Elgg.org Open-Source Social Networking and the Future of Customer Service Jason Takahashi, May 2009
Elgg is an open-source software project specializing in the development social networking platforms, whose classification allows it to be transposed to any domain name without charge.
Elgg represents a unique opportunity for Dish Network to quickly move forward in creating a social-networking website that can also serve as a new medium for customer service interaction.
This presentation will go over just a few of the basics of Elgg and how the multi-media nature of social-networking presents the powerful opportunity to transform customer service.
Open-source software is typically defined as software whose code is readily available to the public due to a belief that contributions from the masses can in turn facilitate a long-term better product.
One of the most prominent examples of this today is Wikipedia. 'Wiki' is ultimately just another online application not unlike Elgg, but instead of being geared towards social networking, 'wiki' is an engine engineered towards multi-medial databasing (lending itself to an encyclopedia).
The founders of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, simply had the foresight to expound upon this open-source project and put it towards their own uses.
Today's social-networking world is mostly dominated by Facebook and MySpace. These entities possess proprietary code that is closed-source, similar to Microsoft.
While the functionality of these website (Facebook in particular) is state-of-the-art, replicating this hierarchical model without a stellar fleet of web engineers would be incredibly difficult especially in a short amount of time.
Elgg has keenly recognized this situation and is currently the forerunner in developing an open-source solution which could eventually not only match it because of the widespread, heterachical involvement in the project, but perhaps in the long-run beat it because of its wide-range of potential implementations.
One of the greatest open-source success stories is that of Mozilla Firefox. Firefox over the past decade evolved from the original (but now defunct) Netscape Navigator. In 2004, Firefox was released under open-source classification.
Today Firefox is perhaps the most popular and powerful browser on the web due to its tight security and ability to allow programmers from around the world to create unlimited add-ons and extensions which can then be downloaded and installed by any other user.
In addition, according to an independent study, Firefox users are vulnerable to online threats 2% of the time, as opposed to Microsoft Internet Explorer users who exhibit vulnerability 78% of the time.
Potential Uses of Elgg
Like Firefox, Elgg has a community of users and programmers constantly creating new plugins, add-ons, and extensions to fit the needs of users in an ever-evolving web-landscape. At this point, a website powered by Elgg allows users to utilize virtually all the aspects of the current Internet on nearly the same scale as Facebook.
In the case of Dish Network Customer Service, a website could be created using the Elgg engine and customized – technically and aesthetically - to fit the needs of Dish Network. This could be done at cost via Elgg employees, or through the trial and error of our own internal resources.
In many ways, Dish Network could be among the first to delegate custom service calls to an online social networking site, in which customers and service representatives could interact within the fluidity of today's digital landscape. Service reps could gather support and feedback in real-time from customers around the globe, providing Dish with a lucid demonstration of service effectiveness.
Furthermore, records of service scenarios could over time be archived and cataloged, in which videos could be made explaining how to fix the situation and streamed from the site itself. In effect, every problem that could be explained via video could then be uploaded to the site and integrated into a searchable database, in turn providing on-demand answers to the questions of millions of Dish subscribers from around the globe.
Example #1: Customer Service Representative Profile
Example #2: Elgg Global Dashboard
Example #3 – Community Video Feed
Transforming Customer Service
Using this platform would transform the two-way street that stands between a service representative and a customer via the phone line into a dance floor of individuals who will learn to interact with eachother through chat, video and databased oinformation with more depth and complexity than ever before.
Service representatives can be given personalized profiles that highlight their strengths and interests. They will then be given free reign over cultivating a network of both peers as well as customers who they can collaborate with and who can comment (quantitatively and qualitatively) on their work.
Dish customers can also become members of the community and contribute as much as they wish to the collective knowledge-base. This will give customers an opportunity to connect with technicians they enjoy as well as give constructive feedback to those who perhaps they do not. In the end, this will provide the infrastructure to harness as much of the potential energy possible between both parties, much of which is lost during traditional telephone conversations (especially to outsourced service representatives).
Lastly, giving service representatives the venue have more control over their work may ignite a renewed interest in the idea of service, one that is harmonious with today's level of technology.
Language – Using this platform may prove fruitful when trying to overcome language barriers in customer service interactions. Mozilla Firefox has a new add-on known as Ubiquity which allows users with a simple combination on the keyboard (such as CTRL+SPACE) to bring up an auxillary window which can handle a host of commands including translations.
Credit Systems – Service representatives can be eligible for a point/ratio system that keeps track of the quantitative feedback accumulated from various service interactions, translating to rewards.
Regularly Updated Service Manuals – As a result of the influx of feedback, quarterly or biannual updates can be distributed digitally and multi-medially without extra publication costs.
Open Doors to Open-Source – Many developers of mobile products and software, including the Google/T-Mobile Android, are utilizing the benefits of open-source software development. Considering Dish's current minimal influence in this market, yet enormous potential as a result of Sling, enthusiastic co-creation with the greater digital community will most likely benefit the company as Internet and television communications continue to penetrate one another in more ways than one.