Mercari’s Unwavering Passion for Customer Support: The Tokyo, Sendai, and Fukuoka CS Teams Discuss Their Roles
Have you ever wondered why Mercari has customer support offices in three different cities? Well, Tokyo coordinates with the development and PR teams to improve Mercari’s services; Fukuoka handles user support; and Sendai handles both user support and fraud detection. Let’s take a closer look at each Mercari Group CS Office’s areas of responsibility.
Since our beginnings, Mercari has focused on customer support (CS) as a cornerstone for expanding our service. This is why soon after the company was established, we opened our offices in Sendai and Fukuoka in April 2014 and March 2017, respectively. The CS group shares its work duties between the different offices and has continued to update their roles. So where are things now?
In this Mercan article, we’ll be introducing you to Directors Kazuhiro Yamada and Michihito Nishigaki of the Tokyo CS Office; Satoshi Miura, a Manager at the Sendai CS Office; and Ryosuke Onuki, a Manager at the Fukuoka CS Office. They’ll discuss the journey starting from the establishment of each Mercari CS office leading up to the present as well as where CS is headed. Mika Umezaki, a manager with Fukuoka CS, led this interview.
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Kazuhiro YamadaFor roughly seven years, Yamada worked in the Customer Support Department at mixi, Inc. During that time he was involved in the launch of a social gaming industry group and implemented a service health initiative for the protection of youth. He joined Mercari, Inc. in April 2014. In his work as a manager in our CS Division, he was in charge of opening the Sendai Office, designing the office’s customer support work, as well as hiring and training new members. In February 2017 he assumed the position of Vice President and now works as Director of the CS Tokyo Office.
Michihito NishigakiAfter graduating from university, Nishigaki worked in customer support for a number of companies and was in charge of improving the operations of customer support work and at customer centers. At his previous employer, SKY Perfect Customer-relations Corporation, he worked in customer service center operations and related work for SKY PerfecTV!, a direct broadcast satellite service. He has been at his current position since September 2018. As a TnS (Trust & Safety) Director, he works on environmental maintenance to provide safe and secure services to our users, including the construction of a system that monitors for prohibited items and activities. He also leads the Market Policy Committee.
Osamu MiuraMiura started his career working as a customer service operator in the CS department of a BPO services company where he was in charge of operations management. In January of 2019, he joined Mercari as a Manager for TnS (Trust & Safety) and implemented the construction of a system that monitors for prohibited items and activities. Since April 2020, he has been in charge of operations building and overall management for CS Operations. In July 2019, he started working as the office manager for the Sendai CS Office.
Ryosuke OnukiOnuki started his career working as a customer service operator in the CS department of a BPO services company where he was in charge of operations management. In his previous work for Amazon Japan G.K., he worked in the CS department, where he was in charge of training, and also worked on managing outsource vendors. He has been at his current position since September 2018. He is in charge of operations building and overall management for CS Operations. In September 2020, he started working as the office manager for the Fukuoka CS Office.
Mika UmezakiAfter graduating from university, Umezaki worked as a manufacturing documents consultant. In January 2018, she joined Mercari, Inc. as a CX product manager. She is now the manager of a team that works to improve the Mercari marketplace app based on feedback received from the Voice of Customer and Voice of Employee programs.
Could you describe the area of responsibility and the organization for each of Mercari’s CS offices in Tokyo, Sendai, and Fukuoka?
Umezaki: Mercari has offices in Tokyo, Sendai, and Fukuoka. Could you revisit each office’s role and organization for our readers?
Yamada: Sure. In simple terms, our organizations are kind of like this:
– The Tokyo CS Office analyzes the issues brought to light in the inquiries we receive from our users and coordinates with the product development, PR, and legal teams, to improve Mercari’s services.
– The Sendai CS Office handles Mercari customer support and matters that mainly involve fraud detection.
– The Fukuoka CS Office handles customer support for Mercari and Merpay.
