We’re on a bit of a roll here at Mila. In the last 12 months, we’ve been pursuing a strategy of taking the collaborative economy to large companies. On Monday we launched our third partnership in the past year – IWB Friends, a crowdsourced service platform for Basel-based renewable energy provider IWB.
What exactly does this mean? We build platforms that match a company’s customers with after-sales service help. The twist is, help comes from other customers.
“Customers helping other customers” is a crowdsourcing trend that has been happening online for several years now. Companies such as Apple, Samsung and Sony all use crowdsourced online forums. Here, customers answer questions about products and services posed by other customers. We’ve taken this idea one step further and brought it to the physical world.
Customers Helping Customers in Your Neighborhood
Aside from IWB, we also help Vodafone Germany and Swisscom, providing both with a service that the Atlantic Monthly has called “Rent-a-Geek,” or what Reuters has dubbed “the Geek Next Door.” Customers of the two network operators can find neighborhood tech help by browsing, finding and booking through the platforms we’ve created for them.
IWB has a different mission. It wants to help its customers be more energy efficient. But as with most utilities companies around the world, it’s a challenge. Being energy efficient is a lot like flossing teeth. People know its good for them, but still, not enough to make it a priority. IWB found that one-on-one home visits work best to raise awareness, but many people could not accommodate the visits that usually occurred during the workday. On IWB Friends, customers can now find energy experts in their neighborhood to come to their homes at a time that works for them, to discuss what forms of energy efficiency are most important for their homes, and at a price they are willing to pay.
Not Just Customer Satisfaction, But Customer Happiness
Is this a way for companies to outsource their normal customer service obligations? No, rather it extends them to cover areas that the company isn’t typically responsible for, but may still affect customer satisfaction, if not dealt with.
For mobile operators, phones have more features and functions than ever before. Strictly speaking, it’s not the operator’s responsibility to show consumers how to ensure their iCloud syncs between their phones and laptops. But for customers, their frustration of not understanding how to set this up may well get vented at their mobile operator.
Likewise, in energy efficiency we are seeing a number of innovations. Smart thermostats let us control the temperature of our homes from our phones, or turn the heat or air conditioning on and off. Smart plugs let us turn off energy-sucking appliances at night from our phones. But as the complexity grows so too does the challenge to understand and make full use of these products. What better way to resolve customer issues than with friendly, affordable neighborhood help?
Crowdsourcing: The Future of Customer Support
What’s incredibly exciting to us is how our crowdsourcing partnerships are being viewed in the market. In a report looking at retailing trends, Trend One, the Hamburg and Berlin-based business consultancy, highlighted Vodafone Service Friends as a customer service trend of the future.
In addition, Swisscom recently won the Golden Headset Award in the category of “Innovation” for implementing Swisscom Friends, proof that companies can use the Friends concept to distinguish themselves from their competitors and set the trend.
Today brands need to get customers involved in their products and services in order to be successful. This is exactly what Mila helps companies to accomplish: A peer-to-peer marketplace lets you crowdsource a community of energy experts or techies, increase your customer loyalty and transforms your customers into brand ambassadors.
Let us know how we can help you make your customers become happy advocates!