Fred Karlsson is a Swedish entrepreneur and co-founder of DoneDeal.ie along with his wife Geraldine, a native of county Wexford where the business was founded and is currently situated. Karlsson is a self-confessed 'techie' and was involved in the creation of video games alongside a childhood friend from as early as 14 years of age. Upon graduation from the University of Lund with a diploma in Computer Science in 1997, Fred moved to Ireland for 3 years where he met his wife-to-be before relocating to Australia for a year and Sweden for a further 3 before returning to Ireland in '04. (Karlsson, 2012)
The idea for an Irish online classified ads website emanated in 2005 when the couple wished to purchase second-hand furniture online from a local source as was readily available in Sweden and found that no such website catered for these needs in Ireland. In typical entrepreneurial fashion, the pair realised that there was a large gap in the market to establish an online classifieds website as Ireland's closest equivalent at the time was the 'back-of-the-paper ad' often unaccompanied by illustration so the consumer was blind as to what they were purchasing. Ergo, DoneDeal.ie was born in June 2005. (Done Deal, 2011)
Since Done Deal’s inception, the enterprise has been a roaring success. Only seven months online, the site hosted over 2,000 ads across a variety of categories, a figure which stayed relatively constant for the following year (circa. 2,257 ads carried in Dec. 2007). However, that number snowballed in the subsequent months as traffic (grew by an average of 10% monthly) and advertisements (2008:269% and by a further 923% in 2009) had ameliorated vastly, as detailed in the tables below.
[pic] (Done Deal, 2011) - Ads growth between June 2007 and December 2009
(Done Deal, 2011) - Site traffic between June ’06 and Dec. ‘09
The firm continued to expand rapidly and in May 2011, Done Deal had more than 2 million unique visitors to the site. As of the end of January 2012, the online classifieds giant hosted approx. 160,000 ads, 90,000 of which are newly advertised each month. In 2011, it was “confirmed as Ireland’s fastest rising Google search term in 2011, ahead of Pippa Middleton and the iPhone 5”, no mean feat! (Cullen, 2012)
I believe these gross growth figures are attributable to the entrepreneurial instinct and foresight applied by Fred and his team, as well as the business model the company exercises to achieve their goals. First and foremost, in my opinion the primary justification one could derive for such success is the company’s approach to its customers and customer feedback. According the Geraldine herself, she feels customer service should be provided “properly”. The business employs an email only customer service approach as Fred, in typical entrepreneurial fashion, believes that time spent on the phone is time was as it could have been spent “growing the business”. (Karlsson, Fred's Talk at the 2010 Dublin Web Summit, 2010) There is a strict policy that all emails will be answered within 24 business hours of receiving an email. (Done Deal, 2011) This timeframe does not only facilitate the company to make a timely and informed response but it allows the customer to receive swift feedback in relation to any queries they may have; a desirable and equally service offered by a company of Done Deal’s magnitude. Who wants to return to do business with a firm where queries have a turnaround of a week?
Fred Karlsson views customer service as a marketing opportunity rather than a cost. Not only does an efficient customer service regarding qualms an individual has “instil confidence and trust” about the website but it accommodates the firm to delve deeper into the psyche of its customer base and establish what it is the customer expects and wants from the website. Done Deal...