4 Ways to Build a Better Support Experience With Crowdsourcing

Who knew that a 2005 idea coined by writers at the New Yorker and Wired magazine would become a global support services trend? As you might recall, we did mention crowdsourcing as one of the top seven trends to watch in 2014:

Crowdsourcing emerges in the support services setting
“Businesses are discovering that customers are demanding a more robust support experience in general, and not just function- or product-specific support – all support. Going forward, companies that provide a community structure in which customers and company employees, especially subject matter experts, can more easily comingle will have a unique opportunity to create a more fulfilling support experience. Using group problem-solving and reward tools like gamification, as well as sophisticated performance tracking and analytics tools, forward-looking companies will supercharge these highly interactive support environments.”

“Crowdsourcing” was celebrated by New Yorker business writer James Surowiecki in his book The Wisdom of Crowds and defined by Wired editors Jeff Howe and Mark Robinson in 2005. In a companion blog to the June 2006 Wired article “The Rise of Crowdsourcing,” Jeff Howe wrote:

“Simply defined, crowdsourcing represents the act of a company or institution taking a function once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined (and generally large) network of people in the form of an open call. This can take the form of peer-production (when the job is performed collaboratively), but is also often undertaken by sole individuals. The crucial prerequisite is the use of the open call format and the large network of potential laborers.”

Crowdsourcing can mean many things and offer many benefits. It draws from the expertise of the many to handle specific tasks, including competition, crowdfunding, searching for a missing person, voting, or in the case of IT, participating in robust support forums that can provide insights that only the many can provide.

For IT, “crowdsourcing” continues to grow in popularity as communications and IT clients demand a more robust support experience. Making it all possible is the empowerment of people and a community structure where many can collaborate with other communications and IT professionals, as well as company experts, for knowledge-sharing and problem-solving.

But as Voltaire said in 1817 and was later repeated by President Franklin Roosevelt, Uncle Ben in the Spiderman cartoon, and Narinder Singh in his 2014 Wired article alike: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Providing a vibrant community environment for the many talented and experienced users who want to share their knowledge and insights requires that leading edge companies consider a structured forum leveraging these four ways to a better crowdsourced support:

  1. Easy navigation
  2. Incentives through “gamification”
  3. Fairness in evaluation
  4. Transparency

#1: Easy navigation

Key to any site or support forum is the ability to easily navigate. The best forums offer easy navigation and access, thanks to indexing by Google.com. For example, in Avaya’s support forums, topics are organized by product types, including:

  • IP Telephony and Convergence
  • Unified Communications
  • Contact Center Applications
  • Messaging

#2: Incentives through “gamification”

While helping is its best reward, many support forums are adapting incentives through “gamification.” According to Gartner, more than 70 percent of the Forbes Global 2000 are expected to add “gamification” features to incentivize interaction by the end of this year.

Why now? It’s the Millenials, says the January Technorati article “Why 70 percent of Forbes 2000 organizations are building #gamification apps.”

“According to research from Nielsen, 68 percent of Millenials own a game console, 76 percent own smartphones and 73 percent own a laptop, so it’s a generation comfortable with games, interactivity and technology,” the author writes.

As in all games, it is key to have a point system that is evenly scored.

“Gamification” in a support forum is no different: Those who post advice earn points for participation, enabling the many to gain recognition for expertise and reputation among peers. Just by being involved in and contributing to the forums, users can rise through the ranks. For example from “Aspiring member” and “Member” to “Hot Shot,” “Whiz,” “Brainiac,” “Guru,” “Genius” and – ultimately – a “Legend.”

And what are the rewards? In addition to recognition from your peer community, each new level can offer special perks, such as the ability to upload photos, use signatures, join social groups, post calendar events, create and manage groups, and even upload animated avatars and group icons. Having periodic awards for the most prolific and proficient support forum contributor can generate great excitement.

#3: Fairness in evaluation

Third, always be fair by tapping the collective intellect of all users and technologists for the betterment of the group. All creative and practical solutions to business collaboration and customer experience technologies should be celebrated and recognized.

