Directly helps brands support customers more efficiently and empathetically by combining AI with human experts. It helps Microsoft resolve 2 million customer support queries a year, achieve 90 percent customer satisfaction ratings, and automate 25 percent of the issues. M12, Microsoft’s venture fund, has invested in Directly, which has led to more work with teams across Microsoft.If your mantra is to create fans in every interaction, what better way than to recruit fans as your first line to talk to customers. 

“If your mantra is to create fans in every interaction, what better way than to recruit fans as your first line to talk to customers.” – Sue Morris, GM of Worldwide Customer Service at Microsoft

Fans helping fans

In 2011, Antony Brydon and Jeff Patterson founded Directly to address a problem with the customer service industry. They noticed that while customer representatives handle queries about a product set all day long, they don’t necessarily use the products themselves, and most aren’t passionate about the company they work for.

Directly combines human brand advocates with AI to provide better, more efficient customer service. The AI handles simpler issues, freeing up the people to take care of the more complex ones. Instead of having full-time staff sitting in contact centers, Directly recruits genuinely enthusiastic users of the products who work on a gig basis. This means gamers help other gamers resolve issues with their Xbox, for example. Directly experts pick up requests at times that suit them and get paid per request.

A thriving collaboration

Directly’s model appeals to large technology companies. It works with Airbnb, Autodesk, Samsung, SAP, and—since 2016—LinkedIn, which Microsoft acquired that same year. Mike de la Cruz, Chief Business Officer at Directly, explains how his company addresses a growing need in the tech sector: “Because so many technology companies now offer their products as services, customer experience has become critical to how they compete and how they grow.”

Reinvesting in better customer experience

In addition to helping Microsoft automate its customer support interactions and improve the customer experience, the Directly model also makes Microsoft CSS more agile. It can take up to five months to train a traditional customer support agent. Through its use of gig workers, Microsoft can onboard enthusiastic, knowledgeable advocates, who are local to customers, in a couple of days. “Because we’re recruiting fans who are regular users of our products and services, we’re recruiting an already trained workforce that vastly reduces our time to competency,” says Morris. “And we can scale our support teams as needed—around holidays, for example, when people are unwrapping new Xbox consoles and Surface devices.”

Across the organization, Directly has helped Microsoft achieve customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores of more than 90 percent. And 25 percent of all Xbox issues are now resolved automatically. “Our service works because it’s instantaneous—it gets gamers back to gaming,” says de la Cruz. “But it also works because the support that customers get is empathetic. The automations are written by fellow gamers, and we use AI to make sure that each response is appropriate to the use case.”

While working with Directly saves money for Microsoft CSS, the net result is better customer service. Says Morris, “We save money by not using offshore customer service centers, which means we can reinvest it in local advocates who speak more languages and have direct experience of the outcomes that our customers want to achieve.”

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