Editor’s note: This is the first of a three-part blog series about how we build and manage our network of on-demand experts, who provide much-needed scalability and flexibility for today’s decentralized contact center. These on-demand experts — who have a combination of technical expertise and first-hand product experience — have become a trusted customer service resource for some of today’s leading brands.

Trust is complicated. Whether you are the founder of a startup, manage a division of an enterprise, or run a contact center, you ultimately need to trust that your team members will do their jobs well. That’s especially true when it comes to customer service. 

You must have faith in anyone who engages with your most valuable asset — your customers — and trust that they can be both empathetic and helpful in solving problems.

Traditionally, organizations have relied on BPOs to source and train external support agents, and while those agents can adequately handle account-related questions, they often lack the product and technical know-how to properly address other questions. 

At Directly, we help big brands and enterprises tap into the talent and specialized technical expertise of the crowd — providing much needed scale to customer service teams, which is especially important during seasonal and unexpected surges. These companies have seen first-hand how our independent experts — who have experiential knowledge of products along with a breadth of technical expertise — deliver great customer service while providing unmatched flexibility to scale dramatically up and down to meet demand. 

Still, many CX leaders — while desperate for flexibility in their approach to the call center — have a hard time trusting the people outside the organization representing the brand on the frontlines of customer support. It’s complicated to trust people you don’t know. 

This blog post is the first of a three-part series that explains how we recruit, onboard, manage, and keep our experts. We start at the beginning — how we find the right people and talent. It’s the first step to creating that trust. 

Finding talent in the crowd  

Companies have been seeking to hire top talent since the dawn of business. However, finding experts that can passionately and knowledgeably represent a company independently — as a gig worker — is pretty different. 

As we wrote recently, more people than ever are looking for gig or part-time work. The experts we seek typically aren’t interested in working full time for a company. 

And unlike an outsourced BPO, we aren’t interested in finding people whose horizontal specialty is customer service. We seek people who are experts in the specific products and services our customers sell. They are often users. They are likely passionate and ultra-knowledgeable about the products and brand. They understand how a company’s products work in a broader technology ecosystem. They often geek out on technology of all kinds, and love helping people solve problems.

The way we find and recruit these experts is very important. Here are the primary tools we use to find a business’s passionate community and customers:

Email — One of the most effective tools we have is email. Working with our customers, we will send a notice to targeted segments of users to ask them to join our platform.   

Community marketing & social media — One of the attributes we look for in our experts is people who are already active in online communities and on social media. We will find and target users on community sites such as Reddit. 

Advertising — We also use paid advertising tools, in particular with social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to target and find experts based on interests. 

Referrals — We may also tap our existing experts to help. So, if you’re a vetted expert for one of our gaming customers, there’s a good chance you know other gamers like you. We offer a referral bonus to bring new experts onto our platform. 

Cross-selling — We have some experts that are qualified to answer questions for more than one of our customers — so we’ll sometimes recruit among our existing Directly community. For example, one of our customers is a telco giant while another makes phones and devices that leverage the network — and some experts offer support for both companies. 

Other — Each customer and case is different. We’re always finding new ways to attract experts interested in helping fellow users. One example: For one global consumer electronics giant, COVID-19 led to the closure of hundreds of retail stores, which customers relied on as a place to get support and advice before making purchases. We invited those retail employees to join our platform — and share the same kind of expertise and support they would have in the retail stores.  

Reaching the right experts is just the first step, though. Similar to an open job listing, we draw interest from a range of people interested in joining the expert community. But not everyone would have the expertise or specific experience to be successful. 

That’s why, similar to how an HR department reviews job applications, our team evaluates the qualifications of expert candidates.   

Vetting with writing and skill tests

The different campaigns we use to reach potential experts include a link back to a landing page, where the on-boarding process begins. Once an interested party creates an account with us, they start a skills test.

The interface looks like this one that we use for a global gaming company: 

The skills test asks a series of multiple choice questions, ranging from very challenging questions to more nuanced ones, helping our team assess the depth of knowledge for each candidate. 

We also ask open-ended questions designed to measure writing effectiveness. We may ask expert candidates to describe their qualifications, why they want to do this work. We might ask for examples of social media or forums where candidates are already actively helping other people with related tech issues. Depending on the product or service, we may ask for a short answer — or a longer-form response, more like an essay. In this example, we simply ask to explain how a candidate might be able to empathize with other users: 

After the skills test is complete, we’ll perform language tests. Again, this varies depending upon the customer. Typically, the language test is another open-ended question designed to help us assess language ability. It might look something like this: 

Next steps: Assess and onboard

Once the testing and screening is completed, our team reviews to determine whether the expert candidate is a good fit. 

If candidates score highly on the skills and writing tests, we’ll approve them and we can start the onboarding process. If they fail, we’ll (politely) let them know it’s not a good fit. Our scoring criteria varies, depending upon the complexity of the product or service and the necessary skills it takes to successfully deliver great customer service for our customer. 

Of course, even after an expert is approved to join our platform, our assessment continues for as long as the expert remains a part of the program. They will be evaluated closely after they join, and will continuously be evaluated on their performance — and rewarded only when they are successful. In our next post, we’ll focus on how we consistently ensure high quality customer service over time. After all, while trust is complicated, it’s integral, and it needs to be earned over the long haul. 

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Why Directly Experts? 

Directly’s Answers service delivers world-class customer service for leading Fortune 500 brands. Captive and outsourced contact center models increasingly can’t keep up with customer service demands, while self-service is only effective at deflecting simple contacts. With Directly Answers, we help you troubleshoot a wide range of technical issues using on-demand experts. Customers like Microsoft, Samsung, and Airbnb to reduce contact center volume up to 40%, boost CSAT up to 20% and save millions per year. Contact us to set up a demo today.