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Why the Human Touch Still Matters in the Sharing Economy

The internet changed the way we do everything, and then the smartphone changed the way we do that. The rapid and massive growth of ‘sharing economy’ services like Uber and AirBnB, which offer platforms for ordinary people to rent out their time and resources to one another, have changed how we do things as basic as get around and go on holiday. ‘Sharing economy’ might be a bit of a misnomer, though. Users still have to pay for what they use, after all. And while anyone trying to build an app to connect buyers and sellers will be able to tell you how important cutting-edge tech is, they tend to forget one thing: the human touch.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the ‘human touch’ means people. It means being able to get in touch with a knowledgeable customer service advisor when a user’s authentication credentials get handled incorrectly by your system, or when your server’s security settings get misconfigured. The sharing economy is still a relatively young phenomenon, with a lot of kinks still to work out. Being able to speak to a person rather than an algorithm can mean the difference between solving your issue (and your customers’ issue) in an hour rather a day. So if you’re looking to set up the next Uber, or even if you are Uber, you’d better make sure your shiny tech solutions are backed up by an expert team. A platform isn’t a seller on the marketplace, it is a marketplace, and all those different ways for users to interact can create much more room for error.

That’s not to say you should only pick up the phone when something’s gone wrong. Any company operating online worries about their security, and you have to worry about the security of any number of transactions between any number of people. That’s where the tech comes in: scanning all those transactions, buyers, and sellers to check for signs of malicious activity faster than any human ever could. But not (yet) perfectly. Partnering with experts who will manually review those potential risks flagged up by your system makes sure your fraud-prevention tech’s false positives never impact your customers. With scams on some platforms costing users millions of pounds, you definitely need robust fraud-prevention tech, but you’re going to need to back that up with old-fashioned human expertise if you don’t want to risk inconveniencing your clients.

Processing innumerable payments between innumerable users, it’s obvious that the sharing economy needs the best payment tech available to it, but it doesn’t matter how fancy the software is, some things are still, just about, out of reach of the algorithm. When even the slightest blip can send your users scurrying away to find other, more stable platforms to ply their wares and trades on, it’s more important than ever to back up the latest tech with the oldest of old-fashioned human expertise.



Comments: (1)

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 10 May, 2019, 13:19Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

"Sharing Economy" or "Uber for X" or whatever you call it, these are platform / marketplace businesses predicated by VCs who fund them to be "Winner Takes All". Which means that very few of them will be left standing. Which implies that users can get upset with blips - small or big - all they want but they won't have anywhere else to scurry to. Marketplaces tend to spend more resources on perfecting their algorithms rather than adding human touch. This approach seems to be working just fine for, say, Amazon. Like I keep saying, Amazon provides such a great CX that nothing goes wrong most of the times. But, when it does, customers don't have any email or telephone or chat support to seek redressal from and realize Amazon's customer service sucks. 

Paul Marcantonio

Paul Marcantonio

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23 Nov 2018



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