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Companies must get messaging bug

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Organisations that fail to adapt to the new messaging culture risk falling behind and losing customers research from BT and Cisco has revealed.

The research report, entitled The Digital Customer 2017 — Chat, tap, talk: eight key trends to transform your digital customer experience, is based on an independent survey of 5000 consumers in  South Africa, Belgium, China, Germany, the Netherlands, India, Singapore, the UK and the US. Its findings suggest that a growing number of consumers internationally find it easier to deal with organisations via messaging and social media, a trend driven by a surge in their personal use of apps such as WhatsApp. The trend is particularly clear in China, where 37 per cent of respondents said that they use the messaging app WeChat for customer service.

The research found that almost half (48 per cent) of respondents get frustrated if text-based “chat” is not available when dealing with organisations, while 70 per cent of those aged 18-34 years said they are sourcing more and more of their products and services via social media.

Overall, 58 per cent of respondents said they get a quicker, more instant response when using messaging compared with the phone l, while 37 per cent said they would choose to contact an organisation via Facebook or Twitter if they had a problem which needed solving urgently. 46 per cent of South African respondents think it would really add value if they could speak to an agent on a social media platform compared to the 30% global average.

When asked how they would like to receive support from an organisation while accessing its services online — for example, while using an organisation’s app or researching a product on its webpage — 65 per cent of respondents said that they prefer to use webchat, up from 45 per cent in 2015.

With more than three quarters of consumers (76 per cent) saying that they buy more from companies that are easy to do business with, the findings suggest that organisations should upgrade their contact centre capabilities to support messaging and social media to help drive business growth.

Despite the growing trend for messaging and social media, consumers’ use of dedicated customer service phone lines fell only gradually between 2010 and 2017. 31 per cent of respondents in the UK and US said they had called a contact centre within the last two weeks, compared with 38 per cent in a similar study seven years ago and 43 per cent of respondents aged between 16-34 years said that they still want the option to call.

In South Africa, however, 82 per cent of local respondents say that it generally takes too long to get through to contact centres (compared to the 76 per cent global average), and 70 per cent agree that it would add immense value if organisations made it cheaper to call them from a mobile phone. 85 per cent of local respondents say they prefer self-service options as this puts them in control to manage their time and costs.

Andrew Small, vice president, unified communications and CRM, Global Services, BT, said: “While ‘typing’ to request customer support is increasingly popular, the research shows that people still want the option to ‘talk’. This creates a challenge for contact centre operators as they now need a technology platform that can handle both the evolving mix of apps that customers wish to use and traditional service channels such as the phone.”

“Cloud contact centre platforms are ideally placed to help. They can be deployed as a single package delivering voice, video and messaging-based customer service together with operational tools for recording and call and agent management. They’re hosted in the cloud, creating the flexibility to manage peaks and troughs in demand. They can integrate data from other business systems, which is vital for consistency in customer service. Finally, they include recording, which is essential for good service and regulatory compliance.

Tom Puorro, VP/GM, Unified Communications Technology Group, Cisco, said: “We live in a world where customers will change providers if an app is slow or it takes too many clicks to get a question answered. This research underscores that consumer-facing organisations need an integrated omni-channel strategy to be successful. Such a strategy will help them engage, innovate and be proactive to improve sales.”

BT is one of the world’s leading providers of contact centre solutions and services. It has deployed over 4,000 contact centre solutions to more than 1,000 organisations globally, including some of the world’s largest banks, utilities, airlines and pharmaceutical firms.

BT is one of only five Cisco Global Gold partners. Over the past ten years, BT has deployed Cisco contact centre solutions serving 12,000 agents in 40 different countries. Together, BT and Cisco can help organisations provide an outstanding customer experience by deploying future-proof cloud-based contact centres. These can provide the scalability to manage increasing volumes of interactions across voice, video, social media and chat and blend them seamlessly to create the digital experience customers expect.

