With EZAssist we try to connect the merchants and customers to each other. Since we are speaking about deliveries today, we try our best to minimize the time between a customer placing an order and receiving it. The customers are usually always in a hurry about receiving the product, and that’s natural, but let me share an experience I had related to this.

We work with a merchant who provides diet supplements, or slimming supplements. They’re Bangladeshi resellers of the product. With their business, I’ve noticed customers expect that they’d get the product on that very same day, and they’re in a hurry to start taking it and get immediate results. So we try to collaborate with the merchant in this case about making the fast delivery, and we keep the customer in the loop, send a confirmation mail as well as call to confirm, we contact the delivery partner, usually get in touch with Mezba bhai, and give updates on these steps to the customer.

This experience varies from customer to customer, of course. Some of them are polite about it, they don’t mind waiting a couple of days to receive the product. But then there are customers who act like they must have it within that day, even if by helicopter. I think Mezba bhaiya can add more to this.

Promee: Okay,I’d like to add something here. The merchants face some challenges here. Often the merchants, if it is a small business, they may keep the products at home, but sometimes there is another location to keep the stock, or a combination of both. What happens then is if a customer orders multiple products, some of which the merchant has at home and then the rest in storage, then the merchant has to pack the products at home, also collect it from storage and pack that, gather the products from two different places and then get it delivered to the customer. I think it becomes a challenge then to figure out when the product can be processed and packed, when it will get picked up for delivery, while also keeping the customer updated on it.  And there have been cases where a merchant has 5 or 6 branches, and products had to be sourced from multiple branches, and once we even had a case where one of the products that the customer ordered was only available at a branch outside Dhaka. So then it had to be sourced from there. And the customer doesn’t know these details. So that remains a challenge in managing time and efficiency, and it also is a challenge for the merchant to optimize this process of keeping products in the locations and sourcing it and getting it delivered. I think Mezba bhai knows it better.

RJ Shantu: Mezba bhai has disconnected from us temporarily due to network issues, I think.

Irin:  I want to add a small story here. We once had a customer from Ramu village in Cox’s Bazar. She ordered a product in our central Dhaka online platform but the merchant didn’t have it available in the branches here. It was available in the Chittagong outlet, which happens to be closed right now due to lockdown. But to get the product we had to specially get in touch with the manager of that branch, have it packed and ready to be picked up by delivery and then get it to Cox’s Bazar. And then again from Cox’s Bazar it had to be then delivered to Ramu. 

RJ Shantu: So it was a complicated process, it seems. For me, when I order something online I get very impatient when I’ll be receiving it, I get so excited and can’t wait. Could you speak a little about the delivery fee in this process, especially when there seem to be so many steps and complications in getting a product handed over to the customer?

Irin: In general, we charge a particular amount for deliveries in Dhaka, around 60 to 80 taka. But for out of Dhaka, the delivery people charge an amount. It’s a bit more, and that’s natural as there are more steps in getting it delivered when outside Dhaka. The delivery companies working in Bangladesh will centrally have a standard amount that they charge.

But as you said, customers are eagerly waiting for the product. We usually let them know that it would be perhaps 3 to 4 days before they receive it. We try to get it to them sooner, usually they get it in 2 days, I think Mezba bhai can elaborate on that?

RJ Shantu: Mezba bhai? I think he is still having issues here.

Promee: Let me add something here regarding the delivery charge. Consumers often are hesitant to pay delivery if they are ordering something quite cheap, like maybe a mask of 100 taka. They don’t want to pay a delivery charge of 60 or 80 taka for something that small. They might hold off on buying something until a later date, to buy more things together from this merchant. When they make a purchase exceeding a certain amount, like maybe 500 taka, in that case the delivery doesn’t matter to them.

RJ Shantu: I think Promee apa disconnected too, is there anything you’d like to add, Irin apa? 

Irin: I’ll just continue what Promee apa was saying, so this delivery charge is something people are weary to pay when they are buying products in little amounts. Sometimes we use that and give free delivery for promotional activities, and that makes customers not hesitate to order products. We give the merchants free delivery option when offering campaigns and promotions. We even get requests sometimes from merchants to make the delivery free, or from customers. 

RJ Shantu: There is a question from on the Facebook Live comments from one of our viewers. The question is, “what about international delivery?” Irin apa if you could respond to that?

Irin: Is it regarding the process or the delivery charge?

RJ Shantu: The delivery charge, I believe.

Irin: Oh okay so regarding international delivery, there is the matter of time. If the delivery is done within 7 days, then it would cost a bit more, whether we’re using DHL or any other international courier. The cargo services charge on the basis of time, if it is to be delivered in 15-30 days, the charge becomes significantly lower. 

RJ Shantu: Mezba bhai, can we finally hear from you?

Mezba: I think it’s clear now.

