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    Outsourcing Customer Support to Crowdsourced Brand Advocates

    Customer communications can sometimes make or break a brand. Good customer support helps retain prime customers, it can change the opinions of people who complain, it can up-sell to boost revenue, and provide feedback for the rest of an organization to better understand the needs and expectations of its users or customers. Crowdsourcing loyal brand advocates, rather than employees, to provide crowdsourced Customer Support is a growing trend, and offers a different solution to appointing a call center.

    The history of crowdsourcing customer support

    The original innovator of crowdsourced customer service is generally accepted to have been the mobile telephone network GiffGaff, which started in 2009. They refer to their customers as members. They are not tied-in by contracts and can leave whenever they want. It is vital that their requirements can be met, and any difficulties or queries resolved.

    All members are eligible for cash rewards when they recommend friends who are on-boarded. It was a logical step to use members for a customer support service as well as a customer acquisition role, so members can also earn from GiffGaff by helping others on the community forums, offering ideas and feedback, and creating content. The cash can be taken personally or directed to a charity of each member’s choice.

    The benefits of crowdsourcing customer support

    Getting customers to help each other has several benefits. Advice from other customers who are “lending a hand” is generally perceived to be more independent and objective than coming from an employee. The “helpers” are also under no obligation to do it, and do so through a passion for the brand and its values. They have their own range of customer experiences to fall back on and recap to engage with callers. It all makes for a better customer experience.

    Organizations create fast, on-demand access to additional people when they need them at busier times, without having to pay employees during quieter down time. The contact moments are more human-to-human due to the nature of people talking about the brand because they are passionate about it, rather than because it’s their main source of income. A smaller team of company employees can focus on escalations, complaints, and the technical and financial aspects, which can require specialist knowledge or perhaps vetted authorization to access confidential data.

    Who helps the brand owners? Service providers and case studies

    There are a number of crowd-based solution providers that organizations can go to for guidance and assistance in setting up their own crowdsourced customer support from brand advocates to help other customers, whether existing or potential.

    Limitless

    Limitless is a London-based startup in this sector. They recently won an ECCCSA Silver Award for “Best Customer Engagement Approach” with their work with the Sage accountancy software provider. Unilever, the world’s largest consumer goods conglomerate, relies on crowdsourcing via Limitless to provide world-class customer support.

    Microsoft is another very high profile client. Customers calling into Microsoft Support are provided, via IVR, the choice to ‘message an Expert’. Upon choosing this option, customers receive an instant text message with a link to the Limitless Live Messenger™ widget. Through this messaging widget, customers can instantly connect with a Crowd of Experts who can then provide instantaneous support. With Limitless Live Messenger™, Microsoft is able to leverage its fans’ knowledge and enthusiasm to resolve customer queries regarding managing user accounts, billing and subscriptions.

    iAdvize

    Other providers of crowdsourced customer support solutions include iAdvize in France. It calls itself a Conversational platform “that allows more than 2,000 brands in 100 countries to bring profitable human touch to the digital experience at scale.” It provides brand owners with any combination of chatbots, live calls and a messaging service, through ibbü, an on-demand community of experts, curated specifically for each brand.

    Ibbü’s crowd of brand advocates numbered 800 monthly experts through 2021, holding 2 million conversations in 15 countries to provides online visitors with their expertise. The average customer satisfaction score is 89%. The call handlers’ expertise becomes extra income which is automatically transferred to bank accounts on a weekly basis.  These experts are true enthusiasts.

    Notable clients include the Decathlon sports goods and clothing retailer, and the E.ON energy company. Here’s a link to how they helped Otterbox become the number one selling US brand of smartphone cases.

    Mila

    Swiss-owned Mila specializes in providing technical support for screen/entertainment equipment, for residential customers and business clients across Europe. Users of the service can book appointments to talk with a helpful adviser who is not a  brand owner’s employee. It is a paid-for service, and clear pricing enables users to know how much their query will cost to resolve. The support they receive could be a conversation, or maybe a Mila expert will come to their home, bringing all the equipment needed to resolve the issue that has been described.

    Mila technicians are members of the largest network of its nature in Europe. They can choose to earn as little or as much as they want. There are two grades: Mila Friends are tech-savvy individuals who want to do Mila jobs on the side; Mila Pros include professional technicians, computer scientists or electricians – who either work independently or as a company. Mila technicians have access to the Mila Academy. High-quality courses, tutorials, discussion forums and tech news help them keep their knowledge up-to-date and expand the range of services they can provide. Each new skill opens up more work opportunities.

    Mila clients include Bosch, Samsung, Amazon, Logitech and Sonos.

    We always like to hear from the Crowdsourcing Week community. Are you engaged in gig work of this nature as a brand advocate? What insights can you share with us?

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