When the pandemic hit, many companies scrambled to move customer support agents to a work-from-home model. Others tapped into another resource — freelance workers — to scale support efforts and handle the surge in customer demand. According to Forrester Research, about 59 million people — more than 36% of the U.S. population — are choosing freelance work.
While many CX leaders have embraced the rise of the gig economy, some may still have misconceptions about the freelance community, in particular how an on-demand freelance workforce can provide the scale, flexibility and business continuity the experience economy demands. We explore the six most common myths about freelancers to show that they’re exactly that — myths.
Myth 1: Freelancers can’t be trusted to represent your brand
In a traditional support model in which a company relies on a BPO or in-house agents, customers can reliably get answers to billing and account-related questions. But unlike on-demand experts, contact center agents often lack firsthand experience with the product or service, relying on scripts to address product support issues.
To avoid this pitfall and better serve customers, leading companies such as Microsoft, Samsung, and Autodesk instead route Tier 1 and 2 customer inquiries to prequalified networks of independent (freelance) experts who are active users of their products.
In addition to their deep knowledge of and affinity for the product, independent freelancers have a wide variety of professional and soft skills that make them ideal brand and support ambassadors. A recent survey of Directly experts revealed that the vast majority — 94% — are active customers of the brand they support and 67% have previous customer service or technical support experience.
Myth 2: Freelancers are not capable of providing customer support for your specific product or service
The statistics above disprove the myth that freelancers lack deep product knowledge, and are therefore more than capable of providing world-class support. These on-demand, freelance experts are sought out specifically because they have deep experiential knowledge of that product or service and understand the detailed issues facing your customers and how to solve them. At Directly, we take immense pride in recruiting, vetting and onboarding freelancers who live up to that “expert” title. In fact, 79% of Directly experts have three or more years of firsthand experience with the company whose products they support.
Myth 3: Customers will not want to be supported by agents who aren’t company employees or trained BPO agents
Who would you rather answer your support question — a freelancer who uses and loves the product you need help with? Or someone on the company or BPO payroll who uses a script to try to solve your issue? When customers know they’re getting help from a fellow user, it brings an increased level of trust and authenticity to each interaction that simply can’t be matched by traditionally sourced contact center agents. Customers prefer to interact with someone who has been in their situation, understands their frustration, and can provide them with a reliable solution. A new Forrester report titled “Customer Service Reboot: The Rise of the Gig Economy” covers this point well.
Myth 4: It’s challenging to find freelancers with adequate technical & product knowledge
The truth is, it’s not hard to find freelancers who have deep technical product expertise. What is hard, however, is enticing talented experts to take jobs at contact centers, which — let’s face it — don’t have the best reputation.
An attractive and fair pay structure, paired with a flexible work environment is precisely the reason many freelance on-demand experts sign on to support brands of the products and services they use and love. For example, at Autodesk, many freelance experts have high-paying, full-time jobs they wouldn’t consider leaving for a contact center role. The opportunity to help fellow Autodesk users when it fits their schedule provides a win-win scenario: Autodesk users get support from experts with firsthand knowledge of the product who have likely encountered a similar situation, and the freelance experts are paid fairly and feel they’re giving back to the customer community. Learn more by watching a short video covering our Autodesk case study.
Myth 5: On-demand workers are not reliable and have high turnover
In fact, the opposite is true. The average turnover for call center agents is 30-45% year over year. Call center work can be highly stressful and inflexible. As a result, agents have little passion for it — hence the high turnover. From the company’s perspective, this constant churn not only increases the cost of hiring and training new agents, but it also results in a loss of knowledge outgoing agents accumulated through their individual experience there.
Another cost of agent attrition is loss in quality of service — often resulting in frustrated customers and loss of business. In contrast, the flexible work schedules for freelancers gives them full control over their schedules and provides a better work-life balance, resulting in less churn and burnout. In a recent survey, 96% of Directly experts said they expect to remain active on the platform for the next 12 months.
Myth 6: Hiring freelancers is risky and it’s hard to get InfoSec approval
Securing customer data and mitigating risk should be a top priority for CX leaders. That’s why Directly experts don’t have access to customers’ account data or personally identifiable information (PII). Instead, they focus on resolving support issues that don’t require access to customer PII, but do require expert product knowledge and troubleshooting skills.
To this end, it is critical to select a freelance or gig platform provider that prioritizes the security of your customers’ information as much as you do and offers the necessary data control, security and management processes, and certifications. At Directly, we use a combination of sophisticated tools and rigorous processes to protect our clients and experts.
Delivering better CX with on-demand, freelance experts
Companies looking to build a more flexible and resilient support model for the future understand that tapping a highly talented freelance workforce is key to meeting rising consumer demand and building business continuity. At Directly, we partner with leading global brands to help them succeed in the experience economy by building a sustainable network of experts, increasing and maintaining high customer satisfaction (CSAT), and delivering measurable business impact.
Directly 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. Directly helps 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.