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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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SA startups in Visa final

Leading fintech companies from the Sub-Sahara Africa technology startup community have made it to the finals of Visa’s Everywhere Initiative.

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Among the 12 chosen, from the 238 total entries, South African startups Howler and FinChatBot will compete against innovators from across Sub Sahara Africa for a chance to secure funding of up to US$50,000 to develop their ideas when the initiative concludes in Johannesburg on July 24. 

Fintechs in Africa are making incredible strides; not only to bring more convenience to consumers, but also to enable people who would not otherwise have access to financial services or even a way to connect to the formal banking system. Venture funding for African startups jumped by 51% to $195 million in 2017 and fintech in Africa is expected to grow exponentially in the next few years as it continues to disrupt the traditional financial sector. With a clear goal of reducing reliance on cash, building digital payment based economies and increasing financial inclusion, Visa is committed to fostering an entrepreneurial spirit and driving innovation in its payments landscape. 

The Sub Saharan Africa edition of the Visa’s Everywhere Initiative challenged local fintech startup to deliver solutions based around three real life business challenges: 

  • How can startups leverage Visa Developer APIs to either:  Enable smaller merchants to accept payments in-store digitally OR Provide a safe and secure solution for online merchants to drive eCommerce and reduce cash on delivery?
  • How can startups use Visa’s APIs to leverage mass reach and social media partner platforms like Facebook to help businesses operating in fast-paced consumer centric environments improve cash flow and receive payments? 
  • How can startups leverage technology to provide services that are functional for illiterate customers to provide them with secure transaction experiences that build and enhance their confidence in the banking system?. 

Entrants were asked to submit ideas to leverage Visa’s network and technologies to resolve against at least one of the challenges. One winner per brief will be selected, with each receiving funding of US$25,000. Winners will be invited to a working meeting with Visa and may be presented with the opportunity to create a prototype. Visa will then select one overall winner to receive an additional US$25,000.

Geraldine Mitchley, Senior Director – Digital Solutions, Sub-Sahara Africa, Visa, said: “We are delighted with the response to our Visa’s Everywhere Initiative and the quality of submissions we received is an indication of the region’s rich talent pool and innovative spirit.”

“Launching this innovation program in the region has been an exciting time for the Visa SSA team, and the takeup reflects Africa’s enthusiasm to develop and pioneer solutions to the continent’s challenge – particularly in the payments technology space. I would like to congratulate the finalists and  wish them luck as they enter the final stretch.  When they come together for the final, they will not only have the chance to turn their ideas into reality, but also potentially help shape the future of payments in the region.”  

Howler which enables cashless transactions and end-to-end ticket handling for consumers and event organisers is competing in the first challenge and FinChatBot, which aims to automate part of customer services for financial service providers through AI-powered conversations is competing in the third challenge. 

The SSA edition of the Visa’s Everywhere Initiative will wrap up on July 24 in Johannesburg, with each finalist having an opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of expert judges from Visa and the payments industry. 

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Win a Poster Heater with Gadget and Takealot.com

This winter Gadget and Takealot.com are giving away three Poster Heaters, which look like posters but become heaters when you plug them in.

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Three Gadget readers will each win a unit, valued at R550 each. To enter, follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter and tell us on the @GadgetZA account how many Watts the heater consumes.

What’s the big deal about these heaters? Many of us are struggling to keep the balance between soaring electricity costs and the need to keep warm this winter.

However, the recently launched Poster Heater by EasyHeat and distributed in South Africa by Takealot.com is not only one of the most cost effective electric heaters currently on the market, it is also easy to setup and use.

As the name indicates, it is a poster similar to one you would hang on a wall. But, plug it in and it turns into a 300 Watt heater. The Poster Heater isn’t designed to heat hallways or large rooms, but rather smaller ones like a bedroom or a baby’s nursery or a dressing room.

It uses radiant heating, which means that it heats up in a couple of minutes and the heat is directed at the objects or people around it, quickly taking the chill out of the air and providing a comfortable ambient temperature.

The other advantage of radiant heating is that it doesn’t dry out the air like infrared or gas heaters. Users also don’t have to worry about their children or pets getting too close to it because, even though it gets hot, it can be touched.

To enter the competition follow the steps below:

Competition entry details:

1. Follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter. (We will ONLY be accepting entries via Twitter, so please don’t enter through the comments section of this article.)

2. Tell us on Twitter, via @GadgetZA, mentioning @Takealot in your posting, how many Watts the Poster Heater consumes.

cleardot.gif3. The competition closes on 31 July 2018.

4. Winners will be notified via Twitter on 1 August and Takealot.com will be in touch to organise delivery.

5. The competition is only open to South African residents.

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