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Servicing the Sharing Economy – Effective Customer Service is Key to Growth

You are hardly alone if you are not too familiar with the term “sharing economy” – over 70% of Americans are unfamiliar with the term even though most of us have used a shared and on-demand online service.

So, let’s start with the Merriam-Webster definition of sharing economy, “an economic activity that involves individuals buying or selling usually temporary access to goods or services especially as arranged through an online company or organization.”  Think Uber or Airbnb, where people are using their cars like taxis or renting their beds to out-of-towners.

Today, no one is immune to the growing reach of the sharing economy, meaning that a new commercial dynamic is quickly moving to the forefront of our daily lives.  But for those businesses supplying the products and services within the sharing economy, customer experience delivery is a major challenge.  Companies in this sector need to explore working with forward-looking BPO vendors that have the technology, flexibility and experience required to help them grow from start-ups to a leader.

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The growth of the sharing economy has been impressive, and shows no sign of slowing.  In fact, at the end of 2016, The Brookings Institute estimated that the sharing economy would be worth more than $300 billion by 2025, up from $14 billion in 2014.  This should not come as a surprise - today it is rare not to find someone that has not used Uber to get somewhere or looked at Airbnb as an alternative to hotels.  And what about those companies that are just starting to get traction, such as Rover Parking, Get My Boat or The Kitchen Network? As these firms get bigger, so too will their need for effective customer experience management strategies.

For many businesses in the sharing economy, the resources, technology and expertise needed for first-class end-user engagement is simply not something they need to have.  But, given the rapid growth rate for many of these companies, it is not unreasonable to assume a current requirement for a dozen agents could turn into a need for two-thousand over a short period.  Given the competitive nature within all subsectors of the sharing economy, firms banking on this space need to be ready in terms of scalability.  By working with an outsourcer early on that has the management, technology and experience ramping up an operation, enterprises can focus on their core value proposition without the strain of running their own contact centers.

There is also the matter of technology needing to be multichannel capable.  One of the hallmarks of companies in the sharing economy is their use of different channels.  With so many consumers interacting with these companies by way of mobile applications, the capital cost to develop or buy the non-voice communication platforms and hardware would be huge for a small start-up (not to mention the analytical technology needed to get a full view of the customer).  By working with an outsourcing partner that can bring these tools to the table, these upfront expenses can be operationalized as part of a broader deal and in a more digestible manner, especially for smaller companies looking to allocate as much working capital as possible towards the acquisition of new customers.

Companies in the sharing economy are expanding quickly and need an outsourcing partner that is as adaptable, progressive and proactive as they are.  If this can be forged, the result will be strong, long-lasting relationships with their customers.  What more could a cutting-edge company hope for in this rapidly-evolving sector?

Written by Stephen B. Ferber