A common topic at business meetings is smartphones and cellular service, often with a new owner attempting to show the features of the latest phone.
Whether the phone is Android, iPhone, Windows, or Blackberry, the on-board features and upgrades - along with the extensive collection of apps - make this hand-held device the user's portal to the internet, email, text messaging, navigation, or finding deals and restaurants.
The carriers sell time on the cellular network and provide help for some of the basic phone features – such as setting up voicemail - but are not much help with complex questions or undocumented features. Republic Wireless is has created a powerful structure by setting up a community to discuss and solve the complex questions raised by users.
A beginning trend for smartphones is to use wifi when available for voice, data, & text, and use cellular at other times. The cellular signal has a much smaller bit rate and around home and work, the user spends 80% of the time on the faster wifi.
Republic Wireless is capitalizing on wifi/cellular service – they encourage and support a community for excellent user support (better then carrier 'customer service' reps), no lock-in contracts, and unlimited voice, data, and text for a flat rate of $19.95 per month.
Once you buy your phone (with the switching software installed), at activation you are invited to join the user community and contribute to forums on discoveries, problem & resolutions, and suggestions for new features, all raised and answered by users.
Republic is using game theory to encourage participation in the forums by users, awarding points for solutions to problems and discovery of undocumented features. Republic staff participate in the forums as well to validate user solutions, cheer on the discovery of undocumented applications of phone features.
The knowledgebase is an extensive and growing collection of tips, techniques, and answers asked by users and answered by users and staff. The response to user questions is very quick – often within hours.
With this intimate and continuing conversation with other users, the customer gets a flood of referral prospects. The company receives intensive feedback about service and hardware, as well as thoughtful suggestions for improvements. The company communicates with their customers through the forums and users can communicate with each other and develop a road map for future versions of the service, operating system and new business areas.
This innovative collaboration of Republic staff, users, and others creates a rich, functional environment and gives all stakeholders role in a highly responsive process for solving immediate problems and developing future improvements. Their active community setting is not only more effective than other approaches, the savings are evident in the cost of service.
Imagine inviting the users to participate in the discussion, solutions, and development of a communication system – a true breakthrough!
Know of another innovative breakthrough? Please share.