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Bad customer service kills brands, but these 4 steps fix it

By WYNAND SMIT, CEO of INOVO

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South African businesses are faced with an exceedingly difficult task. They have to find ways to survive in the face of ongoing political uncertainty, fast eroding business and investor confidence, and declining consumer spend. From large retail banks to small consultancies, local businesses have to fight hard to win customers – and even more so to retain them. Indeed, as competition intensifies amidst a slowing economy, brand loyalty is becoming a thing of the past. Today, consumers switch between brands at the slightest hint of better prices, more responsive service and higher quality outcomes. More than ever before, businesses have to stand out – they have to have a clear differentiator in order to survive (and thrive) in a tough environment. 

But how do you stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace? The answer is straightforward: provide outstanding customer service. 

Instead of looking to change or adjust their service or product offering, South African businesses can attract and retain customers simply by providing seamless and efficient customer service. In an environment in which quality customer service is infamously absent, this can be an almost instantaneous (and relatively easy) way for businesses to gain a critical competitive advantage. 

Get your customer service right, and you will instantly stand out from the crowd…

Beyond the buzzwords

There can be no doubt that modern businesses have lost touch with the consumer and end-user. While this can be attributed to many factors (urbanization, the loss of the ‘corner store’, retail chains, hyper connectivity, etc) the end result is the same: businesses no longer have a personal, ‘human’ relationship with customers. They have no knowledge of who they are dealing with, what that person’s needs are, their historical relationship with the brand, etc. All intimacy and connection has been lost – the essential link has been broken. 

Some companies have recognised this, and have taken steps to repair the broken link. In recent years, we have witnessed the emergence of myriad technology solutions and platforms to help businesses get it right. Arguably, however, many ‘solutions’ have been sold on the back of attractive buzzwords (cloud, virtualisation, AI, Big Data, chatbots, etc) that have seldom translated into positive and measurable outcomes for businesses. 

Yet the problem doesn’t lie within the technology itself: the problem lies with the simple fact that businesses still do not understand who their customers are.  

Get Back to Basics 

To provide world-class customer service and thereby differentiate themselves, businesses have to get back to the very basics of engagement. Forget the technology for now, and place the emphasis on restoring the lost link with the consumer. 

There are four key steps to take on this journey, and to provide a strong foundation for growth…

1 – Consolidate All Interactions 

In an attempt to stay ‘relevant’ and trendy, businesses are adopting multiple channels and touchpoints without understanding how to integrate them properly. We are seeing the use of WhatsApp, chatbots, social media, etc, to engage with customers, yet with no ability to track, measure and follow through on queries. 

To avoid providing lacklustre service on these channels, make sure that you consolidate and bring all the mechanisms into the same queue, i.e. into the measurement environment. If they cannot be consolidated, rather remove certain channels than allow them to dilute the brand.  

2 – Identify the Customer 

Once your channels have been consolidated, the next step is to learn to identify the customer across all the various mechanisms. To provide great service, every interaction must quickly and easily reveal who the customer is. 

3 – Harness the Data 

Once the identification piece has been solved, you can then begin to gather historical data and create a holistic view of the customer. This data can be used to predict behaviour and thus empower call centre agents with the ability to personalise their service and meet individual needs. 

4 – Create Accountability 

The final and critical step is to create accountability. Make the customer a promise, and then put mechanisms in place to track and measure if that promise is being fulfilled. Without a culture of accountability, any attempt to enhance customer service will fail. 

This also means reassessing and changing existing metrics. Today, efficiency and productivity is often measured according to the number of calls answered in a time period. Yet this means nothing in itself…were the issues resolved? Were there promises made, and were these promises upheld? 

Basics drive profit 

By getting back to the basics, understanding their customers, and creating a culture of accountability, businesses can quickly transform from within – without major investment or internal upheaval. There is no doubt that creating a winning customer service proposition is one of the fastest ways to drive bottom line profits today. 

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Projection tech transforms retail

By TIMOTHY WILSON, visual imaging business account manager at Epson South Africa

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Display designs, such as those found in retail stores, are no longer confined to static visuals on pull-up banners, 2D print and posters. The increasingly popular use of projection technology has ushered in new and exciting ways to create immersive displays using rich media and high-quality visual content to go beyond the four walls of traditional marketing.

In the past, projectors were lamp-based and prone to failure when used in a harsh environment, such as a retail store. Today, newly introduced laser projection technology has unlocked a range of capabilities.

Transforming the way brands engage with audiences

Creative techniques such as projection mapping, which can be described as the projection of video, animation and other colourful displays onto 3D surfaces, have completely transformed the way brands engage with audiences and can live in retail spaces, concert halls and even sports stadiums.

