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Mobile-first? Customer is mobile-always

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As smartphones reach saturation point in developing markets and make up a significant part of phone ownership in developing nations, customers are demanding an entirely different way of engaging with brands, writes NIRMAL NAIR of Clickatell.

The seismic shift towards mobile requires an equally bold response from organizations which hope to remain relevant.

Most companies spend time examining how younger customers are communicating. But the future-forward company should also be looking further down the line when planning on how to engage with their customers.

According to the 2016 Meeker report, the newly-dubbed Generation Z (ages 1-20) are bringing their new communications demands to the table. Generation Z is comfortable with as many as five concurrent screens, as opposed to so-called Millennials, who she says opts for two.

It’s clear each generation is spending more and more time on their mobile phone. Finding ways to allow for customer engagement over this medium should, therefore, be the number one priority for companies who hope to survive the next decade.

While South Africa is still suffering a digital divide, the growth rate in mobile internet usage is heartening.

According to World Wide Worx research, 14-million South Africans are using Facebook, with 12-million using it on their phones.

The majority  of South Africa’s adult population owns a phone, with smartphones taking the lion’s share – more than 28-million are now in use in this country.

Instant messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and BBM remain among the most popular internet activity for mobile users, driven largely by the youth, who tend to have higher usage, but remaining consistently high throughout all age groups.

So, if our customers are so reliant on their mobile phones – not only to access information, but as their primary means of communication – and, we can see that this will only grow over time as Generation Z become active consumers – should organisations not have already moved on from designing for mobile-first as a means to engage with their customer?

It seems abundantly clear that the next step in the evolution of communications should be a bold move towards mobile-always.

Companies need to respond to mobile moments

Mobile moments are a hot topic amongst marketers and technology heads alike. Research house Forrester has defined mobile moments as “points in time and space when people pull out their devices to get what they want in an immediate context”. And the company is advising clients that they are hugely important.

The complexity of ensuring your customer is able to access what they are looking for on their mobile phones is far bigger than most companies believe.

Many organisations have allowed their customers to use mobile chat facilities as a primary means of engagement. And this is a useful first step. However, while chat facilities may already deliver faster service results from contact centres (agents can manage at least 5 or 6 simultaneous chat sessions), it still misses the real tech opportunities which are available.

In October this year, Gartner’s Darryl Plummer predicted that, by 2020, the average person will have more daily conversations with bots than with their significant other. He said that with the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and other conversational interfaces, we are more likely to interact with a bot and not even know it, than ever before.

The company also sees AI and bots taking over a significant amount of the day-to-day customer queries which face call centres.

Call centres have already started to adopt this technology to provide better customer service, increase call volumes and control costs. They see bots taking on more complex tasks, receiving inputs from more sources and at a higher rate than a human team could.

The third piece of the puzzle lies in workflow

With mobile chat, smart machine, AI and bot interventions, companies are well underway to reaching the goal of real customer delight. However, when workflow cards are added to the offering, we truly hit the efficiency trifecta.

So much of our business offerings could be handled by applications which automate and streamline day-to-day transactions. Enabling these in the chat stream puts the customer in control of how they engage with a company. Examples of transactions would include appointments, invoicing, selecting products or features, cost estimations, downloading collateral and completing a purchase.

By combining the efficiencies offered by chat facilities, smart machines, AI and bots, along with the efficacy of automating workflow into the core of the offering, companies can truly embrace the opportunity of mobile moments – a service offering which is designed with the needs of the customer first. More importantly, a holistic offering which has been crafted with a mobile-always ethos ensures organisations are taking care of immediate customer needs as well as future-proofing their offerings as new generations join the customer ranks.

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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