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Correspondent 36

Market Niches, Customer Service Coming to the Fore

by Paul Miazga
A lot of the economy in Ukraine is all about monopoly business. Until Turkcell and DCC teamed up to form the life:) brand and challenge market leaders UMC and Kyivstar, mobile phone users here had no real choice in that respect. For grocery stores, the choices are now myriad – MegaMarket, Furshet, Velyka Kyshenya, Metro and others – but just five years ago these were just novice franchises not seen outside the capital. Now, Kyiv is a veritable consumer paradise compared to what it once was.

In the above market segments as in almost any major business in Ukraine, being first has traditionally mattered most, but now that Ukrainians are becoming more cost-conscious and bargain hungry, that’s changing. Customer service has actually started to mean something and paying a lot for anything has begun to fall out of fashion, if only slightly.

As but one good example, take the idea of packing and moving. In the West you can rent a large van, buy a bunch of beer and pizza, invite over some friends on a weekend and get the job done. Total cost? Maybe $200, food and beers included. In Ukraine, the situation is rather different. The first time I heard how much it cost to move in Ukraine, the price nearly made my hair fall out. Most professional, western moving companies typically charge anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 or more to pack up all your stuff and move it out of the country. That kind of quashed any ideas I had about using a professional mover if I ever decided to leave the country.

But then I heard about Muravej (“Ants”; www.muravej.ua). This smart little company, apparently the off-shoot of a successful Russian business, packs up all your stuff from home or office and – according to first-hand testimonials I’ve heard – does it quickly, professionally and well, and for a fraction of the cost of the big western firms. Good news for the cost-conscious. While the English version of their website isn’t yet up and running, it’s pretty simply laid out. Call them up at (8044) 568 6365 and get a quote, or email operations@muravej.ua.
Along the same lines
Another nice surprise in customer service and better pricing is the Arbat Prestige cosmetics, toiletries and perfume shop that’s just opened up on Volodymyrska near Zoloti Vorota. Again, a Moscow-based chain, Arbat Prestige has quickly caught the attention of Kyivans frustrated with the lackadaisical attitude of the staff and management and De-Tseh (the toiletries and perfume shops with the green signage).

My girlfriend recently had her wallet stolen on the metro and in her wallet was her De-Tseh card. She asked about getting a replacement and was told to see the website. She went there and it told her to go see a store manager. She returned and they told her to see the website. To make a long story short, they refused to grant her a new card unless she spent Hr 200 and was prepared to fill out all her personal information again, including the number of her lost card, even though a store manager admitted that they had her name and personal details on file. We don’t shop there anymore, but we do at Arbat Prestige.

Employees at Arbat Prestige – the store is bright, spacious, with prices that beat De-Tseh in most every respect – quickly made a good impression on my girlfriend. They signed her up for a discount card on the spot, offered her a bunch of free stuff to win over her loyalty (it wasn’t hard given the experience at the Ukrainian chain store) and generally treated her like a valued customer before she’d even bought anything.

Like I say, things around here continue to improve, if only slightly and in unexpected ways at times, but better late than never. Personally, I can’t wait for the service on local trains (let alone the trains themselves) to improve.

"Fast and efficient, the Muravej (‘Ants’) moving company is a cost-efficient local take on a typically western service." (www.muravej.ua)


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