RJ Shantu: Alright Mezba bhai, so you offer advance payment options as well as cash on delivery, so in these two scenarios, is there any difference that you notice in the behaviour of the customers or the overall experience?

Mezba: The delivery process is the same, but for Cash On Delivery, we’re noticing that the customers are returning parcels for many different reasons that they claim. It’s almost a 50-50 ratio now on whether they’ll accept the parcel. They say that the delivery is too late and they don’t want it anymore, or they’re not liking the product, or many other excuses.

But for packages that are already paid for or partially paid for, pretty much 90% of the parcels get accepted without hassle. 

RJ Shantu: Is there any interesting story that you may recall when conducting these deliveries? 

Mezba: A lot of things happen, this one time a delivery man waited downstairs for more than an hour, and then the customer called him up. The rule is that you check the parcel right in front of the delivery man, but this customer took it inside, kept half of the products and tried returning it to us stating that there’s something wrong with it. So customers come in many different colors and we have a lot of experiences, good or bad.

Irin: I think something that frequently occurs for delivering fashion items is that customers order the wrong size, or when they get it, it doesn’t fit properly, and they want to return or exchange the item. In that case the customer is supposed to bear the delivery charge, since they ordered the wrong size, but they are often unwilling to.

Mezba: That does happen, but sometimes even the merchants make a mistake and send the wrong size or color, in which case they bear the additional cost.

RJ Shantu: I have a question for Promee apa now, before the delivery you have to work on the product first, and during this lockdown, what kind of problems have you faced in making sales or increasing sales? 

Promee: So for products, problems with sizes and variations happen on the merchant’s side. It’s important that the merchant updates all the variations of a product, in the sizes available, and the stock available on time. That would make things easier for both the customer and the merchant, and it’s important to get down the right size and variant of product and make sure that the merchant processes exactly what the customer asked for and gets it delivered on time.

But if this inventory stocking and updating is not done right, the customer might see something on the website that’s actually sold out and place an order, then they wouldn’t get it, or they might have a size issue, and these problems arise. Mezba bhaiya, tell us a bit about what kind of issues you face when picking up products from the merchants.

Mezba: When we pick up the products, the riders don’t have much information on the product itself. They just get the location and maybe the number of products. The delivery men don’t have any authority to open the parcel or check anything or quality control anyhow. In this case, I think the merchants have that responsibility fully to ensure they’re giving the right product to the delivery people. 

Promee: Does the problem of returned products reduce when the quality is ensured?

Mezba: That issue doesn’t seem to arise much when dealing with small businesses or Facebook pages. But big brands especially, I’ve seen doing poor inventory management and updates and they seem to make more size or variant mistakes when delivering. Then products get returned and the delivery man doesn’t have anything to do here, it’s the merchant’s responsibility.

RJ Shantu: We have a comment here on Facebook Live, Shamima Ashrafi says, “I sometimes order from EZAssist but their delivery is usually delayed and slow.”

Irin: I would like to start off by apologizing to Shamima that she had such an experience. This happens in the service industry, we cannot always satisfy all our customers. Since lockdown started, sourcing different products from different locations, going through the checkposts everywhere, these things cause delays. Again sometimes it’s about finding the product itself, connecting with the merchants. That happens from poorly managed inventory, as previously discussed. For example, we have a merchant who works with spices. They sell a combo offer with 4 different kinds of spice, and it was selling out fast and soon they ran out of one kind of spice but had the other three. In this case the merchant had to take some extra time to sort this out, source the out of stock product and then resume delivery.

Promee: On another instance, a delivery man went to a pick-up location of one of the outlets and the people there didn’t even know that a rider was coming to pick up a package and they refused to give it to the rider and were acting busy. So there is a coordination required between the different outlets and the merchant handling the online side, when an order is placed the specific outlet it is to be sourced from must be informed on time to prepare the package accordingly.

I recently ordered something from Taaga, two dresses for my daughter. I kept receiving updates that the product is available and it’s going through quality control and that was good to know that the order is being processed and I’ll get a good product and I think this coordination is very important in time efficiency and the updates help the customer. 

RJ Shantu: We have another comment here, “Everything is great but the delivery time could be faster.”

A query we have here is, “For advanced payment, I need to provide my card details. Who ensures the security, your own platform or a third party?”

Promee: The question is about payment information security? So in our platform we don’t use our own payment method, we use payment gateways such as SSLCommerz, bKash, EasyPay, etc. None of the information gets captured by our platform, it all goes through these payment gateways. So the card payment or any other method goes through this payment gateway, and when the payment is done, then we receive it from there. The card numbers or bKash pin or OTPs, all the information go through the payment gateways, and the ones we use are all standard and trustworthy. There is no need to be scared of this and nothing to worry about.

