Executive Interview with Roger & Megan
As published on www.crmxchange.com.Limitless: An Innovative Crowdsourcing Platform that Goes Beyond the Boundaries of Traditional Contact Centers
Remember the 2011 science fiction thriller "Limitless"? It told the story of a struggling author (played by Bradley Cooper) who turns his fortunes around after being introduced to a nootropic drug called NZT-48. While Cooper's character experiences drastic consequences from his pharmaceutical-fueled personal growth, he ultimately finds a way to overcome the negative side effects and make his extraordinary mental advances permanent. The film inspired a far more grounded entrepreneur who is an unabashed fan of Cooper to brand her now rapidly growing "curated crowdsourcing" company with the same name.
Megan Neale, who founded London-based Limitless along with Roger Beadle, envisioned a company based on the premise that every individual has limitless potential and deserves to feel valued. The two then presided over shaping a technology that enables enterprise companies to build crowds of qualified experts who can answer questions on their behalf to enhance on-demand customer service. "These 'superusers' can be any groups of people that have the required skills - customers who are native users, people who are advocates, fans of a company's products or services. People who know them inside out and are willing to share this knowledge with others," said Roger. "They could also be other types of users. For example, we work with Microsoft and will be looking to forming a crowd of certified Windows experts. They could be people with experience in a specific field who can offer a deeper domain of knowledge, or even employees offered the chance of voluntarily using the platform to either add to their part-time schedule or increase their income. It could be a platform partner, similar to an eBay seller or an Uber driver. There are lots of superusers who can become part of the crowd."
"The opportunity is not just to build a crowd, but to assemble a qualified group of agile, independent brand experts. The idea is to ensure they are suitable to be certified on the platform as a free-lancer. At this point, most of our clients that deploy Limitless for crowd service are inviting in their own customers to support other customers' service tickets."
"Organizations typically identify experts through their own marketing and CRM strategy. We work with our clients and ask what they know about their customers who are passionate about their brand. We interact with their marketing teams to look at the traits they have recorded in their marketing databases to help find them. For example, one client, a high-grade company in the food delivery market, came up with criteria for people they wanted on the platform: those who had been loyal subscribers for six months or more and had been active within the previous four weeks as well as those who had taken part in promotions and been active on social media. By overlaying these criteria, they were able to build a picture of a highly engaged customer - the kind of person they want to invite into the program. Of course, other companies have different requirements to determine the right data to use."
"We now have use cases to examine crowd feedback, where customers are invited to feedback directly on the experience they are having with the product or service," she continued. "Those crowd feedback customers can be very different types - some can actually be detractors. There is value in hearing from people who are unhappy. Negative feedback is a valuable source of information for organizations that wish to make continuous improvements. There is a large focus on customers being invited to participate in these programs for a variety of reasons."
"Our impetus is to help businesses recruit, onboard, empower and reward a new virtual skill group, relevant to the type of service tickets the company wants them to help resolve," said Roger. "We are connected through APIs with systems like Genesys, Salesforce, Helpshift, Zendesk and others. Tickets are routed to our SmartCrowd platform which are then shared with the crowd. The crowd can then come onto the platform to respond. Responses are fed back through the APIs. The customer will receive them in the same digital channels they were conversing in as though they were interacting directly with an agent. This selectively chosen skill group can field inquiries just as if they were a group of skilled agents in a contact center."
This approach differs from earlier generation crowdsourcing applications which were more like a bulletin board with members of a community giving advice. With Limitless, information is only disseminated by those who have been recruited for their proven history of engaging with the company and specifically invited to do so for their knowledge. They have then gone through an onboarding process where their skills and brand affinity have been tested. These experts have successfully answered practice questions that are directly related to the type of inquiries they will be handling before going online. Roger and Megan leveraged their 20 years in contact centers to create a more rigorous process to help eliminate the doubts that many businesses had about crowdsourcing.
"Beyond the selection process, the magic of the platform is the online rating, at the heart of the new marketplaces that have transformed the world, such as eBay, Airbnb or Uber, are their real-time ratings which gives the other party that is using the service the trust they need in the person that is providing it."
"When they first set out, these pioneering companies had the same challenge in their industries that we do. The real-time rating is our special sauce. Everything that an expert does on the platform is rated. Just like the Uber driver who opens the door for passengers, puts their bags in the trunk and provides a charger for their mobile phone, the experts on the platform want a five-star rating. Megan and I had tried to instill that quality in the agents we worked with in contact centers. Over 50% of the transactions on the platform are verified by customers and we are continually trying to drive that number even higher. Compare that to a traditional contact center with a million inquiries that has a QC team that perhaps reviews 1 to 2% of that volume."
"The Limitless team has also adapted other ideas from the sharing economy leaders, such as a peer-to-peer review process for interactions not verified by the customer. In order for an expert to be rewarded on the platform, they need two other qualified peers to back their response as being accurate and helpful. This is done anonymously to ensure objectivity. With these checks and balances in place, 100% of the interactions processed on the platform are reviewed," said Roger. "In addition, there is a quality control team to look for any exceptions or red flags."
It goes beyond the traditional view of crowdsourcing, which was thought of as being open to anyone interested. "We think of is as a 'curated crowd experience,'" said Megan. "A business is leveraging the power of a crowd but the service that it provides is created and controlled through the Limitless SmartCrowd platform, managing the experience with our technology."
Company experts can choose from as many as 50 potential user inquiries they can answer, with rewards based on the complexity of the question. While the opportunities seem "limitless", experts are careful to respond only to the ones they are confident they can answer to maintain the required high rating. "The crowd knows to select situations where they can help and where they can add value," said Roger. "Being served by people with this confidence level is part of what makes it such a special experience, since in just about all cases the expert has the highly specific knowledge that a generic contact center agent may not possess."
The platform also uses AI powered technology which takes advantage of the power of Limitless' knowledgebase to provide proven answers that have been verified or validated, making it easier for experts to respond. They can either use the answers as suggested, personalize the response, or go into the company's knowledgebase through an API for more in-depth information. The platform is integrated with the client's CRM to facilitate rapid direct agent involvement in cases where using an expert is not appropriate.
Limitless is committed to the values of the gig economy, where freelancers (experts) can choose to work or not work at their own discretion. "It's the heart of our model. There are several things that Megan and I made our mission when coming over from running 2000 seat contact centers. We wanted to strip out some of the extraneous costs of running a center - building, benefits, etc.- to put more money in the pockets of the people doing the work. We are unrestrained by language barriers and make it a point to reward experts in their local currency."
"We believe our solution helps ameliorate the high levels of attrition by giving people more freedom over when, where and how much they work. There are no obligations to participate in the platform beyond giving customers accurate response and delivering consistently amazing experiences."