Archive: June, 2012


Procurement professionals are familiar with the benefits and risks of outsourcing, near sourcing and insourcing. A new trend has emerged called “unsourcing”. Companies set up on-line communities to enable peer-to-peer support among users. Instead of contacting an outsourcing provider, customers’ queries are answered by unpaid individuals who have bought and used the same products. This is done either in discussion forums set up on the company’s own website or on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. The unpaid individuals are often rewarded in a way that is similar to computer games, where points are won for queries answered to the satisfaction of the customer.

The savings can be considerable. Gartner, the market-research firm, estimates that user communities can reduce support costs by as much as 50%. When TomTom, the sat-nav systems provider, switched on social support, members handled 20,000 cases in the first month and saved the firm around $150,000. Best Buy, the American gadget retailer, reckons its 600,000 users save it $5m annually.

Clearly there are limits to unsourcing, however, it is something that procurement professionals should consider as a way not only to cut costs but to help their business engage better with their customers.