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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