With over one million experts on ExpertVoice, it’s needless to say, credentialing at scale is a major undertaking, especially across all the categories and industries we support. From small ambassador programs for ski companies, to pro deal initiatives to professional climbers, to large scale education and product seeding to major retailers, credentialing for each program is crucial. This has required a growing array of resources and systems — not to mention a great deal of learning along the way.
Our belief is that robust transparency and credibility is critical not only for our own program but across the industry. We are sharing our methods to not inform our brands and members about our methods, but to also benefit any brand that may be building their own program.
Credentialing within your program is no small feat — especially as you scale upward.
As in so many other areas of business, automation is one of the best tools for adjusting a process to larger scales in advocacy programs. Automated technology can zero in on signs that an applicant is the real deal or not, accelerating the process and keeping tight control on who makes the cut without requiring additional headcount. These tools accomplish this using the following methods.
Email address domains – When we partner with a brand or organization, we receive a list of approved domain names. When our automated tools spot applications containing an email address from an approved domain, our system instantly sends a verification email. Only once that verification email is submitted is the applicant approved.
Jane, a Petco store manager, has a @petco.com email address and uses it during sign up. As an employee at a major retailer, many pet brands want to reach people like her. So her email address is automatically recognized and with it, she can easily get verified as a pet expert.
Member list feeds – In addition to email-based verification, we also use feeds from our organizations, brands or partners. On a daily basis, these feeds deliver updated lists of active employee IDs, letting us quickly and accurately validate an applicant as a brand employee and revoke access from those whose IDs become invalid. This practice ensures that, as company employees come and go, only current, active employees are admitted into customer advocacy programs.
Andrew, an employee of a cycling brand uses his ID to sign up and get verified. His ID is matched with the brand-provided list. Andrew’s credentials will remain valid until his ID can no longer be verified.
Team codes – Brands can also control who joins their advocacy programs by distributing custom team codes to select individuals. When individuals use these codes in their application, systems can be trained to recognize the team code and grant them limited access to a brand’s customer advocacy program.
Trevor and Michelle are big time foodies, especially when it comes to grilling. With thousands of followers on social media, Traeger Grills decides to include them in their advocacy programs. To do so, they created a unique code to give to influencers like Trevor and Michelle that they can use to sign up.
Manual documentation is an important part of receiving applicants, and requires rigorous training or working closely with partners to make certain that documents are validated or invalidated properly.
Manual, internal verification – Being able to tell authentic documents from the fakes is critical to determine the trustworthiness of an applicant. Here at ExpertVoice, for example, when we partner with a customer, we request samples of authentic credentials that we can use when processing expert applications. We’ve also built a bank of authentic document samples — and even a cache of some common inauthentic credentials — to train our staff on what to look for. This process goes a long way toward minimizing the number of fakes that get through.
Let’s go back to Jane from Petco. If she chose to not sign up with her Petco email, she may have been asked to provide a recent pay stub instead. With previous authenticated pay stubs, her pay stub can be verified and Jane can be identified as a current Petco employee.
Manual verification by partner brands – Some brands have the capacity to appoint an internal administrator to verify documents in-house. These partners are trained and work directly with ExpertVoice to establish a verification process that meets our standards. Our partners are very invested in their relationships with our brands and work hard to keep high standards so their programs are not interrupted.
Let’s look at Martin, a bike shop employee from Portland. Before he signs up with an advocacy program, the brand he wants to connect with may choose to verify his expertise internally first. After he is credentialed by the brand, he is then given the go-ahead to sign up for the program.
Even with so many measures in place upfront, we invest in tools and processes to prevent and detect fraud at the time of order placement or product seeding requests. We do this by monitoring for fraud at the payment level using fraud prevention solutions that use machine learning to track member accounts across many different apps, scoring them based on hundreds of signals, like IP addresses, device fingerprints and activity patterns.
A member manages to create multiple accounts and makes multiple orders from each account. However, the same IP address or even the same shipping address would trigger a red flag in our system.
In some programs, we limit the shipping of any order to the registered place of business and not to the individual’s homes. For instance, if we have partnered with a retailer, orders by their employees are sent only to that employee’s place of work. This additional security element provides visibility to both the brand partners and the retailer on the delivery of important product seeding materials.
At ExpertVoice, to ensure that our advocates are as trustworthy as ever is to encourage them to keep their credentials current and accurate. We do this by requiring members re-apply frequently to maintain access to our program.
Courtney, a nutritionist signed up with her @NutritionCenter.com email a year ago. After a year, she may get an email asking her to verify her email address. This allows her to renew her membership in the program by verifying that she’s still at the Nutrition Center.
To ensure the credibility of our experts, we are continually improving our program and sharing our learnings to build transparency and accountability across the industry. We will be sharing our learnings both in our blog and with our brands, as we continually invest in building credentials at scale.
To learn how ExpertVoice can help you credential your customer advocates at scale and harness their power in the customer journey, visit ExpertVoice.com/business.