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Robots in the right hands can be customer ally

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At the recent World Economic Forum there was much discussion about robots taking people’s jobs. However, this may not be the case as it will afford companies to up-skill their employees and place them in positions that cannot be handled by machines.

At the most recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, there was much talk about the power of automation and robotics, with business leaders and politicians excitedly discussing the incredible potential reimagining whole industries based on the use of artificial intelligence.

Some of the headlines which follow automation and artificial intelligence through the media do not always share the same excitement. There are understandable concerns that for every job done by a robot there will be a loss of jobs for real people; but it need not be the case. These technologies do not have to replace people. Of course those decisions will be up to individual employers but there would be a false economy in replacing people rather than redeploying them to other parts of the business, or helping them acquire new skills so they can add increased value.

Recent research from management consultants McKinsey & Company suggests just five per cent of occupations are at risk of being entirely automated because as automation transforms processes, people will find job opportunities to compliment the work machines do. More anecdotally, some businesses have countered suggestions they are replacing people with claims they are actually recruiting more people than ever as a result of the increased opportunities created by a business that is more efficient and productive.

While it is true that some applications of robotics, in industries such as manufacturing are doing jobs once performed by people, there is also a growing need for skilled technical staff that are able to manage, program and monitor robots and machine processes. There are career paths opening up all the time for people who can manage the process of automation and can help companies derive greater value and deliver improved services as a result.

This is true also in areas such as customer service. So-called ‘chatbots’, where a customer will have a conversation with a robot, by phone or text, are increasingly the frontline of customer service, handling specific queries, providing information and pointing customers in the right direction for further assistance. These chatbots can reduce customer waiting times and perform an important role in quickly handling routine questions. But they will not replace people altogether, even at the front line of customer service and certainly not at the backend.

There will still be people on the phone, on email and online for customers who do not get the resolution they were seeking or whose query cannot be easily automated. People will be required to deliver a tailored, individual level of service and will have the time and support needed to do so, because automation will be taking care of the high-volume, easily resolved enquiries.

Automation in the right hands is not about making people redundant, but rather letting them focus on delivering quality of service, while automation handles quantity. It should improve both customer experience and the experience of the people delivering it.

People will also still be required to manage the processes of customer service and ensure the technical management of chatbots is up-to-date on the latest offers, initiatives and policies. These roles will be more senior, opening up opportunities for career progression not always seen on the front line of customer service.

Whatever people’s reservations, the automation of customer service is coming and it is coming fast. Oracle research has revealed 80 per cent of businesses expect to be serving customers to some extent using chatbots by 2020.

However, the truly transformative power of automation is perhaps not in automating tasks which once might have been done by people, but rather automating tasks which simply could never be done by people, such as the complex analysis of huge volumes of data in fractions of seconds.

This will enable a further revolution within customer service.

Automating the simultaneous analysis of customer data, sales data, marketing campaign data and supply chain data will enable customer services teams to offer a far more personalised, premium experience to customers, tailoring special offers and recommendations just for them.

Sectors such as retail and banking are already exploring the potential of this revolution in customer service and momentum around its adoption is gathering all the time.

We should all be in no doubt that from now on, when we are engaging with a company, whether we are speaking with a human being who is offering a great service, or communicating with a company via their website, that is an interaction which will be increasingly be enabled and improved somewhere along the line by automation.

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Huawei Mate 20 Pro matches camera benchmark record

A benchmark by DxOMark sees the triple-cam handset tie with the P20 Pro for best smartphone camera on the market.

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The Huawei Mate 20 Pro has come out top in a camera benchmark test that assesses all aspects of smartphone camera performance.

DxOMark, which conducts rigorous hardware testing and is trusted as an industry standard for image quality measurements, has just released the results of its in-depth analysis of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro smartphone camera. 

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is the Chinese manufacturer’s latest top-end device. Building on the P20 Pro’s camera technology, the Mate 20 Pro comes with a Leica-branded triple-camera setup, but swaps its stable-mate’s monochrome camera for a super-wide-angle module, offering a 35mm-equivalent focal length range from 16 to 80mm—the widest of all current smartphone cameras.

The handset is in direct competition with the Apple iPhone XS Max, the Google Pixel 3 XL, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, among other. How does it fare?

“With a total photo score of 114, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro ties the record-setting score of its cousin, the P20 Pro,” says DxOMark. “The overall Photo score is calculated from sub-scores in tests that examine different aspects of its performance under different lighting conditions.”

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro achieves a photo score of 114 points. In stills mode, the Mate 20 Pro’s triple camera captures images with good target exposure and a wide dynamic range, recording both good highlight and shadow detail even in difficult high-contrast situations. Noise levels are well under control down to low light levels, and the camera’s white balance system and colour rendering settings produce a pleasant colour response in almost all circumstances.

At 97 points, the Mate 20 Pro is very close to the best for video as well, thanks to a fast and smooth autofocus system with good tracking performance, accurate white balance as well as pleasant colour rendering, and low levels of noise, especially in bright shooting conditions. Our testers also liked the exposure system’s ability to adapt quickly and smoothly to changes in illumination.

It was not all good news. DxOMark also had some criticism for the device.

Click here to read about the drawbacks of the Mate 20 Pro camera, and other positives.

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SA car wins
Dakar Rally

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The final stage of Dakar 2019 drew to a close at the bivouac in Pisco, Peru, and saw Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa’s Nasser Al Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel bring home their South African-built Toyota Hilux for an historic victory. Not only was it a first win for Toyota, but it was also the first petrol-powered car to win the Dakar in the South-American era.

The Qatari driver ensured his French navigator, who turned 43 years old on Thursday, 17 January, received a great birthday present, when the pair arrived at the final time control of Dakar 2019 with teammates Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz in close formation. The two Toyota Hilux crews completed the entire stage together, as De Villiers / Von Zitzewitz waited nearly 55 minutes for the leaders to start the stage, in order to shadow them to the finish.

The emotions bubbled over for Team Principal Glyn Hall, who found himself without words as his two crews drove into the media area after the time control. “This victory was long overdue,” he finally managed, before being swamped in a sea of well-wishers.

The winning driver, however, was much more vocal: “We are so happy to win the Dakar – not only for ourselves, but also for Toyota and the entire Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team. Everyone has worked so hard for so long, and really deserve this. Thank you for letting us drive this car.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing SA led Dakar 2019 from the first to the last stage, with Al Attiyah/Baumel drawing first blood, before handing the mantle to De Villiers / Von Zitzewitz during stage 2. But then a disastrous Stage 3 saw the Qatari retake the lead – a lead he didn’t relinquish despite some of the toughest stages yet seen on any South-American Dakar.

“When we first heard that the rally was going to take place only in one country, we were skeptical,” said Hall after regaining composure. “But the organisers made sure that this year’s race will long be remembered as one of the toughest tests in the last decade.”

Al Attiyah / Baumel’s victory at Dakar 2019 means that Toyota Gazoo Racing has now won both of the world’s toughest automotive races – the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the DakarRally.

Click here to read Glyn Hall’s comment on winning the Dakar Rally, as well as the rankings.

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