Two years ago, when news broke that a 2012 hack of LinkedIn had compromised 117 million users’ passwords, instead of the 6.5 million previously reported, the site got a few extra questions. Almost overnight, customer service cases rose 1,300 percent. It would have taken 15 weeks, LinkedIn Inc. says, for staffers to address them all. Instead, the company resolved the caseload in about one-third the time by using Directly, software that connects distressed customers with other, more knowledgeable customers.
Using these amateur experts, LinkedIn paid about $2 a pop for answers to easy customer questions about what had happened or protective measures to take, says Andy Yasutake, who oversees LinkedIn’s customer service IT and operations. “It was worth it,” he says. When internal staffers do the same thing, it typically costs $6 to $7. (The staffers, though, get higher ratings from customers.) LinkedIn has since made Directly Software Inc.’s system a permanent feature for many paying customers. “We saw this as an alternative to outsourcing,” Yasutake says.