Everyone in the service sector knows about the acronyms B2C and B2B – business-to-customer and business-to-business. It describes the nature of a business; are they marketing goods or services to end consumers – like a retailer – or to other businesses, like an IT services firm?
Companies offering a service all fall into these categories and business students or consultants will spend many hours describing how different these companies are, and how their customer service strategies need to be entirely different.
But what about C2C? What if we considered that a customer-to-customer interaction could also exist? It’s an acronym that is being used increasingly by firms finding that often the best way to support their customers is to introduce them to other existing customers who are willing and able to support the product – often for nothing other than the recognition of being seen as an expert.
It doesn’t sound like much of a service? But it really works and can be especially effective for low-margin services that still need a level of support, for example a sim-only mobile phone product. A product like this has a very low profit margin, yet customers still have questions and need occasional support.
In the same way, people give their time for free to Wikipedia, just earning kudos for their participation, many consumers are happy to demonstrate their expertise with products like telephones and other consumer electronic devices. If that enthusiasm to demonstrate expertise can be channelled into helping peers through a process of ‘crowdsourcing’ the support then it can be highly effective. This often works by gamifying the experience – adding points and badges to the process of participation. There is no actual payment, but people love scoring higher than their friends and so they continue to participate.
Some are critical of this method, pointing to the lack of consistency in services delivered by peers, but other commentators believe it is the future for many types of electronic product.
What do you think, and how best can it be made to work for consumers who want an immediate – and reliable – answer?