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Chatbots change call centres

Telcos are forced to reinvent how their services are delivered and go beyond the traditional approach towards customer care, writes EMMANUELLE SALON, Business Development Manager for Telcos in South Africa, at Wipro Limited

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The local contact centre industry is thriving and has seen substantial growth over the last four years, as South Africa became an enticing destination for offshore business.

Concurrently, telcos across the world are seeking to improve their customer experience and reduce operating costs, largely due to disruptive business models, ever-increasing competition and the rising digital wave.

This is forcing telcos to reinvent how their services are delivered and go beyond the traditional approach towards customer care and adopt more engaging and disruptive channels.

Digitising the customer care landscape will not only help telcos improve their online footprint, but also ensure they can slowly reduce human interactions and interventions needed to sustain such a model. This will improve customer experience and reduce operational costs.

However, contact centres face several challenges. When a telco must support more than 2 000 models of phones, modems and routers, the technical skills required of the customer support staff increase dramatically, as does the resultant average handle time.

Contact centres’ challenges remain high when trying to improve the desired customer experience across multiple channels as well as being operationally efficient and reducing costs, while developing agents’ skillsets.

In an increasingly complex, connected world, the contact centre becomes the interaction hub of the digital enterprise – responsible for support, interaction, education and data gathering. However, it will have to evolve to deal with more responsibilities and more complex issues.

The use of chatbots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will help address many of the biggest challenges that telcos currently face.

The industry is being impacted by digital revolution, with infrastructure coming under increasing strain as it supports more devices, connected cars, smart cities and the Internet of Things, all of which directly affects contact centres.

For contact centres, the challenge lies in that telecom networks are incredibly complicated, and inevitably, things can go array. When it does, people are quick to call up the customer care executives at the contact centre, who inevitably escalate issues to the management team, leaving customers frustrated. Hence, contact centres must be hyper-efficient; with every possible metric, output and deliverable enumerated, analysed and optimised.

As a result, the rise of AI and automation in contact centres has been embraced by telcos – typically by automating some simpler customer requests through chatbots and self-serve Interactive Voice Response technology (IVR).

For example, IVR technology (both audio and visual versions) saves customers and agents time by enabling things like choosing the right queue, ordering a call-back, or requesting to be reconnected with the same agent after a call drop.

Additionally, customer-facing chatbots can be used to provide instant answers and links to further information for frequently asked questions. This significantly speeds up service.

For smartphone callers, chatbots can be integrated with contact centre technology to manage smartphone communications that emulate the natural speech of a human agent. Not only does this simplify and streamline operations, it means average call waiting times and call handling times are reduced, giving agents more time to handle more complex queries.

New technologies, including Natural Language Processing (NLP) systems, Internet bots and AI tools will increase the range and complexity of care tasks that can be handled by machines.

Already, digital-native companies seamlessly mix chatbots and human-enabled chat seamlessly, so that customers often can’t tell whether they’re interacting with a machine or a human.

Despite the increased use of bots and AI, customers still want to interact with a human when they need help with difficult or high-value tasks. Research shows that more than 50% of customers want to interact with a human in case of a crisis, or when they need a solution to a problem with a product or service.

Skilled human agents are still the best guides for customers to navigate complex or highly-customised product and service offerings.

Those types of interactions are critical. They can be the decisive touch points that determine the customer’s perception of a telco. Moreover, these live interactions provide irreplaceable switch-sell and up-sell opportunities that might otherwise be lost.

Self-service, voice-bots and automation are not predicted to reduce overall agent headcount. If anything, this technology will be needed to support increased demand for contact centre interaction.

Today’s simplistic IVR systems are poised to be replaced by voicebots. However, as this happens, agents will handle an increasing load of more complex tasks.

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ASUS puts more screen into gaming

While others battle over the thinnest bezel for maximizing screen space, ASUS released a dual screen laptop that uses the space where one’s palms would usually rest, writes BRYAN TURNER

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When one imagines dual screen, it’s usually two screens side-by-side on a desk, providing a horizontally long desktop experience. There have been clunky dual screen laptops in the past, some that folded out horizontally, but these never really caught the attention of the consumer.  

Enter Asus with the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15. Like the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo, the ROG Zephyrus Duo features two screens – the main screen on the top panel (as we’re all used to) and another screen just below that, where the top of the keyboard would usually be. The main difference is the secondary screen pops out at a 13-degree angle to bridge the gap between the two screens, and to give better viewing angles.  

