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VR lifts brands above crowd

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Telecoms companies have struggled to build an ongoing relationship with their customers, but that could be set to change with the emergence of technologies for interaction – like VR, writes MARK DE GROOT, Marketing Director EMEA – Digital Customer Experience.

Unfortunately for telecoms companies, there are only a handful of times when they are front of mind for their customers – when their core service is delivering a poor user experience (especially when friends on other networks have full reception or 4G in the same spot), when their operator is offering deals or promotions, when they receive a high monthly bill or when they are coming to the end of their contract and can trade up to the latest state-of-the-art handset.

These interactions all have something in common – they provide moments for reflection on whether or not the users are getting a good deal from their current operator, and whether there’s a better deal on offer elsewhere.

Traditionally, telecoms companies have struggled to build an ongoing relationship with their customers, but all that could be set to change with the emergence of new technologies and platforms for interaction – like VR to delight and excite customers and AI or chatbots to resolve issues quickly and smoothly.

Indeed, Oracle research  found that telecoms companies want to take advantage of these technologies as quickly as possible. By 2020, 80 percent will use technologies like VR, chatbots and mobile apps in their interactions with customers. Indeed more than a third (34 percent) are already using chatbots to some extent.

Expanding customer engagement

In general, telecoms companies have it harder than other industries when it comes to building strong relationships with customers. Most of us only hear from our provider when they are trying to upsell us additional contracts or when our contract is up for renewal. Opportunities for contact on a more regular basis are limited, which is why some operators put energy into ongoing offers and deals only available to their customers such as O2 Priority Moments in the UK or Vodafone’s entertainment bundles with Spotify, Sky Sports and NOW TV.

The bottom line across all customer interactions and regardless of what technologies are being used, is that telecoms operators need to focus on improving the ongoing relationship they have with individual customers.

Grabbing attention

Technologies like AI and VR clearly open new avenues in the scramble for customers’ attention. Telecoms companies are absolutely right to want to use these technologies, and I personally can’t wait for my network provider to start using VR to create immersive entertainment experiences. Just imagine witnessing in a live gig or sporting event through your smartphone and a VR headset.

With the likes of O2 sponsoring music venues and EE partnering with Wembley stadium, it seems some operators are already well placed to provide this kind of experience for customers.

Or how about a chatbot that provides a fast and accurate way to resolve issues? Not only will this be a benefit for customers, but it will also mean customer service staff can be freed up to work on more complex problems customers may be having.

But all the bright, shiny, new technology in the world won’t help a company engage with its customers unless that technology is able to maximise the insights gained from customer data.  If services enabled by new technology aren’t informed by customer data, they could potentially frustrate customers rather than delight them.

Overcoming the data mismatch

While telcos might collect copious amounts of information about their customers, Oracle research suggests they don’t always make best use of it. Only 37 percent regularly look at customer data to gain a better understanding of their audience. Yet 54 percent said they have a deep understanding of customer behavior and personalize their approach to match individual needs.

There’s a clear mismatch, and it points to the need for telcos to look again at how they handle customer data, and at what data they use.

For example, we found that 61 percent of telcos don’t include social or CRM data in their customer analytics. Yet the savviest companies understand that bringing together marketing, sales and service functions ensures that customers have a positive journey.

It is the data that’s the difference between launching a great VR-enabled customer experience and a poor one, and between a chatbot that can answer specific questions with a clear understanding of my account history and previous preferences, and one that can’t.

If telcos can get to grips with their customer data, they can use emerging technologies to take the relationship they have with customers to a whole new level.

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IoT sensors are anything from doctor to canary in mines

Industrial IoT is changing the shape of the mining industry and the intelligence of the devices that drive it

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The Internet of Things (IoT) has become many things in the mining industry. A canary that uses sensors to monitor underground air quality, a medic that monitors healthcare, a security guard that’s constantly on guard, and underground mobile vehicle control. It has evolved from the simple connectivity of essential sensors to devices into an ecosystem of indispensable tools and solutions that redefine how mining manages people, productivity and compliance. According to Karien Bornheim, CEO of Footprint Africa Business Solutions (FABS), IoT offers an integrated business solution that can deliver long-term, strategic benefits to the mining industry.

“To fully harness the business potential of IoT, the mining sector has to understand precisely how it can add value,” she adds. “IoT needs to be implemented across the entire value chain in order to deliver fully optimised, relevant and turnkey operational solutions. It doesn’t matter how large the project is, or how complex, what matters is that it is done in line with business strategy and with a clear focus.”

