If you had a problem, would you rather seek help from a call center agent or a specialized gig expert? 

For decades, companies have ushered any customer who needed any kind of help to contact center agents. Whether a part of internal teams or outsourced call centers and BPOs, these agents are hired to solve problems using a script and a pre-approved library of answers. 

They are typically very competent at handling common account-related and billing issues. However, when it comes to the nuances of the product or services those agents are representing, they rarely have deep expertise. They often don’t use the products at all or understand the technology. Which means that for many customers, they do not get the help that they need. 

Directly was founded on the idea that independent experts can provide better customer service when it relates to technical troubleshooting and “how-to” questions. We specialize in harnessing this untapped gig talent pool, with the narrow focus on recruiting product and technical specialists who can troubleshoot a wide range of issues. 

Leading companies such as Microsoft, Samsung, and Autodesk route Tier 1 & 2 customer inquiries to thousands of independent experts, with deep technical and product knowledge, who resolve inquiries related to a variety of software and hardware products. As a result, they have seen call center volume reduced and customer satisfaction (CSAT) and response time improve. 

[RELATED: Read why more businesses are tapping into the growing gig economy to give their contact centers more flexibility and scale]

So, why is the expert network — and the growing gig economy — better equipped to answer certain types of questions? Part of the answer is simple math. A network of thousands has a much better chance of knowing an answer — especially to unusual questions — than a team of dozens or even hundreds of agents. Additionally, having more people available to answer questions vastly reduces the amount of time it takes for a customer to receive the correct response.

But it’s more than speed and numbers. It’s also about the people that comprise the gig economy and our own Directly expert network. There are three common attributes that we’ve seen across our own network: talent, specialized expertise, and authenticity.  

There’s a lot of talent and education exclusive to gig workers

68% of gig workers attended college, compared with 59% of all U.S. workers; Customer service jobs typically require only high school education. (SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

The days where people with college degrees always choose full-time employers are over. Many highly educated and experienced workers are opting for the freelance lifestyle, choosing flexibility over steady income. This means there’s a lot of talent and expertise that companies can tap into within a group of people that would never consider a full-time job, let alone a call center job.

The reality of the call center is that it typically comprises some of the company’s lowest-paid earners — whether outsourced BPO or company-owned. Whether it’s a cause or effect, studies have shown that gig workers typically have more education than call center agents. We’ve seen this in our own network of Directly Experts, with 82% of whom have some college education and two-thirds have a college degree. 

Experiential knowledge can only come from being a user

“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,”Sue Morris, Microsoft GM of worldwide customer service

Training call center agents can be costly, especially as turnover for agents can approach 50% over the course of a year. The constant churn not only adds retraining costs, it means that knowledge accumulated through experience is lost.  

The advantage of using a gig network is that companies can easily tap technical specialists — who already know and understand their products and services. There’s essentially no training gig experts because they already have accumulated a wealth of knowledge on their own. 

If you take a look at our blog series on Directly Experts, you get a sense of just how knowledgeable and passionate some of these gig-network-turned-agents can be.

Take Diane Poremsky. The Microsoft Outlook MVP and author of six books about Microsoft Office offers support on behalf of Microsoft as a Directly Expert. “It’s great that my answers and my knowledge are helping other customers. It feels great to be part of the solution for Microsoft — to help them power support and help them improve support for their users.”

Diane has authored three books about Microsoft Office, and another three books on Microsoft Outlook. Now she shares her insight, experience, and knowledge as a Microsoft expert through Directly’s platform.

Authenticity comes through with passionate users

“Customers see that their interests and those of the expert align in a way that will never be true for contact center agents.” — Ian Jacobs, Forrester Principal Analyst

One of the fundamental problems with managing call center agents is that they get paid even if they don’t successfully resolve issues. Independent experts hired for gig work are only paid when they solve problems. And, more importantly, because they usually have had hands-on experience with a company’s product or service, they are often intrinsically motivated to solve problems for fellow users. Additionally, they may have personally experienced the same issue, which inherently makes them more empathetic to the customer given they’ve felt the same confusion or frustration. 

“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,” said Sue Morris, Microsoft’s GM of worldwide customer service. 

And because call center agents often don’t have the same level of product experience, their training often includes restricting many topics they can cover. As a result, instead of fluid conversations that can ultimately lead to troubleshooting, messages from agents often come off as robotic. Not to mention that it can be frustrating: 

Why aggravate your customers with barrier-forming scripts when you can tap experts to break down support barriers? Knowing that an expert on the other end of a chat window has technical expertise makes them more trustworthy. It also makes them more authentic. There’s no script. Just a knowledgeable expert — who’s been there and done that — offering to help. 

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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 independent experts. And when there are repetitive questions, independent experts author content that you can serve automatically to resolve the issue. 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.