So we talk a great deal about how companies and governments are using crowdsourcing, from co-creation to designing a new troop transport vehicle. But what if I told you that a company is using crowdsourcing  — more specifically fansourcing — to supplement your customer service department.

Well there is such a company and it’s called Needle. The Salt Lake City based startup — which was founded in 2010 — is the brainchild of Morgan Lynch and Mikko Valimaki.

“Online shoppers want to make bigger and more considered purchases online, but they also want to talk to a real person, someone that truly knows the product and speaks their native language,” says Morgan Lynch, Founder and CEO of Needle “We’ve built a crowdsourced model that enables passionate brand advocates to connect with these inquiring shoppers in real-time, to chat with them, and to help them find the right item to purchase. Customers have an amazing experience, ecommerce sites have a higher conversion rate, and product experts have a way to make extra income.”

Needle is not a crowdsourcing platform, it’s a Guided Shopping Platform. The Needle service leverages the crowd — who are fans of a product — to handle customer service and sales. These fans — affectionately know as Needlers — can work from anywhere with an Internet connection. Needlers don’t speak with the customers the engagement is done, only, through chat. And Needle pays its Needlers between $9 – 12$ an hour. and NeedlersI know, what you are thinking — “no way, this is too risky!” But Needle has a handful of clients — Skullcandy and Urban Outfitters are two of its larger clients. And Brett Barlow, vice president of Skullcandy is very happy with the service. Barlow explains that the Skullcandy Needlers are passionate about the brand so inherently they are better at sales.

And according to Needle — since Skullcandy implemented the Guided Shopping Platform, the program has enjoyed a 20% – 30% conversion each month.

There are few times that I am actually impressed by what a company produces; this is one of those rare moments. What Lynch and Valimaki have built is an exceptional value to any brand. Especially, since many consumers purchase products based on recommendations from people we trust.

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What are your thoughts on Needle and its Guided Shopping Platform — is this something that you would implement at your company?

Image Credit:  betsyjean79