Crowd service, the sharing economy, the shareconomy—no matter what you decide to call it, it’s a hot topic these days. It seems like almost every week, you hear about a new startup that’s billing itself as “The Uber of” this or that thing. Their competencies run the gamut from restaurant delivery to chores to real estate and hotel rentals, but they all have one thing in common: they make use of the collaborative economy to simplify their economies and make use of highly distributed user bases. But out of all these innovative company ideas, only a few have really shown to have staying power. What does it take to successfully implement crowd service?
Know What Problem You’re Solving
It might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many companies jump into action without a clear purpose in mind. It’s not enough for the customer to simply be able to purchase someone’s time, they need to have a use case in mind to need your service in the first place. Are you a business trying to expand what it can offer by harnessing the power of the crowd—by engaging your most active users as partners in the gig economy? Or are you all-in like Uber, with your entire business being based on crowdsourced labor? Just as important as knowing what problem you’re solving is knowing what type of problems you aren’t trying to solve: it’s important to set clear limitations. Uber drivers are not delivery drivers!
Get the Whole Company on Board
For companies trying to implement crowd service on a limited basis, it’s important that the entire hierarchy of the company is on board with the idea, all the way up to the CEO. Crowd service takes dedication, and need a project team to match: if there aren’t people expressly responsible for the implementation, it is likely to fail. These communities need to be carefully nurtured to stay healthy and continue to grow.
People have a tendency to “verbify” company names. How many times have you asked someone to “xerox” something for you? How often have you suggested your cashless friend to just “venmo” you what she owed you? And let’s not forget Google’s own struggle with the process. This tendency is just one of the reasons that it pays to be first out the gate. By positioning yourself as the first company in your sphere to implement this kind of innovation, you set yourself up to get the lion’s share of the credit for the innovation, and perhaps even a place in the dictionary.
Don’t Neglect Marketing and Publicity
Public relations and marketing are also vital to companies in the sharing economy. You rely on people even more than most companies—they are your customers and your employees—so it’s important that you have a good reputation. This goes double if crowd service isn’t the only thing your company offers: you need to talk about it early and often. Integrate the service at the point of sale and proactively market it to your customers. For example: a customer buys a smart home product and is offered the opportunity to book a crowd-serviced installation right there, at the point of sale.
Be Ready to Scale
Everyone wants to be successful. But are you ready for success. What if you have to handle twice the monthly users? Make sure you have a concrete plan to scale your offerings so that you can really be sure that you are able to take advantage of the huge markets available in the collaborative economy.
A Good Idea Is Not Enough
The sharing economy offers huge opportunities, but only to those prepared enough. The success of a few key players means that everyone in the industry is thinking about how they can put their users to work and take a bite out of the gig economy. But success is more than just a good idea—it requires a clear mission, dedicated work, coordination, some good publicity, and more than a little bit of luck. But it’s not impossible. Keep these steps in mind, don’t give up, and who knows? Your company might just be the next word of the year—or even the decade.