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FT Sharing Economy Summit 2016

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Mila.com CEO Christian Viatte Discusses How Corporates Are Using the Power of the Crowd to Improve Customer Service

Last week, we had the pleasure of speaking at the FT Sharing Economy Summit 2016 in London where Mila.com had been invited to join the “Inclusion, Community, Collaboration – the New Corporate Image” panel, based on our business of helping corporates such as Swisscom, Vodafone Germany and IWB use our crowd platform to provide additional customer support.

The discussion centered on the trends, challenges, and opportunities for corporates, and how corporates could both “future proof” their companies against the rise of startups hungry to disrupt their business, to the on going importance of community to this maturing space, to the lessons we’ve learned in the last 3 years of running our crowd platform.

Sharing or On-Demand Economy

First, let’s take the name “the sharing economy.” This, of course, is the term that was first used to name the trend of the peer-to-peer “sharing” of assets. It described the then new crop of startups like Airbnb (sharing of homes and rooms) Uber and Lyft (sharing of rides). Despite the fact that no sharing was occurring and money was changing hands for each transaction, the term has persisted. We’re now seeing a shift to the label “on demand economy”. Here, the emphasis is on convenience and speed of service, rather than on the assets belonging to individuals.

So why is the term “sharing” still important? Consumers still like the idea of the community and still want the experience of taking part in a transaction grounded in the community. As fellow panelist Benita Matofska of People Who Share noted, “The reason users turn to the sharing economy may be good price, but the reason users return is the experience.”

Crowd Service For Better Price And Experience

We couldn’t agree more. At Mila, we too have found that price-conscious customers will opt to try our crowd service for the smaller cost, but they return and re-use the service for the experience, for the flexibility, speed and personal touch that the crowd can provide. For example, we know that the majority of our Friends (what we call our crowd service workers) work from 6-8 PM on weekdays, and 2-4 PM on weekends, times that are convenient to consumers and traditionally not so convenient for businesses. In fact, 92% of customers who’ve tried Swisscom Friends would book again and recommend the service.

Ensuring the Quality of Crowd Service

This brought us to the inevitable question: how do we ensure the quality of the crowd? For large companies, it’s vital that the company brand isn’t damaged by the quality of its crowd workers, and is instead, enhanced by it. To ensure quality, we ask every customer to rate their experience and “Friend”. We scrupulously monitor these ratings, and step in if the ratings of a Friend is less than four stars to offer them additional training.

Finally, fielding a question from the audience, we were asked what we considered one of the most important lessons when startups and corporates collaborate in the sharing / on demand space. What’s the most important piece of the partnership to get right? For us, it all came down to the team. Both the large company and the small startup need to both be unified partners in what is a willful act of disrupting a part of the large corporation’s business. Both teams need to share the same vision of the service they’re trying to build; without this strong cooperation, the crowd platform will not get the support or promotion it needs. By working together with a strong vision, disruption isn’t an act of cannibalizing one’s own business, but in Swisscom’s case, adding to that business by giving customers added choice and flexibility.

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