Interview

Hi, What’s your background? Were you always interested in customer service and the crowd?

Manuel Grenacher, Mila CEO: My background is in computer science, so it was more tech-y than service oriented. My parents run a small company that produces furniture. Growing up, you really learn from a tiny company how important customer relationships are. They take better care of their customers because they have just a few. That’s why I understood what makes great customer service.

In my own experience, mid- and large-size companies don’t provide a service that I would expect. So I don’t feel connected to these companies. I started wondering how companies we use today in daily life can provide good service. In the end, this is why I believe I had the idea to do more crowdsourced stuff. To solve all the questions, you will never have enough resources to provide a great service when you have only your employees. That’s why you should use the crowd and influence the crowd to help you to really provide good customer service. You can have a customer in the field, anywhere and anytime and not make the customer wait a week to get a technician to install a TV or whatever. You can have—more or less –service in real time.

So, how did Mila start?

Mila had a journey from being a service marketplace to being a crowdsourced service platform. We tried several things, but ended up deciding to really focus on helping large companies tap into this collaborative economy movement. We don’t want to provide our own crowd and try to compete. It is more important that we help large brands and companies to build up their own crowds and use them for their own brand on our platform.

For someone who doesn’t know anything about crowdsourcing, how does Mila work together with telcos?

With Mila, we can increase your workforce on-demand. [We help telcos] digitize the service process, to be more connected to your customers, to be more engaged with your customers. Using the power of collaborative economy to extend your field force, you can provide the perfect service.

How do you feel about how much Mila has grown compared to when you began?

We are on a good track now. When you’re starting a startup, you need to find your business model and there are ups and downs. Now that we have, for example, Swisscom in Switzerland that is using our software, and it is fully implemented by their customers, Mila has a really important role to play. It’s in the middle between customers and vendors. It’s not just a tool in the marketing department, it’s an important channel.

We’ve improved a lot the last 24 months. I’m satisfied. Of course, it can be more and more, but it depends on funding and finding the right people, and so on.

How are you feeling about upcoming Mila projects and new partnerships?

We’ve [been talking] with similar companies like Swisscom, in the telecommunications and energy industries. These are our two main directions. Mila works for customers and brands that have half a million to one million end customers. We discuss [our service] with a lot of big brands. Most of them are really interested in this model, especially because they can see that it works for customers, like Swisscom. It’s definitely something many large companies will tap into, in the future. And because we have the right moment, we came into this market at the perfect time.

If you could talk directly to someone who is thinking of using Mila, but they’re not sure yet, what would you say to them?

You should use your customers to help other customers. Because sometimes the customers know the product even better than employees. Nobody says this is a stupid idea. What’s more important is how large companies really take this step. You need people that really push this decision and implement it. It’s more of an integration question than a “Should we do it?” question. The integration of crowdsourced service is the biggest effort for large companies.

Think about a simple case, you call your provider and say, “I have a problem with my product.” As an example, I buy a PC and I’m not able to install my Gmail account. And then the agent says, “I’m very sorry. Gmail is not a program from us. Your computer seems to be running. Goodbye.” This is not a solution for the customer. If you could say, “Look, sorry Gmail is not our product, but we could offer you Peter next door to help you install that.” To change the mindset of every agent in the company, that’s the tricky part because you need to transfer some of the customer service traffic to our Mila website.

What do you hope for Mila in the future?

My vision is to try to do more real-time service. For example, if you order something on Amazon you want it fast. Even same-day delivery, that’s normal today. The same will happen to service. This is our mission, to help companies so that they can provide real-time service.

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