Imagine a situation where you, or someone you know, has bought a new piece of electronic equipment and after you get it home and take it out the box, you just can’t get it to work. You read and try to follow the instructions carefully but you just can’t get the thing to do what you want it to do i.e. work.
You consult the website of the company that you bought it from and, frustrated that you can’t find the answer that you are looking for, you resort to giving the company a call to see if you can get some help.
After waiting a little while in the phone queue you get through to a helpful representative who proceeds to ask you a series of questions and then offers some advice on what the problem might be and how to solve it. However, despite their advice you still can’t seem to get the darn thing to work.
The customer service representative suggests that he could arrange to have a field engineer come round to look at the problem but that would incur an additional charge and you would have to wait for few days til an engineer was free and in your area.
That doesn’t work for you as you want the problem solved sooner than that.
The representative then says that they are just rolling out a new scheme where they pair customers that are experiencing small product or installation type issues with some of their other customers who are tech-savvy, live in the same neighbourhood as you do and are willing to help for a small fee. These tech-savvy professionals are all existing customers of the company, are all vetted and are all trained by the company so they know the products and services really well.
The representative explains that the way it works is that they refer to you to a website where you can enter your postal/zip code and then you are shown a series of these ‘Friends’ (as the company refers to them), their pictures, profiles, what areas they can help with, their location, what they charge, their customer reviews and their service rating scores.
You say that that sounds like a great idea and after bringing up the website, you enter your postal/zip code, select a ‘Friend’ to help you and after being in contact with them and agreeing an appointment, within 3 hours your friendly, tech-savvy neighbour has been round to your house, has fixed your problem and you are happily enjoying the use of your new piece of electronic equipment.
How does that sound?
In essence, what they are doing is that they are tapping into the collaborative/sharing economy and helping large organisations to crowd source their ‘in-field’ customer service and build extended service communities by empowering an organisations customers to help other customers in the field, at their homes and in real time.
This responds to a problem that is facing many large organisations i.e. the demand for real-time service in the field. The challenge, however, is that to deliver that type of service via a team of field engineers if the demand isn’t big enough is prohibitively expensive and doesn’t make economic sense.
Therefore, this sort of crowd sourcing approach works well.
In fact, Swisscom, following an initial pilot in Zurich, now has around 1,000 ‘Friends’ in their programme spread out across the whole of Switzerland and over 90% of their customers are receiving help within the first 3 hours of posting a request. In addition, the average rating for every piece of help given by Swisscom Friends is 4.7 stars out of 5.
The benefits don’t stop there as Swisscom is also benefiting from call deflection, a decrease in the number of support requests in many of their traditional customer service channels, an increase in their overall customer satisfaction and an uptick in additional sales.
In think this is a really interesting and innovative approach and I’m excited to see how it can be applied to other industries as a way of allowing large organisations deliver the sort of service that their customers want but in a way that makes economic sense.