Customer service today is not a one-way street. The days of companies forcing all customer interactions through a single channel and expecting customers to stick with the company following a bad experience or negative outcome are long gone.

Thanks to technology, customers today are more empowered than ever. If they don’t want speak to a customer service agent they can jump on a web chat, go to social media, search for help on message forums or research online to see how others have solved the issues they are experiencing.

From a customer mindset, having different avenues to explore to solve their issues in a timely fashion is a good thing. For large companies, however, this can be extremely challenging as they must continuously focus on providing exceptional service that leads to a positive experience across an array of channels in a timely and cost efficient manner.

It’s because of this challenge that we continue to see large companies stepping outside the box from traditional customer interaction channels to provide a favorable customer experience. These companies are finding ways to better tap into the collaborative and sharing economy that we now live in with the aid of modern technology to help solve customer issues in real-time, while also keeping an eye on cost.

One example is a major telecommunications provider in Switzerland, Swisscom. Swisscom partnered with Mila, a Swiss tech start-up that helps large companies’ crowdsource their in-field customer service by providing a platform that enables customers to seek the help of other customers in a timely fashion.

To help paint the picture, when a customer has a product issue they can be directed to a website in which they enter their postal/zip code to display local ‘Friends’ nearby that can help troubleshoot their product issue. These ‘Friends’ are customers of the same company and they all have their pictures, profiles, areas of specialties they can assist with and a rating score. If the customer chooses a ‘Friend’ to help them solve their issue then the customer simply pays a small fee and the ‘Friend’ can arrive within a few hours to solve their troubleshooting concern.

Following an initial pilot launch, this crowdsourcing platform is working well for Swisscom. So far, the platform has close to 1,000 ‘Friends’ in their network spread all across Switzerland with the average rating for each service request coming in at 4.7 stars out of 5.

This platform is also helping Swisscom solve a challenge many large organizations face when it comes to addressing real-time service issues in the field in a timely and cost efficient manner. Instead of a customer placing a work ticket for a field technician to arrive, which can take days, they can simply have another customer arrive in as little as a few hours.

Another collaboration approach many companies are utilizing more of to enhance the overall customer experience through timely and cost efficient means is with the use of video communication.

Boretti, a leading manufacturer of high-end kitchen appliances based in the Netherlands, is an example of a firm leveraging video as a collaboration platform to interact with customers in real-time on latest appliances from their showroom.

Each member of the Boretti sales teams has their own tablet with Polycom RealPresence Mobile 2.0 installed. Sales team members simply dial in and can immediately begin to collaborate with customers from anywhere in real-time. In addition, Boretti has their call center setup for product experts to interact with customers through video in real-time. This helps to provide a better overall communication experience as customers and product experts are better able to collaborate while visually troubleshooting issues over video.

Ultimately, the use of video collaboration is helping Boretti better connect with customers visually in real-time to increase sales, and improve overall customer satisfaction and experience in a cost efficient manner.

The age of the empowered customer complicates the customer service challenge for companies today. However, there are timely and cost-efficient options available for companies to explore and leverage. Utilizing outside the box platforms such as crowdsourcing, along with modern technologies such as video is helping large companies better collaborate with customers in real-time to enhance the overall customer experience.