Have a general question about applying solutions to business challenges? Facing a vexing problem and need a quick response? Looking for other users with similar solution configurations? These are just a few of the endless opportunities to collaborate with other skilled communications and IT professionals around the world through support forums. It’s also an opportunity for users to build their professional network – and reputation – in the industry.

#4: Transparency

Last but not least is the need for transparency. Some support forums can draw insights from tens of thousands of professionals working in similar environments, dealing with real-world issues, across the globe. To help broaden access, forum answers and comments can be made available in multiple languages, making the world just a little bit smaller.

Do you contribute or read a support group? What’s your favorite support group and why?

Follow me on twitter @Pat_Patterson_V

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6 Developing Communications Services Trends to Watch in 2015

Is it 2015 already?? It is, if you are an IT manager in the final stages of budgeting and allocating. With a new year comes a new opportunity to begin again.

As always, we strive to help our clients begin again and plan ahead. We do this by anticipating what trends will soon be on the proverbial radar of our clients and the vendors that serve them.

In 2008, we decided to go one step further by convening a panel of experts, known by many as the “Avaya 5.” This year, our “Avaya 5” includes:

  • Mike Runda, senior vice president and president, Avaya Client Services. Mike oversees revenue, regional execution and global offers for Avaya’s holistic suite of support and managed services.
  • Linda Hartig, vice president, Avaya Global Support Services. Linda manages delivery operations on a global basis for Avaya Client Services.
  • Jenna Stanley, vice president, Avaya Cloud Services. Jenna leads the managed and hosted service delivery practice for Avaya Public and Private Cloud solutions.
  • Richard English, director, Avaya Strategic Consulting. Richard leads the company’s North American consulting teams, which deliver full lifecycle consulting engagements for global enterprise clients.
  • Stéphane Lamarre, senior director, Avaya SME Segment Marketing. Stéphane helps serve the needs of midmarket businesses — companies with between 200 and 2,000 employees.

The following is a summary of the Avaya six trends for 2015, identified by our panel and featured in our white paper, “Communications Services Trends for 2015 — Transformation Takes Hold.”

#6: The high-accountability support model emerges.

Individual support personnel will retain ownership of the customer experience and use techniques such as collaboration and “swarming” to break down the barriers of the traditional “tiered” support organization. This approach will drive a better experience for customers and ultimately make for more efficient resource utilization in support organizations.

#5: Support services transparency: Customers like what they see.

Mobility will be a growing factor, contributing to more seamless and transparent interactions that give customers instant access to rich information about their relationship with your company, your company’s products and services, and support tools and status.

#4: Social media and crowdsourcing: Are you really engaging your customers?

It will be imperative to bridge the gap between simply monitoring social platforms for conversations about your company and doing something about them — i.e., capturing, routing and responding to those conversations within your contact center and/or broader enterprise, as well as encouraging customer-employee interaction through crowdsourcing, which is often carried out in private forums.

#3: As omnichannel support matures, Web chat plays a pivotal role.

Even as video gains momentum as a high-touch channel (see Trend #2), companies will continue to use Web chat as the relatively low-expense way to initiate the customer experience from a website, to triage that experience, and to direct customers to the appropriate support channel and other support resources and tools.

#2: Video support reaches an inflection point — if you snooze, you lose.

At the end of 2013, Amazon.com became the first company to offer one-way video customer support. In 2014, Avaya became the first company to offer both one-way and two-way video support options for customer engagement. Now companies in many industry verticals are adopting—or at least piloting—some form of video. Businesses that haven’t begun to make the move to video will be challenged to catch up with their competitors.

#1: The cloud takes shape.

The market is about five calendar quarters into an eight-quarter transformation from a mindset that favored on-premise, owned equipment, to one where executives think of cloud solutions first as they consider new and upgraded communications capabilities. The hosted cloud solution will need to drive a differentiated support services experience in which users can click from within the application to get timely help.

So, what do you think? Let the debate begin… and welcome, 2015!

What trends will you be watching in 2015?

What trends did we miss?

