Is there anything less productive than taking a day off just to wait around for a service technician to show up at your house to set up your cable, fix your router problem, or repair your refrigerator?
If you are lucky, you get a 3-hour time window, but only days – and sometimes a week – after you called in to report the problem. Worst case: they cancel at the last minute.
What if service was as simple, convenient, and fast as getting an Uber or Lyft ride
Wouldn’t it be great if you could just whip out your smartphone and simply request a technician immediately – similar to getting a ride with a ride-sharing app from Uber or Lyft?
Swisscom, a Swiss telco and cable provider, offers exactly this kind of service via mobile app (or online) to their customers: a technician shows up at your doorstep within less than an hour for 80% of the incoming service requests.
This service has become a game changer for Swisscom in an industry notorious for providing wide appointment windows, low customer satisfaction, and high churn rates: their net promotor score went up by 15pp within the first 36 months of introducing this new on-demand service while customer churn was reduced by 20% in the same timeframe.
Changing the game with crowd service
How do they do it? We call it “crowd service.” In addition to their employed service technicians, Swisscom crowd-sourced thousands of freelancers, creating an ecosystem of certified experts to perform simple tasks such as installing cable modems, setting up wireless networks, replacing routers, or fixing other issues.
With a simple mobile app, customers can describe their problem and request on-site support. An AI-based routing and scheduling engine finds the next best available expert matching skills, location, and other criteria, then sends a request to his or her mobile device.
The expert can accept the service job and receive all the information needed for the tasks on a mobile app. The experts get paid a fixed rate for every job upon completion of the assigned tasks – and the customers can rate the performance of the experts the same way they would rate a ride-sharing driver.
Taking advantage of the gig economy
More and more companies across many different industries in B2C and B2B are now taking advantage of the gig economy to expand their field service organization, improve response times, and decrease service costs.
With the freelance workforce growing more than 3 times faster than the total workforce, the pool of freelance experts that organizations can crowdsource is growing rapidly. And this is not only the case for lower-level experts to perform simpler service tasks; the market for highly skilled experts who no longer want to be employed and/or don’t want to work for just one company is also growing dramatically. And it makes it more difficult to hire these people.
Crowd service works in every industry
Crowd service is not limited to the consumer sector, and it’s not only about freelancers, either. There are use cases for companies in every industry that need to send technicians onsite to install, maintain, and repair products or equipment sold to customers as well as their own assets. These industries include discrete manufacturing, industrial machinery & components, high tech and medical equipment, telco, utilities, and home and office appliances.
With crowd service you can expand your in-house service organization and your service partner network with outside experts and technicians to create a service ecosystem that can respond much faster and – in many cases – at a much lower cost to your customers’ service needs. Here are some examples:
- You need to expand your geographical coverage, in particular in remote areas or certain countries where it doesn’t make sense to have a full-time employee in idle mode for most of the time waiting for a service incident
- You want to have “first responders” who can be onsite to assess the problem quickly and can perform simple maintenance and repairs or “quick fixes” before you sent a highly paid service technician
- You need great flexibility due to high volatility in demand and for peak times
- You need to increase your local presence in high demand areas but don’t have the capacity to respond fast enough
- You want to leverage existing service providers such as mom & pop repair shops, mechanics, handymen, plumbers, electricians…
- You need highly qualified specialists who are rare because they have exceptional skills and/or are mostly retired, e.g. for very specific tasks or maintenance and repair of very old equipment
It’s about the moments that matter most to your customers
Whether the internet is down, the TV doesn’t work, the dishwasher won’t start, the elevator is stuck, a turbine stops running, an engine makes a strange noise, an MRI Scanner won’t turn on, an air filter needs to be replaced, or the entire power grid is down – these are all moments of truth: the moments that matter most to your customers and put your service organization to the test: How quickly can you respond and how long does it take to send someone to fix the problem?
While it’s frustrating to wait for the cable guy or the technician who’s supposed to repair your dishwasher, it is even more critical for business customers as an entire production line may be impacted and significant revenue – or in some cases, even human life – may be at risk.
The benefits of crowd service
At a recent conference, I spoke with the service leader of a large discrete manufacturing company and he told me: “We are pretty good at fixing a problem, but we are not good at doing it quickly; capacity planning is a constant challenge and we spend a ton of money on scheduling optimization with little result in improving our response time.” He was intrigued by the crowd service concept and said that this would solve their biggest field service challenges without increasing the capacity of their own workforce.
There are many benefits of crowd service including:
Speed: Respond faster to service requests (on-demand service)
Cost: Lower the total cost of service by leveraging the gig economy for simple tasks and/or jobs in remote areas
Coverage: Increase your geographical coverage through a field service ecosystem
Downtime: Minimize downtime of mission critical equipment for your customers
Capacity: Expand the capacity of your workforce with external resources
Skills: Take advantage of the gig economy to include experts & technicians in your ecosystem who don’t want to be hired permanently
Revenue: Generate additional revenue with a larger ‘virtual’ service organization
Disrupt your industry with on-demand crowd service
Clearly, the tide is turning, and industries are relying on a strong field service organization are no longer immune to disruption. Word is getting out that crowd service can be a game changer and provide organizations with a significant competitive advantage.