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Educators must get tech-savvy to talk to students

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Amidst the widespread disruption of tertiary education institutions across the country, contact centres in this sector are being relied on to provide accurate information and valuable support to students, writes JED HEWSON, co-founder and Joint CEO of 1Stream.

Mobile operators, including Telkom, Cell C and MTN, have stepped up to lend their support by zero-rating access to participating university websites to provide easier access to essential course material.

Education institution contact centres should be following this lead and embracing technology to offer the best support and customer experience for students, a generation of tech-savvy and mobile-driven individuals.

Give your customers  what they want

Customer experience management and customer satisfaction are always top of mind for contact centre agents and managers. At the base of this is making sure the customer receives the information they are looking for and in the format they need. For educational institution contact centres, this is no different.

With more than 30 percent of interactions with contact centres now taking the form of email, web self-service, chat and other methods, contact centres have had to adapt to the way in which customers want to engage. What’s more, with the widespread increase in mobile and smartphone use both locally and globally, it’s no surprise that contact centres are being driven to offer more platform options for communication. This is particularly true for the millennial generation who make use of this technology as part of their daily life.

When it comes to the educational sector contact centre, one which can be highly competitive in attracting talent and one which is directly geared towards this generation, catering for these trends is essential. This means making sure the relevant information is easily accessible, queries (whether submitted via phone, email, text or social media) are resolved appropriately and the overall interaction is positive.

A multi-channel contact centre is only the first step 

Implementing an effective multi-channel contact centre is not just about having all these platforms available, though. It requires both close integration of the various systems and platforms in use, as well as comprehensive measurement to assess and improve processes.

The risk of having many channels, is a contact centre not being able to manage and engage effectively across all of them. If agents are not able to manage a particular platform, it can be a wiser choice not to offer it at all – a customer not receiving the service they require can be more detrimental to a brand.

Having identified the customer need for a multi-channel contact centre, the next step is implementing an appropriate system, such as a cloud-based contact centre solution, that enables contact centre agents to respond appropriately.

With a managed, cloud-based contact centre platform it becomes possible to identify if an individual has made contact via two or more different platforms (a scenario that is increasingly common) and what response they might have already received. This information can then guide the response, making sure the most valuable and relevant information is offered.

As far as improving service goes, measurement is a must-have. Effective measurement and comprehensive reporting enables a clear analysis of processes and teams, and allows informed decisions to be made that will enhance the customer experience.

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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By 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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How load-shedding is killing our cellphone signals

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Extensive load-shedding, combined with the theft of cell tower backup batteries and copper wire, is placing a massive strain on mobile network providers.

MTN says the majority of MTN’S sites have been equipped with battery backup systems to ensure there is enough power on site to run the system for several hours when local power goes out and the mains go down. 

“With power outages on the rise, these back-up systems become imperative to keeping South Africa connected and MTN has invested heavily in generators and backup batteries to maintain communication for customers, despite the lack of electrical power,” the operator said in a statement today.

However, according to Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive: Corporate Affairs, at MTN SA, “The high frequency of the cycles of load shedding have meant batteries were unable to fully recharge. They generally have a capacity of six to 12 hours, depending on the site category, and require 12 to 18 hours to recharge.”

An additional challenge is that criminals and criminal syndicates are placing networks across the country at risk. Batteries, which can cost R28 000 per battery and upwards, are sought after on black markets – especially in neighbouring countries. 

“Although MTN has improved security and is making strides in limiting instances of theft and vandalism with the assistance of the police, the increase in power outages has made this issue even more pressing,” says O’Sullivan.

Ernest Paul, General Manager: Network Operations at SA’s leading network provider MTN, says the brazen theft of batteries is an industry-wide problem and will require a broader initiative driven by communities, the private sector, police and prosecutors to bring it to a halt.

“Apart from the cost of replacing the stolen batteries and upgrading the broken infrastructure, communities suffer as the network degrades without the back-up power. This is due to the fact that any coverage gaps need to be filled. The situation is even more dire with the rolling power cuts expected due to Eskom load shedding.”

Loss of services and network quality can range from a 2-5km radius to 15km on some sites and affect 5,000 to 20,000 people. On hub sites, network coverage to entire suburbs and regions can be lost.

Click here to read more about efforts to combat copper theft.

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