Shahzad Qureshi (August 7, 2014)
The term crowdsourcing, is formed, by combining ‘crowd’ and ‘outsourcing’ together which basically means delegating work to a group of people so the tasks are divided. Through crowdsourcing, a group of individuals contribute towards a common task or project either answering questions, giving suggestions or even innovative ideas. The concept lets companies use collective intelligence of the public, which is done through delegating tasks to a number of people, mostly on the internet.
Crowdsourcing is a trend through which customers and other stakeholders can obtain needed services or information by soliciting input from a large group of other customers, enthusiasts and experts. It includes social media tactics, such as forums, discussion groups and online polling. This concept enables customer participation and also has an unprecedented ability to provide companies with market insights, ideas and solutions.
Businesses around the world spend millions of dollars on providing customer service through email, phone and other channels. This recent trend in customer service environment can help companies add another dimension to the already existing customer support infrastructure. This can also help companies save money and effort, as it is delegating some of the burden of answering customer queries to experts and other customers online who have used the products and services. Although it must be remembered that crowdsourcing is not an alternative to conventional customer support mechanisms, it only compliments or adds to the existing customer service processes.
For crowdsourcing purposes, companies often employ social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter, where controlled communities are formed. The most valued customers are encouraged to post and participate in the discussion on these forums for customer service support.
Crowdsourcing is an effective tool for most businesses since it combines the energy and talents of various volunteers or in some cases part-time workers. Each individual, as a part of the platform is contributing, even if she/he is there to ask questions and resolve an issue, he/she is making the platform more intelligent, consequently making it easier for others to find the solutions or answers to the same questions. With the advent of cloud technologies and widespread use of internet, crowdsourcing provides a way to solve problems through distribution, rather than stockpiling at one point (With the company’s customer service department).
An example of how crowdsourcing can help companies provide better customer service, is a San Francisco based company called ‘Get Satisfaction’, which facilitates community platforms for businesses of all sizes and industries. The company has been providing customer service solutions to businesses by putting the customers at the center of their needs and demands. It provides a customer engagement platform for honest, straightforward interactions. It enables anyone to post a question, idea or a complaint on the public forum, other users can answer the question, and comment on the idea or complaint. There is a rating system in place which puts the best answers at the top, with the response from the company marked as the official answer. This technique creates a loop between the customers, who are able to provide solutions and share ideas among each other, saving time and resources of the company.
Another approach towards using crowdsourcing for customer service purposes is trusting your best and most loyal customers, since they make the perfect candidates to respond to customer queries on the company’s behalf, because they are enthusiastic about the company’s products and their passion for answering questions and engaging with other customers is time tested.
This unconventional medium of interaction allows two-way communication, as companies are also able to obtain ideas, feedback and suggestions from its customers. Once various tasks and the process of problem solving is distributed to a larger number of people, companies are effectively able to use the stream of information available to make better decisions, hence provide quality customer service to the end user.
Not only does the collected data help companies to improve service delivery in the future, but also assists in gauging market response and satisfaction level, of goods and services offered currently.
Lego, a popular brand of construction toys, allows its more enthusiastic customers to design its construction sets, hence encouraging customer involvement. This involvement has helped Lego redesign and improve its toys, in line with what the customers want. Through this program the company has also been able to build long-term customer relationships.
Another company using the concept of crowdsourcing to seek valuable, useful input from the community is Unilever. The company’s “Open Innovation” portal allows members to contribute ideas, and input for projects as diverse as renewable energy, creating environmental friendly production methods and fighting viruses. This concept also encourages a sense of shared responsibility when it comes to new ideas and improvements.
As customers are involved and participate, companies can also evaluate their demands and needs to innovate service and product line.
Crowdsourcing is a tool, which companies should not ignore, since not only does it help share the burden with the customer service team, but offers and encourages feedback and innovation.
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