The Social Contact Centre

to a social networking way of working through the eyes of a Contact Centre manager

A benevolent crowd

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Social Networking is driven by the fundamental benevolence in the participants and this can be immensely powerful. The desire for people to help each other encourages people to do a day’s work and then spend further hours helping out complete strangers. Consider this: The DIYDoctor.org.uk website offers advice for DIYers having problems with any project. Member plumbbob has helped out with advice over 1600 times and Sparx 2100 times. The IT community are used to sharing knowledge. When was the last time you actually called Microsoft or Apple with a problem rather than Google it or look through forums. Stackoverflow.com is ranked as the 64th most visited website in the UK (according to Alexa.com) and has a community of developers helping each other and gaining reputation points from their peers. Not far behind is TripAdvisor in 71st, a site that hosts 45m reviews of hotels, resorts, attractions and restaurants by benevolent travellers.

From a cult which began as forums the desire to share has now spawned sites dedicated to answering your questions regardless of topic: Yahoo Answers, Answers.Com, Quora.

So what is this benevolence based on? Clearly there is the fundamental desire to help. It is human nature to be charitable; to help someone in need. But much of this activity is on a low degree of urgency and displays a degree of self-interest too. Some other factors which appear prevalent are:

1. Gaming and competition. There are specialist providers who offer to “gamify” websites to drive up engagement. Web 2.0 is all about participation and engaging with the community. Think  about the number of engagements which are rewarded with badges or are stimulated by targets. WordPress itself reminds you of the next goal in terms of numbers of posts. TripAdvisor has badges for contributors set at a fairly low threshold. This is not really about rewarding loyalty but about stimulating usage. For many the objective of Twitter is to maximise followers. Across a range of Social Media platforms tools such as Klout and Peer Index attempt to rank and profile engagement.

2. Boasting. Particularly for the more technical skills there appears to be an element of wanting to be “seen” as a guru or expert in your field. In some of the forums there appears to be a little jousting between technical rivals even. The Stackoverflow website nakedly scores contributors with a reputation score based on volume and likes.

3. Companionship. For some the social media world has undoubtedly given them a voice which they would be shy to use as frequently or at the same volume in the “real” world. Engagement is not always about answering the question or solving the problem – there is a high level of empathy demonstrated.

4. Cost and time saving. Possibly the most important factor of all is the desire to reduce our costs and save time. Web 2.0 is a 24×7 world with vastly more expertise available than any one call centre. People understand that the contributions they are making are an investment for when they need help themselves. There are still huge numbers of “lurkers” who take without giving or are waiting for the problem to come along that they themselves can answer.

There is an undercurrent of manipulation emerging which sceptics have latched on to. TripAdvisor, in particular, has attracted negative publicity over “false reviews” which are either placed by owners or proprietors to boost rankings or by malevolent individuals looking to extort from them. Forums are regularly monitored or moderated by undercover suppliers. This is undoubtedly a threat to benevolence but Web 2.0 users are very savvy and can read between the lines more than ever before.

The true sign that benevolence is alive and well comes in the form of  Crowdfunding. Charity has long been successful asking for donations with no payback in support of worthwhile projects. Crowdfunding allows people to connect with projects and to contribute money to them in return for recognition or token gifts. Examples at the moment on http://www.crowdfunding.co.uk are unsigned artists looking for funding for their first album, charity projects, and political parties looking for funds for TV adverts. Similar platforms exist for businesses looking for equity. The difference is that inherent in the investment is a close relationship between funder and recipient from the start. The funder is providing the money directly to the individuals for a very specific project which they have an interest in – more Dragon’s Den than traditional sources of capital.

Photo: bridalwave.tv

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Written by greencontact

February 6, 2012 at 10:46 am

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