Over the past few years, mining organisations have deployed emerging technologies to help bolster flagging profits, manage increasingly weighty compliance requirements, and reduce overheads. These technologies are finding a foothold in an industry that faces far more complexities around employee wellbeing and safety than many others, and that juggles numerous moving parts to achieve output and performance on a par with competitive standards. Already, these technologies have allowed mines to fundamentally change worker safety protocols and improve working conditions. They have also provided mining companies with the ability to embed solutions into legacy platforms, allowing for sensors and IoT to pull them into a connected net that delivers results.

“The key to achieving results with any IoT or technology project is to partner with service providers, not just shove solutions into identified gaps,” says Bornheim. “You need to start in the conceptual stage and move through the pre-feasibility and bankable feasibility stages before you start the implementation. Work with trained and qualified chemical, metallurgical, mechanical, electrical, instrumentation and structural engineers that form a team led by a qualified engineering lead with experience in project management. This is the only way to ensure that every aspect of the project is aligned with the industry and its highly demanding specifications.”

Mining not only has complexities in compliance and health and safety, but the market has become saturated, difficult and mercurial. For organisations to thrive, they must find new revenue streams and innovate the ways in which they do business. This is where the data delivered by IoT sensors and devices can really transform the bottom line. If translated, analysed and used correctly, the data can provide insights that allow for the executive to make informed decisions about sites, investment and potential.


“The cross-pollination of different data sets from across different sites can help shift dynamics in plant operation and maintenance, in the execution of specific tasks, and so much more,” says Bornheim. “In addition, with sensors and connected devices and systems, mining operations can be managed intelligently to ensure the best results from equipment and people.”

The connection of the physical world to the digital is not new. Many of the applications currently being used or presented to the mining industry are not new either. What’s new is how these solutions are being implemented and the ways in which they are defined. It’s more than sticking on sensors. It’s using these sensors to streamline business across buildings, roads, vehicles, equipment, and sites. These sensors and the ways in which they are used or where they are installed can be customised to suit specific business requirements.

“With qualified electronic engineers and software experts, you can design a vast array of solutions to meet the real needs of your business,” says Bornheim. “Our engineers can programme, create, migrate and integrate embedded IoT solutions for microcontrollers, sensors, and processors. They can also develop intuitive dashboards and human-machine interfaces for IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) devices to manage the input and output of a wide range of functionalities.”

The benefits of IoT lie in its ubiquity. It can be used in tandem with artificial intelligence or machine learning systems to enhance analytics, improve the automation of basic processes and monitor systems and equipment for faults. It can be used alongside M2M applications to enhance the results and the outcomes of the systems and their roles. And it can be used to improve collaboration and communication between man, machine and mine.

“You can use IoT platforms to visualise mission-critical data for device monitoring, remote control, alerts, security management, health and safety and healthcare,” concludes Bornheim. “The sky is genuinely the limit, especially now that the cost of sensors has come down and the intelligence of solutions and applications has gone up. From real-time insights to hands-on security and safety alerts to data that changes business direction and focus, IoT brings a myriad of benefits to the table.”

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Oracle leads in clash of
e-commerce titans

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Three e-commerce platforms have been awarded “gold medals” for leading the way in customer experience. SoftwareReviews, a division of Info-Tech Research Group, named Oracle Commerce Cloud the leader in its 2020 eCommerce Data Quadrant Awards, followed by Shopify Plus and IBM Digital Commerce. The awards are based on user reviews. 
The three vendors received the following citations:

  • Oracle Commerce Cloud ranked highest among software users, earning the number-one spot in many of the product feature section areas, shining brightest in reporting and analytics, predictive recommendations, order management, and integrated search. 
  • Shopify Plus performed consistently well according to users, taking the number-one spot for catalogue management, shopping cart management and ease of customisation.
  • IBM Digital Commerce did exceptionally well in business value created, quality of features, and vendor support.

The SoftwareReviews Data Quadrant differentiates itself with insightful survey questions, backed by 22 years of research in IT. The study involves gathering intelligence on user satisfaction with both product features and experience with the vendor. When distilled, the customer’s experience is shaped by both the software interface and relationship with the vendor. Evaluating enterprise software along these two dimensions provides a comprehensive understanding of the product in its entirety and helps identify vendors that can deliver on both for the complete software experience.

“Our recent Data Quadrant in e-commerce solutions provides a compelling snapshot of the most popular enterprise-ready players, and can help you make an informed, data-driven selection of an e-commerce platform that will exceed your expectations,” says Ben Dickie, research director at Info-Tech Research Group. 

“Having a dedicated e-commerce platform is where the rubber hits the road in transacting with your customers through digital channels. These platforms provide an indispensable array of features, from product catalog and cart management to payment processing to detailed transaction analytics.”

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