 

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Get your passwords in shape

New Year’s resolutions should extend to getting password protection sorted out, writes Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO at ESET Southern Africa.

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Many of us have entered the new year with a boat load of New Year’s resolutions.  Doing more exercise, fixing unhealthy eating habits and saving more money are all highly respectable goals, but could it be that they don’t go far enough in an era with countless apps and sites that scream for letting them help you reach your personal goals.

Now, you may want to add a few weightier and yet effortless habits on top of those well-worn choices. Here are a handful of tips for ‘exercises’ that will go good for your cyber-fitness.

I won’t pass up on stubborn passwords

Passwords have a bad rap, and deservedly so: they suffer from weaknesses, both in terms of security and convenience, that make them a less-than-ideal method of authentication.  However, much of what the internet offers is independent on your singing up for this or that online service, and the available form of authentication almost universally happens to the username/password combination.

As the keys that open online accounts (not to speak of many devices), passwords are often rightly thought of as the first – alas, often only – line of defence that protects your virtual and real assets from intruders. However, passwords don’t offer much in the way of protection unless, in the first place, they’re strong and unique to each device and account.

But what constitutes a strong password?  A passphrase! Done right, typical passphrases are generally both more secure and more user-friendly than typical passwords. The longer the passphrase and the more words it packs the better, with seven words providing for a solid start. With each extra character (not to mention words), the number of possible combinations rises exponentially, which makes simple brute-force password-cracking attacks far less likely to succeed, if not well-nigh impossible (assuming, of course, that the service in question does not impose limitations on password input length – something that is, sadly, far too common).

Click here to read about making secure passwords by not using dictionary words, using two-factor authentication, and how biometrics are coming to web browsers.

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Code Week prepares 2.3m young Africans for future

By SUNIL GENESS, Director Government Relations & CSR, Global Digital Government, at SAP Africa.

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On January 6th, 2019, news broke of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plans to announce a new approach to education in his second State of the Nation address, including:

  • A universal roll-out of tablets for all pupils in the country’s 23 700 primary and secondary schools
  • Computer coding and robotics classes for the foundation-phase pupils from grade 1-3 and the
  • Digitisation of the entire curriculum, , including textbooks, workbooks and all teacher support material.

With this, the President has shown South Africa’s response to a global challenge: equipping our youth with the skills they’ll need to survive and thrive in the 21st century digital economy.

Africa’s working-age population will increase to 600 million in 2030 from a base of 370 million in 2010.

In South Africa, unemployment stands at 26.7 percent, but is much more pronounced among youths: 52.2 percent of the country’s 15-24-year-olds are looking for work.

As an organisation deeply invested in South Africa and its future, SAP has developed and implemented a range of initiatives aimed at fostering digital skills development among the country’s youth, including:

AFRICA CODE WEEK

Since its launch in 2015, Africa Code Week has introduced more than 4 million African youth to basic coding.

In 2018, more than 2.3 million youth across 37 countries took part in Africa Code Week.

The digital skills development initiative’s focus on building local capacity for sustainable learning resulted in close to 23 000 teachers being trained in the run-up to the October 2018 events.

Vital to the success of Africa Code Week is the close support it receives from a broad spectrum of public and private sector institutions, including UNESCO YouthMobile, Google, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Cape Town Science Centre, the Camden Education Trust, 28 African governments, over 130 implementing partners and 120 ambassadors across the continent.

SAP’s efforts to drive digital skills development on the African continent forms part of a broader organisational commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Goal 4 (“Ensure quality and inclusive education for all”)

A core component of Africa Code Week is to encourage female participation in STEM-related skills development activities: in 2018, more than 46% of all Africa Code Week participants were female.

According to Africa Code Week Global Coordinator Sunil Geness, female representation in STEM-related fields among African businesses currently stands at 30%, “requiring powerful public-private partnerships to start turning the tide and creating more equitable opportunities for African youth to contribute to the continent’s economic development and success”.

Click here to read more about the Skills for Africa graduate training programme, and about the LEGO League.

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