That ZenBook Pro Duo is also a pretty good machine for gaming, because it features Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 graphics, but it doesn’t have the latest graphics. With the new machine, Asus is one of the first manufacturers to release a laptop featuring Nvidia’s latest RTX 2080 Super Max Q GPU for mobile devices. This is a momentous feat, considering that not only are the external features  cutting edge, but also the internals. 

The main panel is configured to be either 4K 60Hz or 1080p 300Hz. The former is most likely going to be picked up by video editors and photoshop gurus, because it covers 100% of the Adobe RBG colour space, and the latter will appeal to gamers who want to see their high frame rates in action. Both panels are Pantone Colour Calibrated for high colour accuracy. 

The secondary panel features a 32:9 resolution, which is equal to putting two standard 16:9 widescreen panels together. The touchscreen panel outputs a 3840 x 1100 resolution at 60Hz.  

The combination of these panels will be ideal for portable gamers. The main game can be on the main panel, while Discord and game streaming software can be on the secondary panel, all at a glance. Not to mention the game developers that have support for two screens, where the second screen highlights stats and other components that had to be crammed into the main screen’s space.   

On the inside, the laptop features liquid metal cooling, which lowers the temperatures by 8°C and allows the computer to function with less fan noise. Asus has also slipped some very interesting cooling tech behind the secondary panel, when it pops open, to maximise airflow into the computer from both the bottom and the top of the device. 

The laptop features the biggest battery Asus has yet put in a computer, at 90Wh. This is incredibly close to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA’s) limit of 100Wh batteries being allowed on flights to the US. Fortunately, this computer can be taken around the world if necessary. 

These computers will come in two variants of 10th Generation Intel processors, namely the i9-10980HK or i7-10875H. They support up to 2 M.2 NVMe PCIE 3 slots for SSDs. 

The new ROG gaming range from Asus will be available later this year. The price of the computer has not yet been confirmed

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Vodacom, Discovery launch free virtual COVID-19 tests

Vodacom and Discovery have teamed up to launch free virtual COVID-19 testing for all South Africans – not only for their customers.

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Vodacom and Discovery have partnered to deliver a powerful online healthcare platform for the benefit of all South Africans during the COVID-19 pandemic. This platform provides easy access to a COVID-19 risk tool for all South Africans, to help understand your personal risk for COVID-19. Where needed, it assists immediately to schedule virtual healthcare professional consultations and get advice.

Globally, telemedicine has proved to be vital in the management of this disease, with many governments and healthcare systems advocating for digital healthcare tools and virtual consults to be the first step and primary means of healthcare support during the COVID-19 outbreak. The risk assessment and virtual healthcare tools can help to identify people who need health professional engagement and a potential referral for testing or to a hospital.

The online healthcare platform therefore makes it possible for South Africans to access a healthcare professional without them having to travel to a healthcare facility.

This reduces overcrowding at clinics and doctors’ rooms where there is greater risk of the virus spreading. It also protects healthcare professionals from potential repeated exposure to COVID-19.

It is free to use and available on any web browser or mobile phone to facilitate a full consultation with a doctor, either through video calls, voice calls, or by text. The service can be accessed by visiting either the Discovery or Vodacom websites. Vodacom customers can get additional information and do a self-assessment via USSD by dialling *111#.

Through a partnership with Vodacom, Discovery’s existing DrConnect platform, which was previously available only to Discovery clients, is now accessible to all South Africans. Vodacom and Discovery have also jointly created a fund to pay doctors for approximately 100,000 consultations, making them free to any South African.

There are seven easy steps to use an online doctor consultation:

  1. Start the process by visiting Discovery’s COVID-19 information hub or Vodacom’s website. Members of Discovery Health Medical Scheme can access the service through the Discovery app. Vodacom customers can get additional information and do a self-assessment via USSD by dialling *111#.
  2. Utilise the COVID-19 self-screening risk assessment tool, by answering a few easy questions.
  3. If you are confirmed as high risk of having COVID-19, a short registration and consent process on the DrConnect app will follow.
  4. Book a virtual consultation with a doctor who is available to assess the need for COVID-19 testing.
  5. If the doctor recommends testing, a photo of the completed pathology form will be sent to you by SMS, WhatsApp or email. The same process will apply to scripts for medicine.
  6. Testing and collecting of medicine will be facilitated by the relevant essential healthcare service providers that you must visit.
  7. Doctors will receive test results electronically and can then advise if you should schedule follow-up appointments to discuss results and next steps.

The Vodacom COVID-19 information hub contains other up-to-date information for consumers about COVID-19.

With virtual consultations, the location of the doctor or the location of the patient will not restrict access to fast and effective healthcare. All doctors can register to help.

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