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IoT can fix bad service

The Future of Customer Service, are machines taking over? With the IoT, just about anything is possible, but don’t worry, it’s all about convenience and great service, says RICHARD CHETTY, Director of Customer Services for Samsung South Africa.

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In 1978, horror author Stephen King penned the book Trucks, which was made into the movie Maximum Overdrive a decade later. In it, machines come alive and begin to wage war with their makers. Definitely the stuff of nightmares, but also something that’s been played out in literature and films for many years. What if the machines or technology created by humans become so intelligent that they take over the world?

Already, there’s evidence that the algorithms written to serve advertising to specific target groups on social media platforms has gained its own intelligence that even the creators can’t quite understand. Techno-sociologist, Zeynep Tufekci, outlines this in her Ted Talk, ‘We’re building a dystopia just to make people click on ads’. But it’s not about machines and technology taking over. The advance of technology means that customer service has been taken to a whole new level.

Some drivers of luxury cars will already be familiar with the concept of the car alerting the driver to potential hazards or the need for a service. In fact, some cars even offer a concierge service, which can contact a service centre on your behalf should that be required. But, that still requires human intervention. Calling a service centre and trying to find time in a full diary to get something fixed means that a lot of people put such things off until it’s a matter of urgency because the device, appliance or product has stopped working.

Richard Chetty, Director of Customer Services for Samsung South Africa, says, “Samsung’s people-centred focus is what drives the innovative technology we create. With every new product, a novel set of customer service opportunities arise. The IoT certainly brings an exciting dimension to how we will respond to connected products and customers.”

What if your appliance could contact the service centre on your behalf? That’s what the future of customer service looks like. Soon, all home appliances will be connected – to the internet and each other. Smart appliances are already able to self-diagnose. In the future, this self-diagnosis sensor will initiate a service request. All this could happen without the user having to even know about it. With connected appliances, a service technician could access the appliance remotely and assess what needs to be done. Only if a physical interaction with the appliance is required, will the user need to get involved.

“There is an opportunity now for increased skills upgrading – in the future, there will be less requirement for ordinary call-centres and more required for specialised technicians within the customer service space. People won’t have to contact a call centre for information, the appliance will have everything stored – from warranties to service plans and history. We are gearing up for this future with our Engineering Academies and look forward to embracing the new ways we can service our customer’s needs,” concludes Chetty.

Far from taking over the world, the IoT is more likely to organise the world. With all the administrative tasks taken out of user’s hands and placed into a highly sophisticated communication system, people will inevitably have more free time to simply do life.

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Huge appetite for foldable phones – when prices fall

Samsung, Huawei and Motorola have all shown their cards, but consumers are concerned about durability, size, and enhanced use cases, according to Strategy Analytics

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Foldable devices are a long-awaited disrupter in the smartphone market, exciting leading-edge early adopters keen for a bold new type of device. But the acceptance of foldable devices by mainstream segments will depend on the extent to which the current barriers to adoption are addressed.

Major brands have been throwing their foldable bets into the hat to see what the market wants from a foldable, namely how big the screens should be and how the devices should fold. Samsung and Huawei have both designed devices that unfold from smartphones to tablets, each with their own method of how the devices go about folding. Motorola has recently designed a smartphone that folds in half, and it resembles a flip phone.

Assessing consumer desire for foldable smartphones, a new report from the User Experience Strategies group at Strategy Analytics has found that the perceived value of the foldable form does not outweigh the added cost.

Key report findings include:

  • The idea of having a larger-displayed smartphone in a portable size is perceived as valuable to the vast majority of consumers in the UK and the US. But, willingness to pay extra for a foldable device does not align with the desire to purchase one. Manufacturers must understand that there will be low sell-through until costs come down.
  • But as the acceptance for traditional smartphone display sizes continues to increase, so does the imposed friction of trying to use them one-handed. Unless a foldable phone has a wider folded state, entering text when closed is too cumbersome, forcing users to utilize two hands to enter text, when in the opened state.
  • Use cases need to be adequately demonstrated for consumers to fully understand and appreciate the potential for a foldable phone, though their priorities seemed fixed on promoting ‘two devices in one’ equaling a better video viewing experience. Identification and promotion of meaningful new use cases will be vital to success.

Christopher Dodge, Associate Director, UXIP and report author said: “As multitasking will look to be a core selling point for foldable phones, it is imperative that the execution be simplified and intuitive. Our data suggests there are a lot of uncertainties that come with foldable phone ownership, stemming mainly from concerns with durability and size, in addition to concerns over enhanced use cases.

“But our data also shows that when the consumers are able to use a foldable phone in hand, there is a solid reduction of doubt and concern about the concept. This means that the in-store experience may more important than ever in driving awareness, capabilities, and potential use cases.”

Said Paul Brown, Director, UXIP: “The big question is whether the perceived value will outweigh the added cost; and the initial response from consumers is ‘no.’ The ability for foldable displays to resolve real consumer pain-points is, in our view critical to whether these devices will become a niche segment of the smartphone market or the dominant form-factor of the future. Until costs come down, these devices will not take off.”

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Huawei puts $1-bn into local developer programme

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Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) South Africa has announced the launch of a local Developer Programme called Shining-Star. Huawei announced an investment of $1-billion in support of this programme across global markets, of which South Africa forms part.

‘‘HMS already has more than 570 million global users, including more than 15 million in Africa, with our business covering more than 170 countries,’’ says Likun Zhao, vice president of Huawei Consumer Business Group for Middle East and Africa. “We provide a trusted, device-centric and inter-connected eco-system that improves the user experience, helping them to discover quality content while ensuring security and privacy.”

The developer programme, announced at AfricaCom in Cape Town last week, is the first of its kind in South Africa. Huawei says it “will provide an encompassing eco-system that aims to encourage local developer innovation and support, while Huawei’s AppGallery provides a platform for developers to showcase and publish their apps”.

The platform offers open e-point access and intelligent global distribution for all apps, ranging from smart home, gaming and music to education and health-related apps.

The Shining-Star Programme has been successfully implemented in Malaysia, which has the highest number of Huawei users relative to other smartphone brands in this country. Like Malaysia, South Africa has a considerable number of Huawei users.

Shining-Star will focus on assisting local app developers who face challenges like lack of funding for app eco-systems, testing, and monetisation of their apps. South African developers particularly struggle to market their games and find investors.

“We are committed to working on empowering local app developers by offering them some much-needed infrastructure, guidance, skills and support to grow local talent,” said Zhao. “Our focus is to provide an open platform for developers that they can use to launch and market their apps, as well as give them extensive support in the form of technical development, testing, and legal and marketing tools.”

Huawei HMS Core is a hub with tools like the Account Kit, which enables users to access developers’ apps using Huawei IDs; Game Service, which enables game development; Location Kit, which provides developers with hybrid locations; Drive Kit, a data storage and management solution; and Map Kit, which offers customisation of map formats to developers.

In addition to these developer-specific tools, the Huawei HMS Core hub has growth enablers like the Push Kit and an Analytics Kit, which enable, respectively, the sending of messages and analysis of user behaviour. An Ad Kit and In-App Purchases Kit are also available, so developers can earn income from their apps. Key resources such as API reference, development guides and sample code assist are also part of the programme.

At present, more than 50,000 apps are connected to HMS Core worldwide.

* App developers with a completed app can visit https://developer.huawei.com/consumer/en/, or contact the Huawei SA Business Development team on developersa@huawei.com to find out how Huawei can support them.

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