Published: March 30, 2015 | Comments
I recently came across an article on my newsfeed that caught my attention. It was about service provider advocates, and by the end of the article I was nodding my head in agreement and imagining that many other readers were doing the same. The idea of outsourcing household tasks has been around for a few years and has gained traction for certain chores and activities, but sleuth around a bit and it becomes quickly apparent that if we are to seamlessly outsource the mundane components of our lives, there isn’t any easy way to accomplish this yet. This isn’t to say that it isn’t coming and companies that are thinking about this now and possibly figuring out how to market themselves to those service provider advocates would certainly be ahead of the competition, assuming this eventually finds a foothold in most people’s lives.
Who doesn’t love the idea of an assistant handling the more mundane and time sucking part of our daily lives? Deleting all the spam emails from my account? Outsource! Sitting on hold waiting to talk with a customer service representative? Outsource! Waiting in line, along with 10,000 other parents, to sign our kids up for soccer? Outsource! While the idea of turning these tasks over to a personal assistant sounds good in theory, in practice it is usually a whole other matter. Before you go rushing to hire an assistant to help with such tasks, it’s a good idea to do your homework to see if the benefits of outsourcing truly equal the work required to turn your life over to a third party. For simple tasks such as grocery shopping or household maintenance, outsourcing can work great, but for tasks that require someone to access your personal accounts and information, you might think twice.
Just because outsourcing more personal tasks hasn’t become more main stream, doesn’t mean it isn’t on the horizon. Remember that most of the apps, brands, products that we currently rely on went through their own evolution and awkward early stages. If this phenomenon is to take hold, here are some of the questions companies and customers should ponder.
Security—if outsourcing to service provider advocates gains traction, companies will need to pay attention to security issues for the intended user/customer and the person acting on his or her behalf. Figuring out how to set up security questions that don’t compromise other private aspects for the end user will be important. Currently security questions and their answers can reveal some intimate details of a customer’s life such as mother’s maiden name, oldest sibling’s middle name, phone number, etc. Other security issues to consider are credit card numbers held on file and other sensitive information that shouldn’t have a “two-way” flow.
Authorization—considerations for final authorization may include simple and seamless ways for the end user/customer to text in a code or follow a few simple steps online to complete a transaction. Allowing someone to do your customer’s legwork and then providing an easy way to patch the customer in for final approval will give customers peace of mind that their security can’t be easily compromised by outsourcing.
Sales pitches—re-tooling sales pitches to appeal to the assistant rather than the customer will need to be thought through by marketing departments. If service provider advocates become more commonplace it will be necessary for companies to figure out messaging that can be quickly and easily summarized so that advocates can convey to the end user what options or upgrades are available. When a message is relayed through multiple people the potential for outcomes similar the children’s game “telephone” can happen. Remember playing this? One person at the start of a line whispers a word or phrase into the ear of the person standing next to him and then that person repeats what is heard into the next person’s ear and so on down the line. The final person to hear the word or phrase then says out loud what she heard, which is usually quite different from the original word or phrase. While this makes for a fun and funny kid’s game, companies don’t want this type of manipulation happening around their brand or product.
Training—new training protocols for call center and live chat agents will be essential. Knowing proper protocols and communication strategies when dealing with an authorized third party will be essential to the success of this service.
Security and authorization—customers or the end user will need assurance that what is delegated out to an advocate won’t compromise their overall security or privacy. Some sort of assurance of a fire wall between the advocate and customer will be important if the customer is to entrust a third party with sensitive information.
Ease of use—it seems the current obstacle in more people relying on service provider advocates is that it takes a lot time and hassle to get someone else up to speed. The idea of service provider advocates will likely gain traction when it becomes straightforward and easy for the customer. Companies that tailor their marketing to such third-party providers will be leaders in this potential service and likely benefit if this is to take off in a big way.
Final say—while it may be convenient if a third party took certain tasks from start-to-finish there are certain decisions that should only be made by the end user. If a contract between a company and customer is to be modified in any way there may be legal obligations to consider that only the user, and not a third party, can authorize.
It’s hard to say if this type of service will ever gain traction. However, with people living busier lives and looking to free up time wherever possible, it’s quite possible this will be a service that gains popularity. Like most new trends, those companies that race ahead of their competition are those that spend the time strategizing about how offer benefit to a demand that certainly seems to be there, even if it’s a bit rough around the edges. We know there is a desire for service provider advocates and now may be a prime time to take this concept from wishful thinking to functional reality.