Nishigaki: The Tokyo Office takes care of program building, and the Sendai and Fukuoka offices are the bases of our operations teams. The roles of each office are very distinct. The Tokyo Office takes advantage of its proximity to other related divisions and teams based at the Mercari Tokyo Office to deliver Voice of the Customer (VOC) information to the product, PR, legal and other teams and build mechanisms to drive the cycle that improves our services.
Yamada: For regular CS, there are a lot of companies where planning and operations are separated. In that sense, the fact that Mercari is expanding the Program Team within CS could be viewed as an advantage of how we are structured.
Mercari has placed a lot of importance on CS as a cornerstone of expanding our services, which is evident in such things as our setting up the CS office in Sendai soon after the inception of the company. We not only work on customer support, but also have a track record of working to improve our service in combination with the analysis of comments we collect from our customers and our discussions with product development teams. As such, the role of CS at Mercari looms large. The role of CS is such that prior to the release of a new feature, the product side will contact CS to ask if we have received any feedback or requests from our users that the new feature addresses.
Kazuhiro Yamada (Director of Tokyo CS Office)
Umezaki: So does this mean that the Sendai Office is also in charge of CS work that mainly deals with fraud detection?
Miura: Actually, at the Sendai Office, we are mainly in charge of handling customer support inquiries from Mercari’s users and of monitoring and deleting prohibited items uncovered when handling user inquiries. In addition, we also have teams that deal with third-party organizations and teams that take care of such things as incident handling. The scope of our work is broad.
Onuki: On the other hand, at the Fukuoka Office, we mainly handle customer support for Mercari and Merpay. In a single day we receive roughly 20,000 Mercari and Merpay inquiries combined. The Fukuoka and Sendai offices handle these in cooperation with our outsourcing partners. In our work, we focus on making the user experience better.
Osamu Miura (Manager at the Sendai CS Office)
Unique roles for each office: Improving services in Tokyo, tackling CS and fraud detection in Sendai, handling CS in Fukuoka
Umezaki: Have you noticed any changes compared to when Mercari first established the CS organization?
Yamada: One thing that hasn’t changed since the inception of the company is our proximity to the product teams. Mercari CS does more than just handle customer support. We also take part in designing services as allies helping to build our business.
At present, the scale of our organization is changing. As the number of users increases, people’s expectations of Mercari’s services are also growing. This is why we must provide users with an experience that exceeds their expectations.
Nishigaki: It feels like we finally have the foundation that we need as a CS organization. Going forward, I would like for us to move on to the next step as a CS organization. The scale of Mercari’s business is growing, so CS is also expanding. However, we are now turning into an organization that deals with CS matters without being defined solely as a CS organization.
Michihito Nishigaki (Director of Tokyo CS Office)
Onuki: To that end, there are two things that I would like to do. The first is that I would like us to strengthen the CS operations for when we launch a new service. Even when we are launching a new service, if it takes us three or four days to handle inquiries, we will lose users. We are therefore working to build CS operations that can provide robust support in such cases.
The other thing I would like us to do is improve our existing operations. In order to adapt to the growth that Mercari has experienced to date, we added to existing elements that we had already built up, and therefore there are elements that don’t match or are pointless because they were built on the fly. We think that, where necessary, we have to return to square one and also redesign operations where needed.
Umezaki: And of course, there are a lot of times when you coordinate between offices, correct? What do you see as especially important in this process?
Yamada: If there is anything worth mentioning, I would have to say not making a distinction between head office and our branch offices. Although we are physically separated by distance, we are not really separate. As far as our users are concerned, it doesn’t matter where the office that deals with them is located.
Onuki: That’s true. Our organizations work cooperatively and with mutual respect, so I don’t think there is any sort of disconnect between our respective offices.
Miura: Especially during the pandemic months of 2020, we saw an upsurge in the number of occasions in which we communicated online, but I did not feel any physical distance at all. I feel that we are connected and that our organizations are now even stronger.
Ryosuke Onuki, Manager of Mercari Fukuoka CS Office (left) and Mika Umezaki, Manager of Fukuoka CS
Coordinating between the three offices and the traits of the members who work in CS
Umezaki: What is it that the people at each office focus on in their work?
