Crowdsourcing for Customer Service


Crowdsourcing for Customer Service

By TMCnet Special Guest
Wes O´┐ŻBrien
  |  June 24, 2013

The growth of crowdsourcing is fueling the participation of consumers and professionals in everything from product testing to logo creation, collaborative ideation, even crowdfunding, as an alternative to angel or venture capital investments.

As someone who’s worked in the call center/customer care industry for more than 25 years, I’ve been increasingly interested in the opportunity that crowdsourcing now provides to extend and enhance customer service, while lowering costs. I call this crowd for care.

Crowdsourcing customers to provide customer service is validated by one simple reality: More often than not, no one knows a company’s products and services better than that company’s own end user customers, partners and employees.

If you’re responsible for making your company customer centric, here are five reasons to look into crowd for care.

Call Centers Just Aren’t Enough

While phone support is still a principal customer service solution, operating internal or outsourced call centers is expensive. Beyond call center costs, even though Americans make an estimated 43 billion calls to customer service each year (two to three times per week), the title of Emily Yellin’s 2009 book “Your call is (not that) important to us” succinctly articulates consumers’ negative experiences with phone support.

Take Away: Diverting a portion of inbound support queries that would have gone to CSRs to expert customers reduces reliance on call centers and improves customer satisfaction.

The Rise of the Connected Customer

While most Boomers continue to call an 800 number for help, Millennials want alternatives. A Forbes article suggested “My way, right away, why pay?” as a motto for 80 million members of the Gen Y generation – a slogan backed up by data:

When they have a problem with a product, 71 percent of 16- to 24-year-old customers and 65 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds search for a solution online first, according to a 2012 SITEL study.

Forty-two percent of 18- to 34-year-olds expect customer support on social media within 12 hours of issuing a complaint or comment, according to Nielsen’s 2012 Social Media Report.

CRM is Evolving into Social CRM

With the growth of social media, CRM has evolved into social CRM, elegantly described by Paul Greenberg as business and technology “designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted and transparent business environment.”

While social CRM is used for marketing and sales to monitor customer sentiment, conduct market research, and other ways to listen and learn from customers, peer-to-peer customer support is a core pillar of SCRM.

In a January 2012 blog post, Forrester’s (News - Alert) Kate Leggett presented results from a survey of contact center professionals, observing: “Social technologies are growing in importance for customer service professionals,” based on these results:

* 47 percent of those surveyed use customer communities;

* 39 percent use social listening technologies; and

* 42 percent offer customer service via social sites like Facebook (News - Alert) and Twitter.

Take Away: Beyond evidence that social media brings customers and companies closer, investing in social CRM can expand the customer conversation to new possibilities for self-service by tapping into customers’ motivations, demand, insights and expertise.

Trust in Peers

Quality customer experiences have a direct correlation to satisfaction and loyalty. As Office of Consumer Affairs research has shown, word of mouth is important: Happy customers who have their problems resolved will tell four to six people about their positive experience, while unhappy customers will tell nine to 15 people about it. Even worse, 13 percent of your dissatisfied customers will tell more than 20 people about their problem.

Since 2000, the Edelman Trust Barometer has documented how public faith in government and business has plummeted, and its 2013 survey indicates that 61 percent of survey respondents would put their trust in “a person like me” (rated just below technical experts, academics and other experts) as the most reliable and objective source of information and assistance.

Take Away: Crowdsourcing customers to provide support efficiently connects your clients with their peers (fellow end users), builds trust for your brand, and drives loyalty.

The Bottom Line

Last but not least, crowdsourcing favorably impacts your bottom line. Customers have told us that crowd for care can reduce the cost of customer support up to 60 percent (in best practices) through diversion of requests from call centers to engaged crowd communities; reduce cost per call from $7 to $15 through a call center down to $3 to $10 per call. It also can divert daily requests to call centers up to 40 percent – 25 percent through cultivating and connecting with online support communities, and   

15 percent using by monitoring/listening to inbound queries, intelligently filtering support requests, leveraging knowledge bases and smart routing of queries to expert customers who can best handle each request.

While the customer may not always know best, crowdsourcing your customers to help deliver customer service is something you’ll want to explore.

Wes O’Brien is CEO of CrowdEngineering (                                                

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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