HERE’S the job description: You spend a few hours a day, up to 20 a week, at your computer, supplying answers online to customer questions about technical matters like how to set up an Internet home network or how to program a new high-definition television.I wrote previously about the Hybrid Economy and how Digg was like a for-profit non-profit organization as most of the work on their site was done by volunteers. Looks like this business model is now moving to customer service.
The pay: $0.
A shabby form of exploitation? Not to Justin McMurry of Keller, Tex., who spends about that amount of time helping customers of Verizon’s high-speed fiber optic Internet, television and telephone service, which the company is gradually rolling out across the country.
Mr. McMurry is part of an emerging corps of Web-savvy helpers that large corporations, start-up companies and venture capitalists are betting will transform the field of customer service.
What motivates these volunteers?
Such enthusiasts are known as lead users, or super-users, and their role in contributing innovations to product development and improvement — often selflessly — has been closely researched in recent years. These unpaid contributors, it seems, are motivated mainly by a payoff in enjoyment and respect among their peers.Being able to successfully create an environment where people will work for free will be the key to success for many companies.
The mentality of super-users in online customer-service communities is similar to that of devout gamers, according to Mr. Fong. Lithium’s customer service sites for companies, for example, offer elaborate rating systems for contributors, with ranks, badges and “kudos counts.”
“That alone is addictive,” Mr. Fong said. “They are revered by their peers.”
Natalie L. Petouhoff, an analyst at Forrester Research, said that online user groups conform to what she calls the 1-9-90 rule. About 1 percent of those in the community, she explained, are super-users who supply most of the best answers and commentary. An additional 9 percent are “responders” who mainly reply and rate Web posts, she said, and the other 90 percent are “readers” who primarily peruse and search the Web site for useful information.Another long tail, and similar to what happens at Wikipedia.
“The 90 percent will come,” Ms. Petouhoff said, “if you have the 1 percent.”
via NY Times