“Unsourcing” a cheaper option to customer support outsourcing

One industry which has fuelled growth in emerging economies like India & Philippines over the last decade is the outsourcing industry. However, the outsourcing industry in these countries has been witnessing a major threat in the recent years because of the changing economic policies of US and European countries and to add on to its increasing woes is a new trend called “unsourcing”.

Unsourcing is an activity in which a customer creates a peer to peer helping mechanism so as to solve issues regarding products and services. This involves companies creating online communities which help in peer to peer support among users. The biggest advantage of this method is that the users need not call up a call centre to share their experience about a product or a service. They can just interact with users who have used the product or service and can exchange their experiences on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter or in the company’s own website. By unsourcing, the companies can save considerable amount of money which they would have spent for outsourcing this task to a call centre.

This method is now extensively used by consumer electronics, telecom and software companies. Some of the companies who are successfully using unsourcing have been discussed here.

Tom-Tom a manufacturer of satellite-navigation systems is said to have saved nearly USD 150,000 by using social networking in handling 20,000 cases in its first 2 weeks. The other companies which have been using unsourcing successfully are Lenovo, Vodafone, GiffGaff, Logitech etc.

Lenovo has been using unsourcing very successfully and the experiences they have with online fans have been tremendous. 1200 accepted solutions of Lenovo have been generated by 30 online fans of Lenovo and this shows the power of unsourcing. Vodafone is also tapping the unsourcing model by using crowd sourcing and has launched a scheme called Vodafone Top fans in an attempt to engage their customers who are fans online.

Starting an online community and using customers in a participative model for better customer service though sounds very innovative, but has its own down falls and risks.  Though online medium acts as a good platform for better customer interaction and handling of customer problems, it can sometimes be very frustrating for customers looking for a particular solution. They will have to scan through many queries and answers, till they find the answer to their query. It is also very difficult to check whether the people who interact on online forums of companies are genuine. Sometimes customers who are not happy with a product or service can post negative comments about the company which can in turn damage the reputation of the company.  The government agencies also put restriction in unsourcing because of legal and regulatory hurdles.

Whatever are the cons of unsourcing, According to Gartner Research, the savings made by companies by unsourcing is phenomenal and it is here to stay. It is estimated that the companies can nearly save 50% of their cost if they use online communities to solve support issues.

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