Why Brands Crowdsourcing Customer Service With Friendly Neighbors

For several years now, the practice of allowing customers help one another on online company forums has been routine at some of the world’s largest companies such as Apple, Samsung, and Sony. The trend now is to take this practice to the physical world.

As more companies look to meet the heightened expectations of consumers, they are tapping their own customers – especially their brand advocates — to help them. Call it crowdsourcing or collaborative customer service. Companies such as Switzerland’s largest mobile operator Swisscom, Germany’s mobile operator Vodafone, and DHL Sweden have set up online platforms where customers can help customers by providing additional support or services in the physical world.

The additional support isn’t meant as a replacement of a company’s service obligations, and it isn’t a foisting off of support responsibilities. Rather, it extends support to feature-rich or complex products, or encourages knowledge sharing to make the most of them. For example, Swisscom sells broadband. Customers looking for help putting child-friendly web filters on their browsers can go to the Swisscom Friends online platform and find neighborhood help to install the software on their computers.

The trend is set to continue, especially as more and more customers look for self-service options and collaborative economy or sharing economy practices pioneered by Airbnb and Uber take hold among consumers.

So, here are our top 5 reasons we believe that customers can be your greatest asset in extending your customer service.

Extend Customer Support Beyond Your Company’s Obligations

Consumers today demand near-perfect customer service. They want nearly instant responses to their issues, quick solutions, and service to cover every aspect of a product. In some instances, a brand can take a negative hit even when they aren’t technically responsible for the support of a product. This often happens when brands sell complex products, or products that require a high level of effort to get it operational. For example, anyone who has ever bought a piece of flat-pack furniture knows that you pay a much cheaper price because you are required to assemble it. But not everyone wants to spend three hours wrestling with screws, wooden dowels, and Allen wrenches to put the furniture together. Yet the brand takes the heat as the consumer struggles to build it. Why not offer customers the ability to find someone who will build it for them, at a time convenient for them, and at a price they are happy with?

Offer Customer Support On Their Schedule

Consumers are growing more impatient by the day. They want their issues resolved quicker than ever. But the reality is consumers are often too busy to take time out of their working day to solve their product issues. On the bright side, consumers are more willing than ever to resolve their own issues either by self-service means or turning to other consumers. The success of collaborative economy giants Uber, Lyft and Airbnb have shown that consumers are open to the idea of getting help or using the assets of other consumers. Companies can tap their own customers who have knowledge of their product to provide additional support at times that suit the customer.

Help Customers Make the Most Out of Your Products

Today’s products are being built with an increasing number of features and tech. It’s not just televisions, mobile phones, and digital TV boxes that are being packed with more buttons and options. Everyday domestic products such as smoke alarms, thermostats, washing machines, and even the humble clothes iron are being stuffed with more features, and increasingly connected to the Internet. Setting them up and getting the most out of them or even maintaining them can be difficult and time consuming. Consumers who are brand enthusiasts can be tapped to help other customers get the most out of their products.

Sell Additional Products

Retailers are in a good position to benefit from consumer interest in the collaborative economy. In the UK, Kingfisher, owners of the DIY chain B&Q set up community tool sharing platform Streetclub. It encourages people to get together to share tools and ideas on how to get DIY projects done or to get help or offer help. It might seem that allowing customers to share tools would mean a loss in sales. In fact, the opposite was true. Not having to pay for large-ticket tools and having support to get a job done actually spurred sales of DIY materials. In the US, DIY chain Home Depot already allows its consumers to rent tools directly from them.

Keep Your Brand Advocates Happy

Your customer enthusiasts or brand advocates are by far one of a company’s biggest assets. Giving them a platform to help other customers — and to be paid for it — lets them champion a company’s products while at the same time being rewarded for it.

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