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Guest Post: Gamification and Crowdsourcing Meet Customer Service

Guest Post: Gamification and Crowdsourcing Meet Customer Service

Kristil Robarts

08/13/2012

This post originally appeared on the official Bluewolf blog

By Kristil Robarts, Marketing Director, Bluewolf
Kristil Robarts@krobes1

Why should your business pay the costs of customer service outsourcing when customers are willing to answer each other's questions for free?

Guest Post: Gamification and Crowdsourcing Meet Customer ServiceYou may have read the recent blog post from The Economist, Outsourcing is So Last Year, which describes a new customer service arena set to steal the thunder from customer service outsourcing: unsourcing. Unsourcing is a strategy that incentivizes customers to answer each other's service questions on social media platforms, reducing call center volume—and expenses—in the process.

But is unsourcing really a new innovation, though? Peer-to-peer forums are as old as the Internet itself, if not older. And haven’t companies always used customer networks to allay the costs of call center labor? For example, Microsoft has had P2P support communities for 20+ years. Even Microsoft’s oldest forums had simple gamification schemes whereby the company awards various status levels to users who provide the best and most frequent answers.

However, The Economist showcases the success stories of several companies whose unsourcing strategies transcend the traditional internet help forum. Companies such as Best Buy and TomTom are taking advantage of a bigger, more accessible knowledge pool thanks to the expansion of social media. Customer questions are directly fielded to the company’s page, where rewards-based gamification strategies help curate answers from knowledgeable customers

What Microsoft lacked in the early days was the broad-based social networks of the social media age. As opposed to the internet forums of the early 90’s composed of self-selecting groups of product enthusiasts, help today can come from anyone with a Facebook account. Users no longer have to register for obscure independent forums and wait five days for an answer. Instead, customers benefit directly from the investment companies are making to bring social into customer service, for example, Salesforce.com's acquisition last year of Radian6's social media engagement technology.

What’s new is the incentivization of peer-to-peer support: companies are being proactive about developing customer service communities. Rather than outsourcing call center labor, they are un-sourcing it by actively passing the labor on to non-employees. Those that don’t lose out as competitors cut the costs of traditional outsourcing. Or perhaps incentive wars are brewing between companies as they compete for better customer service reputations.

In the near future, I expect to see existing customer service platforms, coupled with Radian6 and the game mechanics of Nitro, plug directly in to Facebook, Twitter, etc. Of course, unsourcing will never completely eclipse traditional voice-channel customer service. The Economist mentions the limitations of customer inquiries dealing with confidential information (billing issues, for example). And furthermore, not all industries are alike in their potential to equally profit from unsourcing.

That’s why we’re here—consultancies like Bluewolf can help your company integrate unsourcing into a balanced customer service strategy. For starters, check out our Social Customer Service Success Kit.

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