The uberization of technical support is under way! [2/2]
The uberization of the economy is under way. And no, the telecoms industry is not immune to this new trend. I even think that the development of ever more efficient and increasingly complex technologies (IoT, home automation, etc.) will probably accentuate it.
A growing interest for collaborative platforms
Already today, there are a host of collaborative support platforms in France. Their market positioning is very general; these platforms offer a link between individuals looking for a service, and others who provide the desired service. The most dynamic platforms on the market enjoy at least financial backing. This is particularly the case for Allovoisins and Stootie, which benefited from several rounds of fundraising, organized on the one hand by the RTL audiovisual group and on the other by BpiFrance & MAIF. A great deal of confidence seems to be building around these new economic models: we are talking about a final round of €10M for Stootie – this type of figure is rather unusual in the French start-up scene. We can therefore take this as a positive signal, one that is favorable to the emergence of this new economy.
Collaborative platforms are changing the way support is provided to customers
Collaborative technical support represents a segment of the market described above. Transactions relating to this segment are already taking place on these sites; there are support requests posted by Internet users who need help to understand how to connect their box, how to set up their computer firewall – all of which a telco could legitimately handle with qualified personnel if requested by its customers.
In Switzerland, the traditional telecom provider Swisscom has been offering its customers support based on a collaborative business model since 2013. To do this, Swisscom simply took control of Mila, a Swiss start-up. Swisscom customers are now able to request on-site support from a “Friend”, who has been recruited and selected for their technical skills by Mila. The experiment goes even further during subscription to a Swisscom internet offer: the customer has the choice between qualified Swisscom personnel or a Mila “Friend” when having the equipment installed. In this case, the Friend is much cheaper than qualified Swisscom personnel. Friends are also available at times that are more flexible than salaried staff, which gives them an advantage. They are also evaluated and recommended to ensure that the service provided meets quality standards. During subscription, the choice between a Friend or Swisscom staff is perfectly integrated into the ordering tunnel, regardless of the customer’s channel of entry: Web, point of sale or call centre.
Orange has conducted a trial with Mila in Poland. Bouygues Télécom launched this service in Nice, further proof of the dynamism behind this emerging economy in the telecoms industry. Personally, I am a great believer in this new telco business for a multitude of reasons: the legal context is becoming clearer, uberization is making it possible to reduce costs (the Swisscom experiment proves this), and uberization is making it possible to meet an increasingly strong demand for greater proximity and local know-how.
In conclusion, I am clear in my view that telcos must be aware of the risk of their activities becoming uberized and react accordingly. Among the simple solutions that can be implemented, partnering with an existing player such as Mila is a good example, with a community being managed by the Swiss start-up. On the other hand, if they fail to do so, other actors will sooner or later get involved. It will then be very difficult for the operators to respond.