Yamada: There are a lot of opportunities for us to coordinate with product development and operations teams, and therefore we try to ensure smooth coordination between the people involved in projects. The members who work for us have a variety of skills, so each of them can easily flex their expertise in each area.
Nishigaki: To provide a safe and secure service to our users, I believe it’s important to always maintain a sense of timeliness and to have the ability to keep things moving along. As far as demonstrating leadership and establishing ideal rules and countermeasures are concerned, I think we need to engage our stakeholders in a variety of discussions and proposals on a daily basis.
Umezaki: What about at the Fukuoka and Sendai offices?
Miura: There are a lot of teams that handle customer support, and so it’s always important to see things from the user’s point of view. In our daily work we think about what we can do to create a better user experience and continuously build on past improvements.
Onuki: We design and operate our work centered on our users, and so we have serious discussions about how we can improve user experience and implement the initiatives that we come up with. What’s more, we are now examining what we can do to build a better work environment for our members who work at the Fukuoka Office.
Umezaki: What can you tell us about the members who work for Mercari CS?
Miura: Our members of course have experience working in CS, but we also have members from a variety of career backgrounds, including engineers, website directors, and engineering managers. I think it’s easy to feel inspired by the diversity of our members.
Onuki: At the Fukuoka Office, I think there are a lot of members who have no experience in CS and who are excelling in their work. The common factor here is how selfless people are, and how they talk from the perspective of the users or supporting members. For me, this is something that I really like.
In essence, there are a lot of good people working with us (in Fukuoka), but then you could say the same thing about the entire CS organization. There are no tacit walls running between our sections, so if someone is in a tight spot, the team next to them or people from another division will provide support. Our culture is one of helping each other, so it’s very easy to work here.
How are thinking coming on establishing a system “that deals with CS matters without being defined solely as a CS organization”?
Umezaki: Currently, what are the advantages of working for Mercari CS?
Nishigaki: We’ve already touched on this several times during our discussion, but working for Mercari CS is not the sort of job where your duties exclusively involve user support. At Mercari, there are also a lot of situations where decisions are made based primarily on CS. The rules for CS can of course change, and the content of the services that Mercari provides can change with a focus on CS. The fact that our position allows us to demonstrate performance that goes beyond what you might call CS is the sort of thing that makes Mercari the company that it is.
Yamada: If we emphasize our commitment to the user experience while seeing things from the user’s point of view, we should be able to forge any number of new paths. In terms of where a career in CS can take you, Mercari Japan CEO Hirohisa Tamonoki used to work in CS. Becoming a CEO is no longer just a fantasy for CS members (laughs).
Yamada: There aren’t many services like Mercari where CS is involved to the extent that we are in decision-making that affects the user experience. Taking ownership of our work and being able to speak out more and more is rooted in our corporate culture and as part of our company. I think that, for people who thrive at generating output in a team environment, Mercari is an easy place to work.
Umezaki: Just before you said that your team is aiming to become a team that deals with CS matters without being defined solely as a CS organization (as Mercari’s business grows). How much progress have you made with this?
Yamada: For the Tokyo Office Program Team, I would say that we’re about 20 to 30% of the way there. The reason being, to improve the user experience, we have to not only update the mechanisms we have come up with ourselves, but also the tools that we use. There are a lot of challenges that we would like to take on.
Onuki: I would say that it’s the same for the operations team at the Fukuoka Office. The new CS ideal that we are aiming for will see CS generate business ideas and proposals for ideas, thereby contributing to the business. Currently we are about 20 to 30% of the way there.
Miura: It feels that way in Sendai too. I think we’ve managed to clear the bar as a CS organization, but based on the goal that we should be striving for, we’re not there yet. This is why I think that I would like to build the future of CS together with people who bring to the table knowledge they have acquired outside of Mercari.
Yamada: To get the job done, I think we will need to incorporate the strengths of new members as well. We will of course forge ahead with our current members and combine our efforts with new Mercari members to strengthen our organization going forward.