Companies have crowdsourced everything from ad campaigns to package design, usually through contests. But Spanish telecom giant Telefonica is putting a new degree of trust in users, handing over the marketing, technical support, and customer service reins to any customers looking to lower their phone bill.
It works like this: Customers can earn free calls and texts by pushing the new mobile network, called Giffgaff (a Scottish term for "mutual giving"), on their friends and family. They can rack up a bigger discount on their bill by answering customer-service queries online, while an eBay-like voting system will help ensure thoughtful, accurate answers get rewarded most. Future plans include crowdsourcing ad campaigns among customers and even voting on the direction of the company and which user-generated innovations to implement.
The biggest hurdle, of course, is getting a groundswell large enough to handle all of the customer queries for the fledgling network and incentives strong enough to keep those volunteers coming back. While Giffgaff will have a staffed billing center, there are no plans to supplement customer volunteers with paid service reps.
Hoards of fans have happily tapped their creativity to extol the merits of HP or Doritos in user-generated ads. Thousands of people have painstakingly detailed the highs and lows of their neighborhood bistros on user-generated review sites like Yelp. But it's hard to imagine answering questions such as "how the hell do I sync my address book!?" will scratch the same itch. Marketing contests work because they're a stage for creativity and possible fame; review sites work because, well, we've all heard the idiom about opinions and assholes, right?
We're not sold that a discounted mobile bill will lure in enough drones to do the thankless, anonymous grunt work of keeping customers connected.