Irin: I must add that all the payment gateways we use are affiliated with Bangladesh Bank and authorized. And Bangladesh Bank monitors them, they received the license to operate as payment gateways only because they can be trusted. So I’d like to address the customers that choose Cash On Delivery from this worry, I think bank payment or digital payment is hassle-free, and the rider or delivery man doesn’t have to carry huge amounts of cash and that is much safer. And a lot of people are now used to making online purchases and payments, and it is fully secured and I think I’d recommend doing that rather than going for cash on delivery.

Mezba: And if card details are too sensitive to input anywhere online, there is also the option of mobile banking.

RJ Shantu: I hope that answers the question. We do have more comments but we’ll get to that a bit later, for now let’s go on a very short break, don’t go anywhere!

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RJ Shantu: We’re nearing the end of the show now, we have another query here, “When ordering through EZAssist, even if the delivery time is fast, if I make inquiries later the response time is very slow.” Irin apa?

Irin: There is a system to give faster delivery, but about the responses, we work with AI, and have chatbots. When someone sends a message to the bot, it gets recorded and the whole process of viewing, selecting, and placing an order can be done through the bot itself. So if the customer just goes through the process, they don’t need to wait for a person to come speak with them, the process is automatic. 

RJ Shantu: The E-commerce sector is growing at a fast speed, and there is no alternative. How significant do you think the contribution of a delivery company is in this growth or development? 

Mezba: Delivery companies, or logistic support companies, whatever you call it, a merchant can make a digital website and do everything right but if they don’t get the delivery handled right and customers don’t receive the product on time, then the customer will not be satisfied. So I think the logistic support companies play a key role in this.

RJ Shantu: What areas do you think could be improved upon? 

Mezba: In the big cities like Dhaka or Chittagong, deliveries are usually very smooth and already have a good structure. But suburban or rural areas have not reached that level yet, and there are problems with delivering packages quite frequently. There is the post office but the service is often lacking. So transportation, connectivity, we need to strengthen that to the point that we can deliver packages anywhere in Bangladesh at all within 3 days.

And there is a huge market outside big cities, people who want to make purchases but can’t due to the lack of delivery access.

RJ Shantu: Promee apa?

Promee: All the segments of the ecosystem of online deliveries, starting from the merchant to the platform to the delivery company to the customer, the whole ecosystem needs to work together to make digitalization successful.

RJ Shantu: Irin apa?

Irin: In Dhaka, customers have a lot of options. People can go to stores to buy things, not worry about getting deliveries, etc. But people outside Dhaka or big cities, they don’t have the options and with efficient delivery, there is a huge market to be captured and a growth opportunity for businesses everywhere because people are using the internet and they might get interested to order something. And there are also people who are very loyal to a brand, and with the right access will definitely buy online from remote areas too. 

RJ Shantu: Especially with the lockdown and dependency that people are growing on delivery services, logistics support is truly an integral part of the ecosystem and very dependent on it. 

We’re at the end of the show, Mezba bhai, do you have any short message to say to the audience?

Mezba: I’d like to address the merchants or small entrepreneurs conducting business or SMEs that if you use a proper system for your online platform and services and increase efficiency there, this would ensure a smoother delivery process and it would support the logistics team too and ensure your own business growth and continuity.

RJ Shantu: Promee apa? 

Promee: Thank you to everyone who is still tuning in with us or watching the Live. We share our challenges on these episodes so that you can relate to it, as merchants, but challenges don’t mean that people cannot get out of them. The point of learning about it is so we can overcome it and ensure a smooth digital transition and efficient operations.

RJ Shantu: Irin apa?

Irin: Thank you all the viewers and audience for being with us. There is no alternative to digitalization now, businesses have to establish themselves online and have a digital presence. We’re trying our best to acquire merchants and businesses to convert and come onto the platform with EZAssist. The challenges we’re facing now, hopefully a year down the line we’ll be over them or have made progress. 

RJ Shantu: Thank you so much everyone. On our episode today we had with us Syeda Nawshad Jahan Promee, Chief Operating Officer, Loosely Coupled Technologies, Irin Parveen, Senior Manager, Customer Success, Loosely Coupled Technologies, and Mezba Uddin Ahmed Arnob, HOD, Local Delivery Unit, C-Express and Capital Logistics Ltd.

If you think about 5 years ago or 5 years from now, there just isn’t any alternative to going digital. So I think businesses should get onto the wave as soon as possible, because it is truly a lifeline now, a must for survival. And this whole transition has been sped up by the COVID situation. Your favorite brand is currently closed right now but if they have a website you can easily place an order.

And I’d like to let the audience know that you can go to Bibiana’s Facebook page and send a Hi to the EZAssist chatbot and you can avail a 50% discount on all their products.

And with that, we’re coming to the end of the third episode of Go Digital With EZAssist.  Stay well, stay safe. 

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