Headlines these days are rife with news about the gig economy, whether debates on regulation, discussions about economic impact, or stock predictions. Occasionally there’s even an insightful analysis about the many different kinds of gigs and of gig workers. But the gig economy has so far had very little to do with the business of delivering customer experience. Which is why I’ve been so intrigued by Simplr.

A subsidiary of privately held insurance company Asurion, Simplr began operations in 2017 and seems to have hit its stride in 2020. From its origins tackling Asurion’s own customer service needs, the team behind Simplr saw an opportunity. Why not match variable volumes in customer service and information requests with a pool of well-educated experts seeking flexible work they can do from home?

Simplr’s agents—known as experts—don’t answer phone calls but do handle a range of written interactions. They aren’t dedicated to specific clients or product lines. That means they may be responding to tickets from multiple companies in a single session. It also ensures their time is used as efficiently as possible based on current levels of demand. Since most customer service teams are aligned to specific channels anyway, this also makes it easy for Simplr’s clients to incorporate it into their overall staffing management.

Technology Enables Better Human Interactions

From the outset, the team at Simplr sought to provide great customer service interactions through a combination of skilled staff and sophisticated use of technology. A straightforward user interface for experts presents a consistent work environment despite answering queries for multiple companies. API integrations into a wide array of customer service and CRM systems make it easy for Simplr’s client organizations to integrate into their existing systems.

Experts only have access to limited amounts of personally identifiable information and customer data, significantly reducing security concerns. Any requirement to access such information requires a specific request from the expert, triggering a recording of the interaction.

Simplr has also invested in incorporating AI across a number of key areas, using it to:

  • Detect and tag intent
  • Rate the complexity of each ticket
  • Match tickets to agent preferences and expertise
  • Present the relevant information and guidance to the agent

For Businesses, the Advantages Are Clear

Simplr provides companies with a pay-per-resolution model to address text-based customer queries, including email, chat, and social direct messages. If Simplr’s experts don’t resolve the issue, Simplr doesn’t get paid. The company aims to address the 70-80% of customer tickets that are predictable and routine, leaving in-house and full-time customer service teams to handle more complex, involved, or unanticipated queries.

The core value proposition delivers variable costs in line with variable demand. For businesses struggling to keep pace with the wild unpredictability brought by 2020’s global pandemic, that is a strong proposition indeed. Even better when it’s matched with a concerted effort to ensure that experts speak in the tone and language unique to that business. This ability was particularly important for one client, a well-known footwear company. The business’s quirkiness and personal touch underpin its whole brand.

Tapping into a variable pool of resources that sound just like its full-time agents has been a key element of success. At the same time, lightening the load for the in-house customer service and development teams has helped manage the transition as huge volumes of business shifted online. The company’s reliance on Simplr experts has scaled up and down along with the volume of demand.

Who’s Doing This—And What’s in It for Them?

A large proportion of Simplr’s workforce are military dependents all over the U.S. and abroad. The typical expert is a well-educated U.S. citizen (a good many have advanced degrees) who demonstrates strong problem-solving abilities. These are people who value flexible work schedules and can resolve or escalate customer queries quickly. That’s particularly important since experts are, like Simplr, compensated on the number of tickets resolved.

From my perusal of Glassdoor, satisfaction levels seem to be high among Simplr experts. Unsurprisingly, the ability to define work schedules and duration for themselves ranks high among the job benefits. The biggest complaint—and it’s a valid one—is not getting paid for supporting a customer well if the ticket eventually gets escalated anyway.

In theory, this problem should be minimized over time. As the AI tools get better at identifying which customer queries are likely to need escalation and which aren’t, the system should get better at filtering out the likely escalations. Similarly, agents themselves learn as they go, undoubtedly improving their own ability to decide to escalate a customer query early, before they’ve invested much time in it. Even so, Simplr may need to revise its payment policies to ensure that incentives for experts remain closely aligned to its clients’ priorities.

It’s A Win-Win We’ll See More Often

I’ll admit to being initially skeptical of Simplr’s capabilities. There are so many ways that something like this could go wrong—think poorly deployed bots or customer service agents who are nice but can’t actually help you. But I’ve been won over by Simplr’s specific and intentional focus as well as feedback from its customers. As one put it, this isn’t the cheapest option and it isn’t the most expensive—but the ability to scale up and down as needed, with the confidence that the customer experience is consistent with what’s delivered in-house, has been crucial. The benefits for both businesses and agent experts are well aligned.

So far Simplr is the only one of its kind in the market. The company is blazing a trail that others will likely follow, but Simplr has a big advantage in its ability to deliver effectively. With home working and the massive shift to digital commerce across all sectors here to stay, expect to see more of Simplr in 2021.