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Can Pakistani home repair startup Sukoon.com.pk live up to its name?

Six months ago, I nearly went insane getting my AC repaired. It took a mammoth amount of effort to find a reliable person for the job, to have him come on time and to eventually have the problem fixed.

The result? We ended up opting for a new appliance. It was only after I shared my ordeal with a colleague that I got to know of Sukoon.com.pk.

Although I didn’t need a repair man any longer, I was intrigued by the startup. What got my attention was their simple, but effective brand name, Sukoon, which means peace or contentment.

Getting a repair man in Karachi is usually anything but an experience that can be described by the word ‘sukoon’.
The idea

We all have been there, running after the ‘mohalley waley’ handymen. And boy do they drive you up the wall! The endless phone calls, the waiting, the never-ending problems.

This startup promises to remove the stress associated with household repairs and maintenance work, by providing offering a comprehensive handymen services under one roof.

Whether you need an electrician or a plumber, an AC repairman or a mason, a carpenter or a painter, Sukoon vows to have the right person for the job. Place an order via the website or call and they’ll have someone come over to resolve your issue.
How it works

Say you need a plumber. You are required to fill the order form given on the website. You choose the timing, the nature of the plumbing work (bath tub installation, flush tank, geyser and lots more) and the day you want to have it done. Once the order is confirmed, they will send a background verified handyman within 6 to 8 working hours at the earliest.
Sukoon.com.pk order form

According to the company, the handymen provided have all undergone background checks and are ‘verified’.

You can even place an order over the phone, but I suggest using the website for a quicker user experience when dealing with information regarding your address, timings and nature of problem.
The trust factor

A few people I spoke to about the service were concerned about the authenticity and reliability of the handymen on offer. People are usually intimidated by online ventures and instead opt for the traditional trial and error method rather than ‘someone on the internet’. The attitude springs from a lack of understanding the service — a trend fairly common among an older demographic that is not computer savvy.

The younger the users however, the more eager they were to try out Sukoon’s service. Of those that tried the service, some had an overall positive experience, some wanted better and some were downright disappointed.

One needs to keep in mind that Sukoon has ventured into a highly unregulated industry, lacking specified standards and quality benchmarks. Unlike other countries around the world where handymen have professional training and experience certifications, Pakistan lags behind in recognising such jobs as ‘formal’ professions.

Any startup targeting this field will have to face ambivalence and difficulties with respect to security, efficiency and professionalism.

Below is the summary of multiple concerns people have about the startup. These concerns have been obtained through speaking with customers of Sukoon and from social media reviews. The company’s Facbeook page currently shows 57 one star reviews, with issues ranging from poor customer handling to over pricing.

The owner of Sukoon, Shoaib Iqbal shares his views in response to these concerns.
User ratings from Sukoon’s Facebook page

What security protocol do you follow with regards to the staff you employ? Do you have any way to decipher whether they are quoting the right price doing the job right?

Sukoon has a very strict quality assurance procedure. We encourage our customers to provide feedback on a regular basis which is then thoroughly used to evaluate a worker. Workers with most good reviews are rewarded whereas strict action is taken against workers involved in any sort of malpractice such as overcharging, not completing the task to the customer’s satisfaction or any other thing. Since we are operating on a big scale we have to induct workers on a regular basis, we do our part of doing background checks to an extent but ongoing community rating of workers and customers is most effective when it comes to quality assurance.
Are all your handymen certified? If so, what are your approval standards? Do you also provide them with additional training?

Many of our handymen are certified from various technical institutions that offer diploma and associate degrees. At the same time we need to understand that Sukoon is an aggregation platform for home services and most of the workers available are highly experienced but they don’t have any formal diploma or certification for their work. In the services industry, experience of customer handling and problem resolution plays a very crucial role and hence we work with such highly experienced workers too but our preference is always to induct formally trained workers first.

As the labour force in Pakistan is largely un-regularized, we do train them on providing a satisfactory customer experience. The freshly inducted workers are lined up with an experienced technician to gain hands on experience and learn from field work. So yes, it can be said that the technicians working with us do get additional technical and behavioral training.
How does your pricing model differ from the local handyman?

Well, this is very interesting and we regularly face this question. Since there is no pricing benchmark available in our country for deciding the price of a particular repair work, we can’t compare ourselves against any benchmark. At the same time the situation at every customer differs so we find it very difficult to standardize the pricing. We are constantly monitoring the prices of the work that we do on a regular basis and if the customer is satisfied with it then we make it a part of our standardized pricing model for the future.

For decades the pricing for such work has been happening on an arbitrary basis and hence we are gathering a lot of data points to create a win-win situation for the workers as well as the customers using our platform.
Most customers have complained of being charged for multiple visits without resolving the issue. How would you respond to that?

We do provide 7-day warranty for any work that we do. If we receive any complaints within 7 days for the same work as we did earlier, then we don’t charge any additional amount for labour charges. However, if the complaint is due to any hardware breakdown then we don’t take any responsibility for that as our workers provide services only.
Any plans for additional enhancements to your current business model?

Currently, we are upping the ante in our present city of operation, Karachi. However, we also plan to launch more services as well as expanding to other cities of Pakistan.

Our main focus at the moment is on improving user experience because that is where we feel the most effort is required but given the fact the workers have never been exposed to any online services marketplace before, it’s a herculean task but we are on the top of it.

Any problem that our customers face is our problem regardless if it’s because of the independent worker, situation in the city or because of any other external factor and we are constantly working on improving our services based on feedback.
What can customers do?

While exploring Sukoon’s service, I understood an important point. Sometimes, customers should also have a proactive attitude towards demanding a better service. Despite several delays, my colleague didn’t end up berating them, but was kind enough to see through their can-do effort and welcomed their willingness to solve a problem within certain constraints.

In his instance, the repair men went to the extent of climbing a wall to the first floor instead of waiting for the availability of a ladder (after a follow up phone call from the company and an unsuccessful ladder hunt). It is therefore not what Sukoon has to offer, but what the people they employ are capable of doing. Here are a few tips to ensure a smooth experience when using Sukoon:

Be clear with your requirements: My colleague clearly stated he cannot arrange ladders or pipes, but if Sukoon can do it, he will pay them for it.

Be aware of the costs: Before you proceed to finalising the order, know what kind of charges would be applied for the services required. It’s better to confirm with the company first before you finalise the deal with the repair man. If you are a tad bit proactive, you may also want to find out the market costs of getting the same task done and decide whether you are being over charged or not.

Be patient and lower expectations: Running an online repair service is difficult considering our labor force does not have any formal structure. Therefore, expect less of the labor force coming to you. Even though they come from an online service organization, they still may be far behind in terms of professional training or customer service protocols.

Our verdict

Sukoon could be a good venture if it can focus on resolving core issues of security, reliability and consistency. The methods of background checks they use, training schools or institutes they are affiliated with, the regulatory processes they follow; these are some of the areas that require attention and transparency.

There is no doubt that people are looking forward to using their services, but observational data obtained from Facebook reviews and queries show that trust and reliability are still amiss.

If Sukoon can focus on setting standards and quality benchmarks, training employees on customer service and adopting a can-do attitude; it can grow into an organization that people can trust enough to open their doors to.

When it comes to online service providers, our market is still made up of skeptical customers. An organisation that can address the concerns of such customers will find itself creating a strong foothold going forward.

Farah is a writer by passion and tech enthusiast by curiosity. She covers startups and tech stories that drive social change.

Courtesy : Dawn News

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