Projection mapping offers venues wide-spread creativity in using lighting in small or large environments, as was the case with Epson’s showstopping kinetic portal, which implemented projection mapping on a 360 degree vortex at the largest AV and systems integration show in the world – Integrated Systems Europe 2019. Driven by a new, affordable generation of projectors, mapping not only covers flat walls and traditional projections screens but also irregular shapes, objects, and even entire building façades.

When projecting on a larger scale, such as at events and music concerts, the process of visually combining several projectors to display one single seamless image might sound simple enough in principle but can prove to be a challenging task in reality. To overcome this challenge, experiential marketers are adopting the use of image edge blending, which refers to the process of stacking multiple projectors to create a single overlapped projection that appears continuous and clear.

It’s due to these advancements that displays in retail and events no longer pivot just on aesthetic appeal but can now deliver immersive consumer experiences that drive engagement and increase foot traffic. This is starting to drastically change the way that retailers, events and even restaurants host, engage, entertain and communicate with their audiences.

Projection is driving growth in experiential marketing

Consumer interest in the transition towards projection has seen this technology take centre stage at leading retailers such as Mall of Africa, events by brands such as ABSA and restaurants like Saint, transforming their environments into immersive spaces through projection that displays captivating imagery and video.

Saint restaurant in Sandton has pushed the boundaries of branding and displays, transforming all surfaces into a visual delight. Patrons entering the restaurant are greeted by a visual experience within a dome, featuring a series of moving, constantly changing artworks – such as a starry night sky or a replica of the Sistine Chapel – projected onto walls and the ceiling.

In fact, EventTrack research, which showcases the current state of marketing around the globe, highlights the continuous growth of event and experiential marketing. It notes that high-quality projection technology, more specifically its ability to emit stunning visual experiences, has grown in popularity to become the go-to tool for event organisers and retailers looking to captivate and engage with consumers.

The future of projection technology

Projection technology has proven to be an outstanding, much more cost-effective and reliable form of marketing collateral – setting an entirely new standard for high-resolution projection.

Sandton City recently embraced this market-leading technology with the installation of a virtual aquarium in its Centre Court. This installation centred on creating a 3D mapping concept that enabled shoppers to select an undersea creature from a touchpad to swim across digitised hoarding.

With capabilities to meet the demands of large-scale projection and the ability to effectively transform the way brands remain visible at shopping malls, restaurants and retail spaces – the unprecedented imaging power of projection technology has set a considerably high bar when it comes to retail and event displays. 

Epson, which is not only pioneering imaging technology and innovative projection solutions, is also the market leader when it comes to high lumen laser projection, having recently announced its 30,000 lumens laser projector (EB-L30000U) which will officially launch in 2020. This high-end installation laser projector, complete with 4K enhancement, is aimed at rental and staging companies, hospitality markets and visitor attractions, which is yet another progressive step towards transforming the way marketers engage with their consumers in the 21st century. 

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GoFundMe hits R9bn in donations for people and causes

The world’s largest social fundraising platform has announced that Its community has made more than 120-million donations

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GoFundMe this week released its annual Year in Giving report, revealing that its community has donated more than 120-million times, raising over $9-billion for people, causes, and organisations since the company’s founding in 2010.

In a letter to the GoFundMe community, CEO Rob Solomon emphasised how GoFundMe witnesses not only the good in people worldwide, but their generosity and their action every day.

“As we enter a new decade, GoFundMe is committed to spreading compassion and empathy through our platform,” said Solomon in the letter. “Together, we can bring more good into the world and unlock the power of global giving.”

The GoFundMe giving community continues to grow with both repeat donors and new donors. In fact, nearly 60% of donors were new this year. After someone makes a donation, they continue to engage with the community and give to multiple causes. In fact, one passionate individual donated 293 times to 234 different fundraisers in this past year alone. Donations are made every second, ranging from $5 to $50,000. This year, more than 40% of donations were under $50.

GoFundMe continues to be a mirror of current events across the globe. This year, young changemakers started the Fridays for Futuremovement to fight climate change, which led to a 60% increase in fundraiser descriptions mentioning ‘climate change’. Additionally, the community rallied together to support one another during natural disasters like Hurricane Dorian and the California wildfires, where thousands of fundraisers were started to help those in need.

The report includes a snapshot of giving trends from the year based on global GoFundMe data. It also includes company milestones from 2019, such as launching the company’s non-profit and advocacy arm, GoFundMe.org, and introducing GoFundMe Charity, which provides enterprise software with no subscription fees or contracts to charities of every size.

Highlights from GoFundMe’s 2019 Year in Giving report include:

  • Global giving trends and data
  • Top 10 most generous countries
  • Top 10 most generous U.S. states and cities
  • Biggest moments in 2019

To view the entire report, visit: www.gofundme.com/2019

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