Follow me on Twitter: @Pat_Patterson_V

The Top 7 Communication Trends of 2014 (Mid-Year Scorecard)

The Summer Solstice has come and gone. We have reached the second half of 2014. Now makes for a particularly good time to take a 6-month review of our projected 2014 communications trends projected in December 2013 and more importantly, where we are going. While the predictions may have been made many months ago, it seems that all have taken on more urgency now.

As the economy continues to improve, we believe that most of the trends were right on target, with some accelerating faster. Supporting the growth of the seven service trends are three dynamic forces: the private cloud, demand for OpEx solutions and desire for the latest applications.

Let’s take a look at the 7 Trends scorecard of hits and misses:

#1: Businesses extend deeper into the cloud… hit!

In the first half of 2014, businesses extended deeper into the cloud, with a real acceleration in private cloud. As mentioned by Avaya CEO Kevin Kennedy, there has been a surge of 5-to-1 customer ratio of interest in private cloud solutions. The largest customers are now inclined to want private cloud because of all that it has to offer, particularly privacy and security. Relationships for private cloud are typically 3 to 5 years with a short onboarding period that used to make the public cloud the preferable option.

Customers requesting private or public cloud fall along the lines of security. Vertical market clients that are sensitive, such as healthcare (with HIPAA enforcement) and financial services (compliance with government regulations), are more likely to maintain their databases and systems in a private environment–sometimes onsite or in a data center.

Public cloud clients are typically smaller- to medium-sized businesses that do not want to invest in a private cloud environment. These clients tend to operate in industries that are more consumer-oriented and do not require as much security.

#2: Purse strings could be loosening… hit!

The whole economy has come out of the 2007-2009 market slowdown. We are seeing lots of IT organizations trying to recover what was lost in a short period of time. To overcome the technology gap made possible by years of dormancy, many are playing catch up with the cloud.

#3: Another major shift in IT focus – from products and services to outcomes… hit!

Leaders of IT organizations are shifting their model, with more focus on agents being effective than just having access and offering accretive value, just as we described in “Why IT Should Spend More Time Focusing on Passengers, and Less Time on the Locomotive.” By moving beyond the mundane functionality of managing daily patch releases, IT managers are serving as strategic sources tapped by the C-suite and marketing.

#4: Crowdsourcing emerges in the support services setting… hit again!

As the social media space continues to grow, companies are more likely to leverage the expertise of customer forums. Companies are now turning to their customers and user bases for crowdsourcing. Individuals are becoming sources that are trusted most, with only the best achieving “Expert” and “Super Genius” status.

#5: The midmarket will expect different treatment… hit!

As can be seen at Enterprise Connect and IAUG, mid-market companies are looking for solutions tailored to their businesses and their needs. Mid-market companies are not looking for scaled down or rebranded enterprise contact center solutions.

#6: Multimodal communications support reaches a tipping point… hit!

One of the more interesting trends is multi-modal, also known to many as omnichannel. Lots of vendors are racing for a multimodal environment to support clients by e-mail, knowledge-based articles, via voice over the Web or video. These are all great for customers, but it can become challenging to decide which channel is best to resolve a problem. For example, you can visually see that a cable should be in port four rather than having to describe it on the phone.

How do you make sure to choose or optimize the right channel while not overwhelming the customer? Ways to clearly identify the best communications channel are now paramount.

#7: The people you need when you need them… hit!

What’s interesting is that we were looking at this trend more than six months ago. More complex networks and IT solutions are requiring more than generalists to maintain and solve them. With fewer part-time IT people available, companies are having a difficult time quickly and easily finding resources to enable them to find the necessary experts in certain areas.

Companies are having mixed results getting tools and access to peer and dedicated resources. More time is being spent trying to get the necessary resources that leverage the right tools at the right time. Many are moving to off-site resources, no longer having to worry about having dedicated resources to deal with deployment of new applications and software.

So overall, we ended up going 7 for 7, which is much better than expected! Since we started in 2008, we have had a pretty good track record: 80% good, 20% languish.

What trends did we miss?

What do you expect to be hot in 2015?

Follow me on Twitter: @Pat_Patterson_V